Ernie Allen was crouching under the stairs with his mum when the doodlebug hit Tolworth Park Road on Derby Day 1944. The five-year-old was shaken, but uninjured. Numbers 61 to 69 on the opposite side of the road were wiped out, with the backs of homes in parallel Ravenscar Road seriously damaged. It was the single
It was the single most devastating wartime attack on Surbiton in the Second World War. Twelve died, including sisters Barbara and Brenda Gale, and four members of the Scrivener family.
On the 75th anniversary, Ernie told the tale to a new generation after enterprising neighbour Neil Parsons built a belated 80th birthday present for Ernie under the willow tree at the junction of Ellerton and Ditton roads, by the Co-op.
Using cardboard sheets and duct tape, he constructed a mocked-up Anderson shelter and a doodlebug, which youngsters launched through the air.
The Co-op joined in by giving away free oranges on the anniversary, commemorating Ernie’s fifth birthday present. That gift, he said, meant the world to him as oranges were rarities because of the wartime food shortages.
Ernie was born in January 1939, on Jersey. Aged 16 months, he and his mother were on the last boat that left the island ahead of the German occupation in the summer of 1940.
The family moved to 76 Tolworth Park Road, and it was there, in the cupboard under the stairs, that Ernie and his mum were sheltering when the V1 flying bomb hit. They were relocated to Ellerton Road, where Ernie has lived for 75 years; the ‘grandad’ of the street and a hugely popular neighbour to fellow residents.