|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
|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, return.
|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
|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 distance.
|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,
retrieving what we could of the personal belongings of the dead and the living. Those were handed over to Wardens and other officials who arrived
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
|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 .