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Kent's Doodlebug Summer: Malcolm Smith interview

By Anna MacSwan

When a doodlebug hit the ground, it would blow into smithereens, all too often leaving a trail of destruction.

But as a teenager, Petham resident Malcolm Smith - now 89 - came across the rare sight of a V1 which was nearly intact.

The retired farmer, who has lived all his life in Petham, can recall watching British fighters chasing after the doodlebugs as they flew over east Kent.

Malcolm and Georgina Smith (9946515)
Malcolm and Georgina Smith (9946515)

“We never had a lot of bother here. There was a lot of activity in the sky but a lot of it, the biggest part, was going past us,” he explains.

“I suppose it was quite exciting for boys, a lot of it, watching them fighting up there in the airspace.”

One afternoon in 1945, he was out with a group of friends at a cafe at what is now the Six Mile Garage in Stone Street, when one of them mentioned a bomber had landed nearby.

“One of the lads said there’s a doodlebug there,” Malcolm says, and the group set off to inspect it.

When they reached the nearby wood, rather than fragments, they came across a fully-formed fighter.

“It had been laying there a little while before we found it,” he continues.

Malcolm Smith (right) with Les Kirby next to a doodlebug (9946513)
Malcolm Smith (right) with Les Kirby next to a doodlebug (9946513)

“That was just the other side of the garage. We think it exploded in mid-air - if it had hit the ground, there would have been nothing left of it.”

To this day, Malcolm has a picture of himself, aged 16, and his friend Les Kirby, with the bomber. A copy is on display at the Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge.

His wife, Georgina, 85, who grew up in nearby Stelling Minnis, says the doodlebugs were the worst part of living through the war.

“They were the most scary things,” she explains. “They were the worst thing we had to put up with. They came out of nowhere, and made a terrible noise.

“It was all very horrible. There was this flame coming out the back and of course, you never knew when it was going to stop and come down.

Malcolm and Georgina Smith (9946515)
Malcolm and Georgina Smith (9946515)

“Sometimes you went outside when you heard them, and you could see them chasing each other around up there. And you would think, I shouldn’t be standing out here watching this.”

“We were very lucky in this village,” Malcolm, whose two elder brothers were enlisted to fight in the war, continues. “We had two bombs land but they never did any real harm. It was quite a bit of excitement for children.”

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