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The Doodlebug and the bus

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:46 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

I lived in Walton on Thames with my parents. It was a village then. I was born in 1939. When I was three months old I developed eczema. As a result, my mother and I had to attend St Thomas's Hospital at Waterloo regularly.

When we went to Waterloo we used the bus to go to visit my mother's cousin, Florrie. On one occasion when we were going to the hospital my father said to my mother not to visit her cousin. It was a lovely day and when we came out of the hospital my mother said to me 'It's a lovely day let's go and see Florrie anyway'. So off we went. When we were leaving to catch a bus back, I was about 4 and saw the bus coming I ran to catch up and got on to the step. My mother called me to get off - we'd catch the next bus as she and Florrie hadn't finished talking.

We got on the next bus and went up to the top deck. Suddenly a woman sitting at the back screamed. There was a doodlebug over our bus. It eventually hit the earlier bus that I had tried to get on. Everyone on that bus was killed. My mother was holding me so tight she was practically strangling me! One man who had been walking on the pavement came running down the road carrying his umbrella and briefcase but without his trousers. They had been blown off in the explosion. I have never forgotten that.

Poor Florrie knew a bus had been hit, but not which one so she didn't know if we had survived. When we got home my Dad was furious! He had thought that because it was a lovely clear blue sky there would be Doodlebugs coming over. You could hear Doodlebugs coming, then they went silent and you didn't know where they were going to land.
Doodlebugs used to use the river as a guide to get to the Vickers factory which was in Walton.

At one time in the war we had a mother and daughter from Guernsey or Jersey billeted on us, but she stole some money from my mother. She was taken away and they never put anyone else with us.

There were two kinds of shelters - one for inside which used the table I think and one for outside. We had the outside one - an Anderson shelter. You had to go down steps to get in it. It was dark and damp. People in our road used it. But we didn't, my Dad said we'd watch from here. My Dad worked at the dental equipment factory but in the war they made things for the war but I don't know what. My uncle worked at Shepperton studios and they made decoy buildings.

We had big classes at school and the teachers had been brought out of retirement to teach us.

We had two black market shops in the village. One was called Joe's and he looked after my Mum really well - used to give her things from under the counter. Dad had turned our garden into an allotment and grew our vegetables. We didn't really go short during the war.

My mother had been brought up in an orphanage and they had taught her sewing and other skills. When she was old enough to leave they put her as ladies' maid to an actress at Shepperton. Because she was a good dressmaker I was always well dressed - she used to make my clothes from whatever she could find - they were always up to date - I was the best dressed girl in the village.

We used to go to the British Restaurant (there were quite a few of them) and the customers were always offering me their sugar because it was on ration. I never wanted it - I have never liked sugar and only ever drink water.

There were Canadian service men at Hampton Court, Bushey Park. The boy next door had a Canadian father but the girl's mother brought him up as her own.

On one visit to St Thomas's it had been bombed and was covered in tarpaulins. The siren went and my mother just stood there until a man came along and made us take shelter.

The war didn't really affect me.

History

Person the story/items relate to

Ann Wolforth

Person who shared the story/items

Ann Wolforth

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Herself

Type of submission

Shared at West Meads Community Hall, West Sussex on 11 November 2023. The event was organised by Bognor Regis u3a.

Record ID

109540 | BOG067