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Jan van Eden

bio - biography

War time in the UK

How young people experienced the V1 & V2 assault in the UK - told to me by Geoff Hammond



In 1942 my parents and I were living in Oxted, a village 50 km due south of London. Thank god we didn’t have to endure Nazi occupation, If we had to I doubt we would have dared to stick Hitler upside down on the envelope, the ultimate insult,   that would have been tantamount to asking to be arrested.


I too vividly remember the sounds of the V1 flying bombs going overhead at about 500 m altitude, the rocket motor really rattled the windows loose, with luck the noise would fade away as the missile continued on towards London, but if it stopped we quickly learned to dive under the dining table, I remember one occasion watching three V1s approaching in perfect formation in line abreast spaced about 200 m apart the middle one seemed to be heading straight overhead our house the anti-aircraft guns the army had set up about a km away commenced firing and hit the bloody thing and that resulted in  the loudest bang I had ever heard. After that there was just a cloud of smoke hanging in mid-air. That left the other two bombs unscathed so they were left to carry on towards London, hopefully the RAF intercepted them and flipped them over so they dived into open country without harming anyone


Another V1 memory stays with me that hot sunny August 1942: ……... Roaring noise I looked out the kitchen door to see the bomb flying towards us surrounded by puffs of black smoke from the AA guns shells exploding around it and BOOM, again good shooting by the army, and as I watched the bomb pitched nose down erupting in bright orange flame leaving a trail of brown smoke against the blue sky as it dived and 

disappeared from my sight about a km away, I took up my usual position under the table just in time and BANG, the plaster ceiling disintegrated and fell on top of the table and all over the food my mother had prepared for our afternoon tea. The kitchen windows shattered,  I felt so annoyed! To add insult to injury, on going outside I noticed a shiny red chunk of something lying on the ground just outside the front door of the house.


Curiosity got the better of me so I picked it up, and immediately dropped it as I realised the shiny colour was because it was a red hot fragment of the steel bomb casing. I had to leave it till next day to cool down before I could add that chunk of twisted metal to my prized collection of shrapnel, cartridge cases,strips of aluminium foil (anti-radar chaff) incendiary bomb tail fins, etc dropped by the Luftwaffe that every little boy used to collect in those days.


The V2 experiences were a different sort of horror, My first realization was on one hot sunny August day, blue sky, cloudless and no air activity and importantly no air raid warning had sounded I was outside feeding the pet rabbits when there was a tremendous double bang directly overhead,

But what caused it?  There was nothing to be seen or heard overhead. I, and the rabbits and chickens, got quite a shock.


It was only many years later when I regularly heard similar double bangs as the RAF experimented with their fast jets, that I realised that my 1942 experience was a V2 on its way to London at probably 100 km altitude producing the sonic bang as it passed over me.


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