The Day My Father Raced a V1 Flying Bomb
Waterloo Bridge in London has been a subject for poets and writers for years. The scene of a lovers’ tryst, a car chase or a regiment of marching men —- the historic crossing point has seen it all.
My memory of Waterloo Bridge is also dramatic. During the war I was boarded at a school outside London and after the holidays my father would walk with me across the bridge to the station. Like the whole of London we were conscious of the V1 (doodlebug) threat: that sudden flying object somewhere overhead with the recognisable sound, then the engine cutting out, a silence, followed by an explosion.
We were halfway across the bridge when there was a growing “putt-putt” sound. The flying bomb swooped over Waterloo Station, dipped, and headed straight for us. We were astounded. “Run!” my father shouted. For an instant the V1 markings were clearly visible, and then it was past us, over the Thames and heading for the Palace of Westminster. Miraculously, it lifted, cleared the building, and disappeared. My father later wrote to me and told me that the flying bomb crossed London and exploded in open country.
It was a family joke that father should wear running spikes the next time he went over the bridge. I thought that he sprinted very well with a small boy in one hand, a suitcase in the other and a gas mask slung round his neck!