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Peter Stuart


It must have been 1944. I lived in South London, at the height of the Doodlebug period, an exciting time for us eleven/twelve year olds. We had become very street-wise.

My mother was a nurse, and was on duty 24 hours on - 24 hours off, so I was always staying with neighbours/friends, etc.

Mrs Poffrey was the lady who collected the insurance money, and she had me for a short period; she was a widow, living in Seymour Villas, Anerley, SE20. She had a son, who was a pilot at Biggin Hill.

One day he appeared, unannounced, for a few hours leave and all he wanted to do was to sit in the garden in a deckchair and sleep. Mrs Poffrey was very protective of me, but after being assured that it was quite safe, and wearing his steel helmet, she reluctantly allowed me to sit in a deckchair next to her son and watch the Doodlebugs go over, and the fighters chasing them.

Suddenly from behind us, there was quite a commotion as two fighters, chasing a Doodlebug, appeared overhead. The fighters had this very dangerous manoeuvre to flip the wing of the Doodlebug with theirs, causing it to nose dive, which this one did. Our garden backed onto the London-Brighton railway line, and on the other side was Anerley Town Hall, and it landed somewhere in front of the Town Hall.

Unlike the pictures, you don't see flames, it is dust which rises up, then the blast hits you! The next second I was in the kitchen on my hands and knees, all the windows were gone and Mrs Poffrey's Son was lying on the patio. Mrs Poffrey appeared, livid, forbade me from ever going out when anything interesting was going on, and I had to spend many boring hours sitting in her indoor shelter.

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