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Margaret's story

A doodlebug hits a school

Photograph of Margaret on the PC I lived in the town of Aldershot during the war. It's a 'garrison' town (which means there are lots of Army Barracks in and around) but even so it was hardly ever bombed, but doodlebugs would fly over us on their way to London and many fell in the local area.

On one occasion I can remember I was in school when we heard a doodlebug engine suddenly cut out (that meant that it was about to drop!). We hadn't taken shelter because there wasn't usually time for that, and only just enough time for Miss Clarke, the Geography teacher to yell "duck everyone" and so we all ducked under our desks as usual.

There was a tremendous crash and all the school windows blew in - glass everywhere, nobody was hurt fortunately, but we could see through the shattered windows that it had fallen on the school just down the hill from us.

My mother heard it and came out of the house, to be told that it had hit "the school on the hill" and immediately assumed it was mine. She ran non-stop for three miles, apron flapping, until she could see that our school was safe. By that time a full regiment of the Canadian Army, billeted nearby, was already on the scene, scrabbling at the debris of the classroom with their bare hands to get the kids out. By a miracle, only one child was dead and all the others were rescued. If any of those Canadian soldiers are reading this, please accept my thanks on behalf of the children.

Sweet Souvenir

For a completely different reason, I would like especially to thank one of those Canadians - Regimental Sergeant Major Tom Johnston - for a wonderful surprise. When his regiment was ordered over to France in 1944 they were told to destroy all their surplus food; this was because we had very strict rationing laws and it would have been quite unfair for Aldershot people to get what others couldn't get. RSM Johnston (Uncle Tom to me...) managed to smuggle out a couple of big tins of dried fruit (an incredible treat to sweet-starved children) in the back of his Austin Seven. I can still taste those wonderful raisins and apricots even now! If there are any Canadian Johnston's reading this, please accept my grateful thanks on Uncle Tom's behalf.

Margaret Auckland
April 1996

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