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Kent's Doodlebug Summer: June Mackenzie interview

By Anna MacSwan

Herne Bay resident June Mackenzie remembers having to take shelter beneath her desk during a maths exam when one of the bombers flew over Canterbury.

A pupil at Simon Langton Girls, she was sitting one of her General School Certificate exams - the equivalent of a GCSE – and recalls how “as it got nearer and nearer and it began to thunder, we all shot underneath our desks – in case it hit the big tall chimney they had on St Martin’s hospital, or if the engine stopped”.

“All you could see were frightened faces or bottoms stuck up in the air,” she says.

75th anniversary of the summer of the doodlebugs - June Mackenzie, 91, remembers them flying over Herne Bay when she was a teenager. 88 Central Avenue, Herne Bay CT6 8RU. 040519 Picture: Alan Langley..... (9651690)
75th anniversary of the summer of the doodlebugs - June Mackenzie, 91, remembers them flying over Herne Bay when she was a teenager. 88 Central Avenue, Herne Bay CT6 8RU. 040519 Picture: Alan Langley..... (9651690)

“Luckily it went over and kept going, kept going and kept going. Once it had gone, and we knew it was safe, we all got out from under our desks, looked at one another, burst out laughing, and got on with the exam.

“I don’t know what happened to the ones who were in ordinary lessons, but we couldn’t leave because we were in the middle of an important exam – we just had to do that,” she explains.

“Never during the war did we stop going to school – except when the school was bombed.”

June Mackenzie in 1943 (9946729)
June Mackenzie in 1943 (9946729)

The 90-year-old says that although doodlebugs would more commonly fly over the Ashford area, she recalls seeing the occasional one over Canterbury, where she went to school, and Herne Bay, where she has lived all her life.

She describes how, while staying with a friend in Orchard Close, Hales Place, while studying for her exams, “we used to look out of the bedroom when the doodlebugs were coming, and watch them go up 'Doodlebug Alley' towards Ashford-way”.

On another occasion, a doodlebug flew over while she was out and about in Herne Bay High Street.

“This one must have been a stray,” she explains.

“They weren’t meant to go this way because they would only end up in the wrong place, it was really based on getting them to London.

“But I remember being down one morning in the High Street, and I heard one. It was like a dagger in the sky, with a burning tail – it seemed to follow the line of the High Street right the way up until it disappeared into the distance.

“You always had to be careful, and get in under cover if there was one over the top of you, because if it stopped it would blow up.

"If ever you got caught in a bombing raid and you couldn’t get to cover, if you were in the street we were always told to quickly go down into the gutter with your hands behind your head."

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