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For those not afflicted with the old age label, it may be advantageous to explain the complexities of V1's and V2's. When the Germans were unable to launch further serious air raids, their scientists had developed the V1 bomb. Smaller than a fighter plane, the 1000lb bomb had wings and a form of jet propulsion on the tail giving it great speed and a distinctive noise.

They were launched from France with just enough fuel to expire over London. When the ‘distinctive' noise stopped, you waited with bated breathe for the explosion that followed some thirty seconds later. The RAF Spitfires, barely able to match their speed, often dived to fly alongside to tip their wings putting them off course; many crashed into the sea or sent back whence they came.

The V2 was a more advanced animal; a huge rocket that gave no warning of arrival. After several mysterious explosions, it was announced that they were gas explosions. Load of old rubbish. Standing at a Harrow Green bus stop at 11am one bright morning a huge bang made us all look upwards to discover that a V2 had prematurely exploded a mile, or so, above us. The more diligent observer quickly found shelter in a shop doorway to escape falling shrapnel. The window of ‘Scott's Buffet' that got blown out after I cleaned it, landed in Barclay Road, Leytonstone, some half a mile away. 

I visited the scene shortly after and saw a dead horse with up-turned milk float alongside. That image remains with me despite the row of houses that were demolished with subsequent loss of life. LeadenhallStreet, the hub of the shipping industry, was virtually unscathed by bombs and rockets although in the early hours of one winter morning a patrolling bobby had his helmet knocked off by a landmine, the parachute of which had got caught in the flagpoles adorning the Cunard Building. A land mine was a block of 1000lb explosive. After groping around to retrieve his helmet the copper called the bomb disposal squad and Leadenhall Street was closed until lunchtime.

Was there any braver bunch of people than the bomb disposal squad?

I had a weekend gig with a four piece called ‘The Blue Jays' - the leader doubled alto and violin and we played stuff like ‘The Hokey Coke' for the dancers at the Cock Inn, (Epping High Street) a far cry from my jazz aspirations. Later, joining an army dance band with real musicians I realized that drumming was not going to be my forte.

Carrying my drum kit back from the bus stop after the Epping gigs, the guns on Wanstead Flats sometimes kicked up a helluva racket. Also, mobile ack ack guns roamed the streets to give the impression there were even more around. Probably, a bigger danger than bombs was falling shrapnel from gunfire. Being out wandering around during air raids was foolhardy, to say the least.

This Is The Army Mr. Ted


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