World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Philip Watson 

Doodlebug over Clowne - childhood memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Philip Watson
Location of story: Clowne, Derbyshire; Stanfree, Derbyshire.
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Norman Wigley of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Mr Philip Watson.

When the war started I was 3 or 4 years old. We lived in Clowne in north east Derbyshire. My earliest memories are of the sirens sounding, putting gas masks on, and sheltering under the sink which was a solid stone one. If we had suffered a direct hit, the sink would have killed us! I can also remember my baby sister being put in the all-enclosing baby’s gas mask. We used to go to my Aunt Ethel’s at Stanfree, the next village, because she made meat and potato pies in earthenware dishes – we got them free but they normally cost 3d (dishes returnable!). This was every Friday night.

One night I was waiting for the bus home in Stanfree, when I heard a doodlebug [a V1 flying bomb] – I could see the engine and the wings and could hear the ‘pop – pop – pop’ noise of the engine, like a two-stroke lawn mower engine. I heard the engine stop, but heard no further noise. I later heard that it fell at Mastin Moor, a village about two miles away but it did not explode. It was heading I think for the steel works in the east end of Sheffield but had fallen a few miles short. My pal Jimmy Cotterill lived nearby and his father served with the Sherwood Foresters. His father didn’t survive the war – and I can’t imagine how his mother coped with the hardship of bringing up seven children on her own.

If it hadn’t been for school meals which I think were much better than today’s, lots of kids would have suffered real hardship. When at school and the air raid sirens sounded, we all assembled in the yard and were then filed out to the air raid shelters which had wooden slatted seats. I can remember paratroops with their red berets digging trenches on land where the new college now stands – I never found out why the trenches were being dug or what happened to them but can still remember exactly where they were.

In the summer all the kids used to go picking fruit – mainly gooseberries at Mellish’s Farm. We used to get 3d for picking a large basketful. We all used to go potato picking as well. It all helped the war effort but for us kids, it was just good fun!

I can remember at school seeing my first pineapple and banana after the war. Someone had brought them in for us to look at. Throughout the war years I lived at Spring House at 3 Cliff Hill, Clowne. This was a big house which I think was originally going to be a pub but was never used as such. The house was demolished about 1970 when we then re-housed.