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Doodlebug Summer in Kent: Herbert Crack interview

For five-year-old Herbert Crack the Doodlebugs were more a source of excitement than terror.

He and his pals would watch the flying bombs overhead during the summer of 1944.

He said: "I didn't know any other life.

Herbert Crack at his childhood street, Mayfield Gardens, Dover (11393749)
Herbert Crack at his childhood street, Mayfield Gardens, Dover (11393749)

"And as children they never frightened us, they were more interesting than anything else."

"It was a game to us. We even used to even make little paper aeroplanes that we made to look like the Doodlebug with the tail at the back."

Mr Crack, now 80, said his first memory of a Doodlebug was seeing one in the air has he and his family sat in their Anderson (garden) Shelter in Mayfield Gardens, Dover.

He says: "I remember putting my head out of the shelter where we slept overnight and a large silver Doodlebug was immediately over my head flying across.

Herbert, right, with couising Bridget Lee, at his Dover home in 1946. Picture: Herbert Crack Jr (11393720)
Herbert, right, with couising Bridget Lee, at his Dover home in 1946. Picture: Herbert Crack Jr (11393720)

"It was fired at by the anti-aircraft guns at Tower Hamlets and the guns behind us."

The flying bomb was hit and fell into the sea just outside Dover Harbour

Mr Crack said: "It was a very close miss. We used to sit out here on the steps and watch them of an evening fly across making their noise, that funy throb-throb-throb andhaving a flame out of the back."

Mr Crack now understands that the flying bombs he saw were aimed at London and the Medway Towns rather than Dover.

He said: "They flew over Dover to get there and that's when the anti-aircraft guns would shoot them down. I do remember one exploding very high up when it was hit directly.

"Four, or five or a dozen would come across one after the other.

Herbert's father Herbert Sr at Dover Eastern Docks, early 1940s. Mr Crack is pictured far right, with a beret, Picture: Herbert Crack Jr
Herbert's father Herbert Sr at Dover Eastern Docks, early 1940s. Mr Crack is pictured far right, with a beret, Picture: Herbert Crack Jr

"There was one over the hills at Tower Hamlets that went up with a very large explosion. Much larger than the shells, which were coming at the same time or just after.

"Most of them just flew across. We could see them, we could hear them but they were less frightening.Whereas with the shells, when they came it was too late.

Mr Crack's worst brush with death was in September 1941 when German bombers flattened his family's then home in Bartholomew Street, Dover.

He was aged just two and somehow he and his family survived being buried in rubble.

He said: "I remember debris falling around me and being rescued, my mother, father and grandmother and myself. My brothers and sisters had been evacuated to Wales at the time.

"We all got out ofthere alive but I'm not sure all our neighbours survived that one."

Herbert Crack was born in Chatham in the then All Saints Hospital, Magpie Hall Road, in January 1939.

His father, Herbert Sr, was an electrician who was transferred from Chatham Dockyard to Dover Eastern Docks that autumn.

They family lived in Bartholomew Street until their home was bombed and were in Mayfield Gardens from 1941 to 1947.

Mr Crack, a widower and grandfather, now lives in Arthur Road, Rainham.


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