Soon after the D-Day landings, Hitler unleashed a terrifying new weapon on England. On June 13, 1944, the first V1 flying bomb hit Swanscombe. NEWS SHOPPER spoke to survivors of the Doodlebug attacks to find out more ...

WHEN the loud motorbike-like whine of its engine cut out, the residents below could only cower in wait for the bomb to find its target.

Developed by the German Luftwaffe, the revolutionary V1 was the first-ever guided missile and was used to terrifying effect against the people of Kent and London.

The pilotless Vergeltungswaffe, or "Vengeance Weapon", caused devastation and sparked the re-evacuation of tens of thousands of mothers and children to the countryside.

Sylvia Eversfield, of Havisham Road, Chalk, was 10 years old when her parents' home was destroyed by a Doodlebug.

The 70-year-old grandmother-of-four recalls living in May Place Avenue, Crayford, at the time and says she will never forget the night of June 16, 1944, just three days after the V1 raids began.

She said: "The attacks were so heavy all of us, my parents and the five children, spent all night in the corrugated metal shelter in our garden. It was quite cosy but very cramped.

"The Government still hadn't told us what the Doodlebugs were but we knew the noise.

"You just sat there and hoped the buzz of the engine would pass over. If it died nearby you just held your breath."

The former office worker added: "One cut out and then there was a massive bang and the ground shook. Mum poked her head out the shelter and just said The house has gone'."

But Mrs Everfield's family had been relatively lucky as the bomb had flattened three other houses on her street.

The pensioner said: "We lost everything but a few doors down they had it bad.

"It was a family of 12 and seven of them died, including the mum and dad.

  • Up to 6,184 people were killed and 42,146 injured by V1's, mainly in London, Kent and Surrey
  • The V1, with its Argus pulse jet engine, travelled at up to 410mph and had a range of 250 miles
  • It flew between an altitude of 300ft and 3,000ft and carried a warhead packed with 1,870lbs of explosives
  • The Doodlebug had a simple autopilot guidance system, with a pendulum and gyromagnetic compass controlling speed, altitude and direction
  • When the bomb reached its desired target the engine cut out, sending it plummeting to earth
  • Around 10,000 were fired at England but as many as 3,500 were brought down by steel balloon cables, fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns.

"I was evacuated to Yorkshire after that but eventually we got a new house in Crayford.

"You just got on with it. We were at war and there were plenty worse off than us."

Ray Beckford, 65, of Hedge Place, Greenhithe, remembers the night a Doodlebug destroyed the front of his home.

Mr Beckford was only five years old at the time and living in Erith Road, Bexleyheath, on June 29, 1944.

He said: "Me and brother were in the shelter with the lodger but my mum and dad were under the stairs because there wasn't enough space.

"Then the bomb hit and part of the house collapsed. Mum and dad were buried and it took eight men to lift a kerbstone off them but they were okay."

The former butcher added: "My mum was heavily pregnant with my sister Lillian at the time and she was born minutes later in the remains of the house. She was fine, which is a bit of a miracle, I suppose."

The last V1 hit England in March 1945 but Mr Beckford says he will never forget the noise.

He said: "It was such a terrible whine and the feeling when one cut out above you was indescribable. It stays with you."