Penge - Beckenham 1943 to August 1944. With thanks to Peter Rogers.
We moved to 10 Arpley Road in Penge SE 20 about November 1943. In June 1944 the Germans started to send V1’s towards London. Penge was in Doodlebug Alley; Doodlebug, the nickname for the V1 German Flying Bomb. More V1’s landed in Penge than in any other part of London, twenty landed in the square mile of Penge and twelve on the border (ref 1 page 5). Before we knew what these V1's were my Mother was watching them one night and she said that there was a new kind of aeroplane with fire coming out of its tail.
It was not long before we realised that these were V1's. When the V1 jet engine stopped, it dived towards the ground and exploded on impact, detonating a ton of high explosive! If you managed to count to 10 when the engine stopped, you knew you had survived! 546 people were killed, injured or slightly injured; i.e. 1 in 20 of the population remaining after the evacuation. Not a single house or building was entirely undamaged (ref 2 page 130).
I worked in a garage, the 'Auto Radio Battery Service', near Clockhouse station; I cycled to work and went home for lunch every day, even when the V1's were flying.
On the 30th June I was cycling back to work after lunch and was a little bit late, about 13.40 hrs. When I got to work I looked back and saw a V1 diving down towards the junction of Mackenzie Road and Beckenham Road. There was a big bang as it exploded! It landed near the railway bridge that I had just cycled under!! This bridge was about 400 metres from my work place. Had I been a minute or two late going back to work, I might not be here now! The railway bridge is still there (2015) but where I worked has gone; an office block, The Registry, now occupies the site. At the time I did not even think about the petrol, stored in underground tanks, at the garage and the likelihood of a V1 landing on them!
I had two young Sisters, Linda and Janet, who had been evacuated to Rutland. I also had two Brothers, Martin and Stephen, who were going to be evacuated to Moldgreen, Huddersfield, in Yorkshire the next day. The night before they were due to be evacuated, my Mother put their clothes upstairs in two neat piles with their ration books on top. She was going to sleep upstairs that night but we persuaded her to sleep downstairs. We all slept downstairs inside the Morrison Shelter; this was different to the Anderson Shelter. It was a big steel table, inside the house, and we all slept under this table. In the morning, 21st July 1944, my Mother woke up at 6.30 am and decided that she would have a lay in. About ten to seven during an air raid we heard a V1 coming then its engine stopped. The next thing we knew was that there was dust everywhere.
There was a wall at the back of our garden and on the other side of this wall was an Anderson shelter, in the garden of 7 Blenheim Road, where the Carter family lived; we did not know them. The V1 hit their Anderson shelter and killed them (ref 3 page 130). This wall, at the bottom of our short garden, protected our house from some of the blast but nevertheless the kitchen was damaged, our roof was blown off, all the windows blown out and there was dust everywhere. We did not hear the bomb go off; I suppose we were too close to it! Later another V1 fell in Penge High Street and the day ended with more than 300? shops destroyed or damaged in the town centre (ref 4 page 130). We moved into temporary accommodation in a hall. Later my Father, who was in the National Fire Service (NFS), acquired a very big tarpaulin and put it on top of the old house and the windows were replaced with a white fabric material. We moved back to the bombed house and lived there for a little bit longer. Then we moved, probably in August, to 25 Chaffinch Road Beckenham Kent, near to Clockhouse Station, about a mile from our house in Penge.
On 2nd August while at lunch,at 13.02 hrs, a V1 demolished the shops near to work (ref 5 page 107); I cycled past these shops four times every day.
My boss, Mr Evans, at the garage suggested that I went to night school, which I did and learnt about mathematics, mechanics and basic physics. Sometimes I was at night school during air raids. When the air raid sirens sounded everything carried on as usual.
A lot of Barrage Balloons were deployed south of London. These Balloons were to deter enemy aircraft from flying low and coming to bomb London. They were also useful against the flying bomb. The RAF developed a technique of flying their aircraft alongside the flying bomb and tipping it up with their wing tip thus upsetting the gyroscope inside the V1, putting it off course causing it to land in open country.
Next, the Germans sent over their V2 rockets. These were quite terrible you could hear them coming after they had exploded, because they travelled faster than the speed of sound. I did hear one explode in South Norwood.
I changed jobs and worked at another factory where we made parts for Bren Guns. This factory was near the Elmers End Bus garage that was bombed on 17th July 1944 (ref 5 pages 91 & 92).
I was 15 in 1944 and working full time, 48 hours a week!
INFORMATION FROM FLYING BOMBS & ROCKETS WEBSITE
(For more information see: http://www.flyingbombsandrockets.com/)
30th June 1944 13.40.hrs.
The Flying bombs struck at the junction of Beckenham Road and Mackenzie Road. No casualties were listed. 11 shops demolished in Beckenham Road, 17 shops and 20 houses severely damage in Beckenham Road,4 shops and 41 houses damaged in Blanford and Churchfield Road, railway bridge, 54 shops and 148 houses slightly damaged in Churchfields, Barnrmead, Mackenzie, Blandford and Beckenham Roads The line of buildings in the Beckenham Road have been replaced with a post war office block. For a contemporary report of this incident see Richard Beckett's story
21st July 1944 06.45 hrs.
This V1 was the first of 2 that was to devastate much of Penge High Street on this day. It actually fell in Blenheim grove and caused severe damage in that road as well as demolishing or causing severe damage to shops on both sides of the High Street. In total 7 shops and 8 houses were completely demolished. 41 shops and 75 houses had severe damaged, 34 shops a theatre and 26 houses damaged in High st, Maple Road, ARPLEY ROAD. The main damage area has been re-developed as the Blenheim Shopping centre, and the re-built shops can also clearly be seen on the other side of the High Street.
21st July 1944 23.07 hrs.
The second V1 to fall in the vicinity on this day. The first at 06:54. This one impacted slightly further up the High Street in the region of number 106 .The shops have been re-built here in post war style.
2nd August 1944 13.02 hrs.
This very serious incident occurred when the Flying bomb struck a restaurant packed with customers in the Beckenham Road, near the site of the modern Clockhouse pub. Many died instantly. The blast extended many hundreds of yards in each direction. 44 people were to die in the tragedy, the worst in Beckenham and one of the worst in South London. Herbert Steer who's son Sydney died at Elmers end bus garage was to die in this disaster. 14 shops 12 houses demolished in Beckenham rd, 17 shops 42 houses, dance hall severe damage in Beckenham rd, Churchfield rd, Thayers farm rd, Sidney rd. 18 shops 124 houses slight damage in Churchfields Road, Thayers farm rd, Beckenham rd, Chaffiinch rd, Sidney rd. small fire in debris at Beckenham rd. The wide area of the blast is clear from the extensive post war building that has occurred in the surrounding area. The road has been widened at this point. The blank end of terraces that betray partial demolition can be seen in several surrounding roads.