|Not quite knowing what to expect, in due course arrived at Kingston-upon-Hull station complete with my old worthy tool kit and a little apprehension. I knew
that Hull had taken a severe battering in earlier years and thought that I would be fully occupied in rebuilding the place. Nothing could have been further from the
truth, and my hopes of doing something worthwhile were rudely shattered. After bedding down in my new home from home with a lovely family in a modern
estate, I awaited my call to duty.
|It came the following day, ;Report to number so and so and decorate as required;. On arrival at the given address I was met by a friendly soul who explained to
me that the materials and brushes had been delivered and I could start straight away!. I was nonplussed to find that my job was to distemper the walls and
ceilings in the house, with a choice of two colours, white and a yellowish brown. As day followed day performing similar functions, my expectations of an
exciting worth while rebuilding project gradually faded, and I found myself with much free time and the opportunity to explore without hindrance the city of Hull
with its many faceted present and past maritime history, most recently the savage destruction of miles of docklands, and a package of entertainment venues. All
in all a most pleasant interlude which I enjoyed immensely, but all was about to change and reality asserted itself in no uncertain manner.
|On the 15/16 the day of June 1944 my landlady awoke me at about 6 a.m. To say that she had just taken a message that I was to immediately get myself down
to the railway station in readiness to board a London bound train at approximately 9 am. And so it was that on that gloriously sunny summers day I was
eventually met at the London station and driven from there to Aurelia Road in Croydon, tools and all, and my wartime story of stories began.
|Together with other volunteers, I arrived at our new base; Situated on a quadrangular compound, flanked on three sides by domestic two storied buildings and on
the other by a large brick built Tramcar depot, which (As I was soon to discover) then served as a mortuary. Our accommodation consisted of four,or was it
five,of the now familiar Nissan huts.
|We were allocated a bed space ie a pallaisse laid out on the hard floor, and all our worldly goods packed into a sand bag, which then acted as a pillow. Not
exactly The Ritz, but at the time there were no complaints. Toilet facilities were pretty primitive and the kitchen and feeding area likewise. Entry was via Aurelia
road and the rear of the houses in Lavender and Brading roads completed the boundaries
|At this time we had no idea why or what we were doing here, so decided that as it was still just late p.m. We would enjoy the sunshine, go walkabout, send a
post card home and view the surroundings.
|On a street corner we met and started a conversation with one of the locals when we were rudely interrupted and became aware of a strangely raucous and
threatening rhythmic vibration, rapidly progressing in our direction. Then appeared over the rooftops what we took to be an aeroplane, but one of a kind that
none of us had seen before and which seemed to be on fire. I turned round to ask the stranger for an explanation but he had disappeared. By this time the object
had passed us by and was growling its way into the distance when there was a mighty explosion and a huge plume of black smoke appeared. Our erstwhile
companion, who exited from a close by doorway, then joined us and explained that this had been a new fangled pilot-less plane, which delivered a massive bomb
to wherever it landed.
|Once heard, the V1 jet propulsion system roar would forever be recognised for what it was, and still, 60 years on, when
television documentaries or such like replay the past, the hair on the back of my neck reacts, and memories, good and bad,
|Later on that same evening I experienced my first visual nighttime doodlebug foray, and decided that taking refuge in the tram shed offered a safer haven than a
Nissan hut. However, it was only then that I discovered that the shed had been converted into the local mortuary and some time later I booked a bunk in a nearby
shelter situated at the entrance to the Mitcham road cemetery. This move was to play an essential part in my survival later on.
|For the next seven weeks or thereby, the horrors, uncertainties and destructive force of this indiscriminate weapon took a heavy toll on the citizens and
infrastructure - as elsewhere in the Croydon area, and brought home to me the necessity of workers, skilled and unskilled to use their respective talents even if
only in small measure, to ease the lot of an indefatigable populace. Croydon, being in the direct line of fire between the launch sites in France and London,
received a high percentage of hits, and hospitals, childrens homes and similar institutions were not immune from the one-ton payloads. This place was certainly
not a holiday location.
|My memory reminds me of the places I worked, mainly restoring some sort of weatherproofing to badly damaged roofs, blown out frontages, glassless
windows, etc., using whatever materials came to hand. Working on skeletal roofs and covering with canvas or replacing tiles where possible took up 90% of my
time, and it was in those situations that Patton, Jamie and Dowie came together and worked as a team, And so I could go on. The annoying part is that I cannot
remember the names of the buildings I worked on, although having clear recollections otherwise. This was indeed the real thing, life, death, destruction and
pathos intertwined, and to me a visitor from a foreign land, being accepted by all as a welcome friend was reward enough.
|Initially, the V1s continued, under full power to strike their uncertain targets, only diving seconds before on a downward track. As one could first hear and then
see them approaching everyone more or less hit the ground until the weapon continued on its way or suddenly dipped and exploded. Then tactics changed, the
power would cut out quite a long way from the destination but, from moving at around 400 M.P.H. The lifeless plane continued on its way for many miles until
losing all momentum and becoming a noiseless threat akin to a falling leaf, and this was scary. Not too bad if the skies were clear and there was always the
chance of seeing the thing, but dull days were dreaded, no sight, no sound, just Bang! On one such day I was working away repairing a roof, all on my own,
when I became aware of this apparition tumbling down a few hundred yards away. I don;t recall how I got down the roof ladder but I found myself having a
hard landing behind a low wall just seconds before the missile buried itself on an adjacent open field. The roof I had been working on was now in much more
need of repair than before. I discovered that I could hardly move my right knee and blood was staining my boiler suit. I was taken into a casualty point to find
that there was no breakages or anything to worry about. Apart from a key shaped scar now it is the only physical sign I have of that era.
|In retrospect there were some instances of the funny side - though not at the time when things nearly went wrong. Picture Dowie walking along the ridge of a
two-storey building and about to replace roof and ridge tiles previously damaged. A roof ladder with an appropriate holding pin was in place and Locke Jamie
supported this. He himself was perched on top of a 30ft ladder. A doodlebug was spotted heading directly towards me and all was set for a hasty retreat
downwards. I scrambled onto the roof ladder and the Pin gave way. By some miracle I managed to stop my downward slide grabbing what was left of the ridge,
and this was followed by an anguished cry from Locke. I glanced round and my quick descent had left him hanging on to the roof ladder about a couple of feet
from, and swinging free of the building!. We made it to safety somehow, but to rub salt into the wound, the doodlebug passed safely overhead into the far
|On another 'take cover' exercise I was crouched close by the gable end of a dwelling house when a bomb blast too near
for comfort, weakened the chimney stack overhead. In what appeared to be slow motion, I remained stock-still as the
stack, chimney pots and all, slowly started to disintegrate and piece by piece came tumbling down around, but thankfully,
not on me, although the panic lingered on for a time.
|The doodlebug attacks are well documented by many media sources and need no further elaboration here, but on a personal note the early morning of 3rd August
1944 signalled the beginning of a day never to be forgot. From the safety of my air raid shelter I was rudely awakened and instinctively knew that the campsite
had been hit. I hurriedly arose and ran round to be met with a scene of absolute devastation, death and destruction and found myself in a state of shock. During
that fateful forenoon, together with survivors, we wandered around the wreckage, on the scene, and in a pool of blood and on the spot where I would have been
sleeping had I not moved, I collected my bricklayers trowel. I still have it, lying rusting in the garage.
|Midday and all that we could do had been done, the dead (11 off) now laid out alongside and in the remains of the mortuary. All my bits and pieces found were
put into a Hessian sand bag, and now in a filthy state I was given a train ticket pass, some cash and told to entrain for Buckhaven and await further instructions.
At the entrance to the station there was a kiosk, and of all things in war time there was displayed a bunch of black grapes. I asked the attendant if I could have
them and was told rather haughtily that they would cost me 5/-, a lot of money then. Anyway I bought them, and carried in a paper bag they were handed over
to a very surprised wife the following morning at around 7.30, whilst she was still in bed alongside small son and baby daughter. I had neither washed nor eaten
since supper two days before but clean or dirty, I was home.
|A week later I found myself retracing my journey, but this time my billet had no fear of flying bombs. I spent the rest of my time playing a piano or games in the
depths of the reinforced concrete of Epsom racecourse stand. I was a first floor occupant just about where her Majesty appears on race days and it was ideally
placed to observe in safety, the V1s heading for the winning post from the direction of Tottenham corner. At work a Ford lorry was our transport, but whereas
up north I sat in the back, here I was the driver, and thinking back a pretty poor one at that. My workmates must have had some hair-raising moments, not to
mention backsides as I just ignored all the rules of the road and however pitted, drove on regardless.
| By this time the doodlebug menace was vastly reduced as their launching pads were over-run by the Allies and the defences on this side were much improved,
however it became clear that another much more sinister weapon was being deployed, the rocket propelled V2. Although it was clearly more destructive than the
V1, being timed to explode underground, it did not hold the same terror. Whereas the flying menace was heard, seen and feared, the V2 did not have the same
effect because, travelling faster than sound, you either heard the explosion or you didnt;t. I spent my last working days down south based at Epsom until, in early
November I received a letter requesting me to return home as father had been taken ill and was in hospital where the attendant Consultant wished to see me. I
returned home and ;out of the frying pan into the fire, my father had only six months at most, to live.
|David Golfman (Dowie), a bricklayer to trade was domiciled in Buckhaven,Fife, with his wife and two children. During the war he plied his trade om military
installations around Scotland,culminating in a stint on the Orkney Isles till early 1944.He answered the call for Building Volunteers to assist in the rebuilding of
war damaged cities wherever the need arose. Now 60 years on, Golfman is writing his memoirs and the following is an abridged excerpt. Read on .