Caterham's First Doodlebug

A V1 "doodlebug" flying bomb.
'The Second Great War,' No.88.

On 16th June, 1944, only a few days after the V1 onslaught had begun, the people of Caterham experienced at first hand the destructive power of these ‘doodlebugs,’ when one fell in Chaldon Rd, near the junction with Heath Rd.

At least one person was killed and there were many injured, including children. Surrey Police reported that a factory had been left in a dangerous condition and 12 houses had been damaged, with 100 in need of minor repairs. This figure was later revised upwards to 294, when the full extent of the blast was realised – it had reached as far as the Caterham station area, a mile away.

The doodlebug had been one of a batch of 33 launched from the St. Omer- Dieppe region of France, only half of which found their way through to Greater London.

Here are two accounts of the Chaldon Rd doodlebug, firstly Mrs.Grace Gomme’s reply to a request for information about the incident in ‘The Croydon Advertiser’, and then her daughter’s memories of that fateful day….

Caterham, Surrey.
2nd July 1984

Dear Sir/Madam,

With reference to your letter in our local paper on June 29th. The doodlebug which fell near the printers and Heath Rd corner fell on Friday 16th, 1944, at about 7.45am.

My two daughters at that time were aged eleven and eight years old and I was getting them ready for school. We had been in the shelter all night and heard and saw these ‘flaming’ things going over. When this doodlebug fell soldiers from the common came to our aid and kindly neighbours took myself and children in. There were a lot of casualties and we were taken to St. Lawrence’s Hospital where I stayed three weeks with my children. It was a very frightening experience hearing these bombs passing over. More were dropped in the area. Our house was too badly damaged to live in for quite a few months. Four houses adjoining us were demolished. My husband who worked in St. Lawrence’s Hospital, lived for three months in an Anderson shelter with Mr. Smith who at that time lived in Heath Rd. The children and myself went to stay with my sister in Sussex. We still live in the same house, nearly fifty years we’ve been here.
My husband’s parents and his niece were killed in the bombing in Addison Rd, Caterham on September 3rd, 1940, so we had our share of sadness at that time too.

Yours truly,
(Mrs. Grace Gomme)

“My sister and I were preparing for school on this particular morning. Mother was combing Pauline’s hair. We were all standing close to the window in the sitting room’ which had the view of the back garden. I have in my memory the vision of a low plane passing over the fences.
The doodlebug crashed between Heath Rd and Chaldon Rd, very close to our house. We were taken to the Caterham Emergency Hospital in St. Lawrence’s Hospital. Mother was in the hospital with blast injuries. Pauline and I suffered cuts to the face. It was thought at first my sister would lose an eye, luckily that did not happen. We were all hospitalised for about 10-14 days.
There was unfortunately a fatality that morning. Richard Percival aged 39 from Roffes Lane. He was on his way to work when the doodlebug fell.
On our discharge from hospital a worried Father took Pauline and me to friends in Elm Grove, Caterham. However, whilst awaiting Mother being released from hospital, a further bomb dropped close by in Matlock Rd. Dad then took us children to our Aunt’s in Fittleworth, West Sussex. At last we felt safe!”

Sources:
Many thanks to The Bourne Society
http://www.kenleyrevival.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Recollections-1939-45.pdf
Photo from ‘The Second Great War’, No.88.

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