Sharing Stories Wartime Memories Project
I brought the Hatfield Book and it says we had 503 air raids in Hatfield, 34 civilians killed, 135 injured, 1608 properties damaged of which 254 were demolished. It was such a small place but it was targeted because of De Havillands.
We lived in Reading and we used to hear the planes going over on their way to bomb London and there was only one occasion, on a Wednesday afternoon when Reading was hit and luckily that was early closing day and nobody was injured.
The doodlebugs used to come over - they were launched from the North Sea. I remember one coming over running parallel with the bypass and clipping its wings on Jack Oldings which caused it to turn left and it hit Selwyn Crescent, a residential area.
My memories drive me mad - I hate fireworks because they remind me of ack ack fire. The noise of the V1 still gives me the horrors. V2s were the rockets you heard them coming through the air and they made you jump. One landed at Shenley and another one landed at Hertford. One day father was shaving in the bathroom and said "What do you think that is?" and through the window he could see a vapour trail it was a V2 that had been launched in Belgium. V1s you could hear coming and you wondered where it was going. You were rooted to the ground, you watched it, you said "keep going, keep going" until it was past and then you worried for the poor souls that got it. I experienced quite a few of those - they were terrifying.
The spitfires and the hurricanes were able to turn them when they came over - the wing tips were stiffened up and they could hit the V1s and turn them round back to the sea. The heart flutters when you hear the sound of a spitfire.
We took money to school for the spitfire fund and I have found a spitfire badge that you got when you had paid enough money. The pin is missing but on one wing is spit and fire on the other.
The hurricane did more damage than the spitfire because it could turn much quicker, but the spitfire was much better looking. I saw the first mosquito come into land.
I would like to hear the sound of a spitfire.
I might have it on a disc at home. It is very distinctive. My son took me to Gosford which is part of Hendon museum and I saw a spitfire a hurricane and a Lancaster.
Once they had a flypast in the park of a spitfire, a hurricane and a Lancaster.
When the blitz was on, people were often buried for days in the rubble and there wasn't the equipment they have now to dig them out so many people probably died who could have been saved but there were no professionals just the ARP and anybody who was around. There was a lot of looting too.
Where the bombs had dropped a plant called fireweed grew up, today we call it rosebay willow herb and now it grows everywhere. After the war of course all the new towns sprang up to re-house Londoners in Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn Garden City, New Hatfield and Stevenage. My father was horrified that the first of these houses had corrugated roofs and he thought it would be so noisy when it rained.
The worst things I ever encountered were butterfly bombs. They were little canisters with high explosives inside. They had a stem and they were tipped out of an aircraft and as they were in flight the wings would open and they would scatter over a wide area particularly in woods. They were targeted at everyone but particularly children. All children were warned to report any they found but not to touch them because they would explode upon touch. They looked pretty and some were pink, children were drawn to them. When we found them we would fence the entire area off.
I have a friend who is 106 and she can remember the Zeppelins coming over in World War I. At the time she was on her way to sleep at her friend's and had to dive into a trench to get away from them.
During World War I one of our chaps flew over a Zeppelin and dropped his bomb, which went through the Zeppelin, and exploded at Cuffley, there is a commemorative plaque marking the site.
A bomb fell at Tyttenhanger and there were 3 goats in the field where it fell called Adolf, Mussellini and Mr. Chamberlain. Adolf and Mussellini were killed and everyone said what a good omen it was that Chamberlain survived.
I went to collect shrapnel from that bomb. It was on the road from Hillend Lane crossing to the Plough.
I went to Sandridge where they dropped an oil bomb. We got the OK from the farmer to go to the field, which was covered in oil. We dug the bomb out completely and took it back to my back garden. It had not exploded because it only exploded on impact. We were covered in oil but when it hit the ground it split open. I don't know why it didn't explode or catch light. I took it home and was told to take it back!