Doodlebug over St. Helier

A personal account

By Gordon Jones

Photo:Gordon Jones's daughter Glynis standing next to a Doodlebug at the Canberra War Museum

Gordon Jones's daughter Glynis standing next to a Doodlebug at the Canberra War Museum

Donated by Gordon Jones

Amidst the death and destruction of the Doodlebug raids there occurred some strange and comical events. In the early hours of one morning,whilst I was asleep in our family's brick above- ground air raid shelter at 72 Wendling Road, I was awoken by an enormous explosion. I was seventeen at the time and I was in the shelter by myself as my mother didn't like our shelter and preferred to go with her neighbour to the public shelter situated on the corner of Wrythe Lane and Tweeddale Road. My father at the time was fire watching at Mitcham Post Office, where he worked as a postman.

When I looked out of the door of the air raid shelter I could see, from the flames, where the doodlebug had hit, which was further down Wendling Road where my friend Denis Marchant lived. So I decided to run down to see if he and his family were OK. When I went through the back door of our house in order to get to the front door I could see that the plaster from the ceilings had come down and was littered all over the floor and furniture. When I reached the front door. it had been blown off of its hinges. I picked it up and quickly took it further down the hallway to get it out of the way, then went down to my friend's house.

When I reached where my friend lived, which was the end house of a block of four, (I think the number was 42), I could see that the whole end wall had collapsed. Denis and his family were all OK but he laughingly took me upstairs and told me to look into the toilet bowl, which by this time was teetering on the edge from where the wall had collapsed. In the toilet bowl there was a china hen's egg, the type that was put into chicken nests to encourage the hens to lay. What had happened was that when the doodlebug landed in the back gardens of Wendling and Welbeck Roads and exploded, the china egg from somebody's chicken run went flying up into the air and came down as the house wall was collapsing.

When I arrived home at my house to start to clean up before my mother came home, I went to pick up the front door from where I had taken it, to bring it back closer to the front. To my amazement, I could hardly lift it, it was that heavy, yet I had had no trouble lifting it before . Which goes to show that when I came out of the air raid shelter I must have had adrenaline pumping through my body and when I arrived back it had subsided.

On another occasion, on a Sunday morning, three of my friends and I were out having a walk or I suppose to be more accurate just mooching and joking around as seventeen year old boys were wont to do. We had reached the shops at Rosehill when we heard a doodlebug. Looking up we saw it high over Wrythe Lane coming towards us. When the engine cut out we knew that it was on the down so we all dived for shelter in the shop doorways.  In retrospect that was crazy as the doorways were of shop windows and if the glass had blown out we would have been cut to ribbons. The doodlebug didn't reach the Rosehill shops but exploded in the grounds of St. Helier Hospital. As one of the friends, Arthur LeHec, lived in Westminster Road and backed on to the hospital we all made a mad dash to his place. His family were unhurt but there was damage to his house and Arthur's mother said that one of the upstairs bedroom doors was jammed and couldn't be opened. A couple of us went up and put our shoulders to the bedroom door in an effort to open it without success. We pushed a bit harder when suddenly the door was opened by someone pulling on it from within the room. The person was one of us who had run from Rosehill. We looked at him in amazement and said 'How did you get in there?' He said that he had walked into the other bedroom where the door was open and walked through the dividing wall that had collapsed from the blast.!! Both Denis and Arthur with their families had to be evacuated until their houses were repaired.

This page was added by Beverley Walker on 11/10/2011.
Comments about this page

I was 4 years old when that Doodlebug dropped its load. I lived in 20 Wendling Road. Fortunately, my mother and my aunt and I were all in the Anderson shelter as the house was badly blitzed. I seem to remember a neighbour whose son was killed in that blast. Prior to that there were several blasts when St. Helier hospital was hit. Now they call them drones and make them sound almost harmless! But we know better.

By Irene McIlraith (nee Cooper)
On 13/12/2011

I was sleeping as usual in the public shelters, on the field by the side of Robertsbridge Road at the shops's end, when a Flying bomb wiped out the first block of houses in Robertsbridge Road. Many of those in the shelter came up to see the damage. It was just getting light and there was lots of dust and smoke and we were all thankful that we hadn't been just a little nearer. I suppose we were some sixty to eighty feet away. On another occasion I was at home in Newstead Walk when the same type of bomb destroyed the block of houses in Robertsbridge Road, on the Rosehill side of Stavourdale Road junction. This with us being in an Anderson shelter, was more dramatic than the one when in the public shelter. The damage to our ceilings was as described above by Gordon Jones. No surviving ceilings at all, just an enormous mess of broken plaster on all floors. I knew one of the tenants of that block, a Mrs. Hazel who was rehoused in Rosehill Court and returned to her house after the war when it was rebuilt. What I find strange is the way we seemed to take these things in our stride and just waited for the next air raid warning and went to the shelter, if near enough, then after the all clear we got up and carried on. How can you explain that to those who never experienced it. I'm amused when I see people on the television with no experience of that war, trying to imagine what it was like and giving their totally wrong impressions of what it must have been like. Like many of these situations, if you didn't experience it you'll never understand it. Having been there, it gives you more understanding of those going through it now, with the same types of weapons with a slightly less menacing name. I wonder if they ever initially watched them with wonder, as we did, until we learnt to dread them, then found they were followed by the terrifying V2 with it's absence of warning.

By Nib West
On 03/11/2012

Does anyone remember the community hall Middleton road, the Rose pub and the Morden Tavern,and the garden parties after the war.

By Dennis O'Brien
On 17/02/2015

Born in1937, I lived at 238 St.Helier Ave, at the junction of Middleton Road. Like many of my age, time was spent during the blitz under the dining room table, the stairs and later on in the Anderson shelter. At Canterbury Rd school, which I started in 1941/42, I also saw time in the school shelters. In late 1944 or early 1945 I saw and heard many V1 rockets; the fear I felt transferred from my parents. Does anyone remember a V1 that landed on Morton Green in Malmsbury Road? It appeared to be intact, albeit very rusty and us kids would clamber all over it. It was believed it had struck a small copse of trees on the green without exploding. It all seems very implausible now, but it remains a vivid memory with me, but I have never found any reference it in local wartime memories. I remember also the houses in Middleton Road being destroyed (the rent payment house?), and again climbing with mates through the rubble searching for shrapnel. Our parents seemed to have other worries and were content to let us roam the streets as long we were back for meals. Fun for us Kids, but not for the grown-ups.

By George Phillips
On 11/10/2021

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