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Kent's Doodlebug Summer: Alan Bye interview

By Rachel Dixon

Pitch black nights, sunny days in the garden and a potty in the night shelter is what Alan Bye remembers of the Doodlebug summer.

The son of a Royal Marine, he lived with his grandparents Albert and Ethel Warren in Larkfield Avenue, Gillingham, during the period.

As a toddler he would run rings round his grandmother in the sunshine, as she knitted on the garden lawn.

Memories of Doodlebug's, Alan Bye of Gillingham. Picture: Chris Davey. (9488836)
Memories of Doodlebug's, Alan Bye of Gillingham. Picture: Chris Davey. (9488836)

But when night fell everything changed.

Mr Bye said: "Everything was pitched black, they had to turn the street lamps off, you couldn't see a thing.

"They had to paint signs on houses so watch men knew which houses had been damaged.

"Then on the cars they would paint white on the lights so you could pick them out."

When the doodlebugs appeared, little Alan and his grandparents would dash to the shelter Mr Warren had built in the garden.
The grandfather was in the army reserves after his career, also in the Royal Marines.

Memories of Doodlebug's, Alan Bye of Gillingham.when he was a child in the 1940's Picture: Chris Davey. (9488672)
Memories of Doodlebug's, Alan Bye of Gillingham.when he was a child in the 1940's Picture: Chris Davey. (9488672)

He used his day off to build a deep hole in the garden and built a shelter with thick corrugated iron.

Mr Bye said: "My grandmother would call out and we would run into our shelter.

"There were four bunks, a chair for granny to do knitting and a Jimmy in case anyone was caught short."

When one of the bombs hit, his grandfather persuaded him to peer outside the shelter.

He said: "When I looked all I could see was dust.
"I thought our whole house had been destroyed"

Luckily the house was still standing and Mr Warren still lives at the address in Larkfield Avenue today.

Years later he saw a doodlebug up close in a museum and was surprised how "small" they were when taking into account the damage they caused.

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