45. Doodle Bugs, 1944.

With St Dominic’s, being in the deepest part of Surrey, you would think that the war was somewhere else, apart from the American Mitchell bombers flying back and forth every night. Sometimes there was one or two that never returned, we would wait up in bed for as long as we could keep our eyes open, hoping to hear the sound a plane coming into land. We were told that they had landed at another airfield, but we knew that some of them had been lost. It was very sad for us, because they flew so low on their way out in the light evenings, we made a note of the markings on the fuselage, and always felt we knew the American crews, even calling them by names, such as Hank or a cowboy name like Billy the Kid.

The boys at this school were said to be frail in body or feeble in mind, I have never been really sure where I fitted in—probably a bit of both. The meals were ‘healthy’ no butter, no tea, no sugar. We had oatmeal rather than porridge, it was very smooth and creamy, but had little black bits in it, when I looked closer at these little black bits, I noticed they had legs! I was so hungry it never bothered me. We rarely had normal meat it was mostly Spam, which I loved. We had bacon for Sunday breakfast, one skinny slice in a lot of cold bacon fat. The noise of about a hundred boys scraping every trace of this tasty fat from our white and blue enamel plates was deafening. The little Irish cook would shout above the noise, “Will you Quit”. We did it all the more of course.

The new classrooms were built high up on the top of the dormitory’s and made with large windows to allow the sun in. One morning there was a lot shouting in class, the other boys had spotted a doodle bug being chased by a fighter plane. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t see it, until the bomb fell on a distant hill, and then I saw the flash and a gap appeared on the horizon about two or three miles away.

We were all cheering until Sister Celestine—my favourite nun—shouted to get down, a minute later, the shock wave rattled the windows violently, but luckily none were broken.

 Doodle Bugs were becoming very common, I only ever saw one flying over. The noise they made, like all the German planes was peculiar, I sometimes think this noise was built in to frighten us—it certainly frightened me. We were told if you heard the jet engine stop, the Doodle Bug would fall at least a mile away. They didn’t say what might happen if you didn’t hear the engine in the first place though.

My friend Alex was standing on Fordwater Road bridge, near his home and saw one come down less than a mile away and destroy a house. We were told the large family who lived there were at the Catholic Church, so no one was hurt—it makes you think someone was looking out for them.

Author: madeinchertsey

Born in 1932, this is a collection of stories of my childhood growing up in Chertsey, and some stories of my later life.

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