By Jim Goodson
Ken Gooden, Sr. recalls the Battle of Britain like it was yesterday - especially when he hears the buzzing sound of the Buzz Bombs - deadly flying bombs the German Army aimed toward London that could destroy whole city blocks.
Gooden was the speaker at Wednesday’s Jacksonville Rotary Club meeting at The Woods at Jacksonville.
“Today, when I hear a buzzing sound like that, my hair stands on end,” Gooden said.
Gooden said he and his friends liked to collect fragments of bombs and wrecked German planes, which they traded just as boys today trade baseball cards. Gooden was eight and nine years during the Battle of Britain, which took place from 1940-1942.
Like just about all small children, Gooden was moved from interior London to the rural countryside for protection - a situation he didn’t like one bit.
“I had my house in London with a cellar where we hid and a turret on the roof,” Gooden said. “I used to scramble up to the turret, which had a window. I had a good view overlooking the rooftops of London. It was my window on the war.”
His sister was sent by boat to South Africa, where she spent six years. Gooden was scheduled to depart two weeks later, but German U-boats began sinking British ships. “My mother didn’t want any part of that,” Gooden said, “so she sent me off by train to Cambridge.”
Gooden said the countrywide evacuations worked - to a point.
“We only got bombed three times per week rather than several times per day,” he said.
He recalled the that an accidental bombing was the impetus for the Battle of Britain.
“We later learned that Hitler was wavering between attacking Britain or Russia,” Gooden said. “They sent the occasional raid over London and one of their bombs struck Buckingham Palace. Well, we couldn’t stomach, so the Royal Air Force, which wasn’t very organized at the time,” went off and bombed Berlin.
“Apparently that enraged the Fuhrer, because the bombings of London really picked up two days after that.”
Soon, Cambridge began filling up with Americans, which Gooden recalled as a rather strange species.
“Our only images of Americans was from the movies,” he recalled. “We thought all Americans rode horses and wore big, white hats. I remember they used to whistle at my mom, which greatly disturbed me as a young boy. I didn’t think it was very nice.”
Gooden, who later served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, came to appreciate the flying abilities of the British and American pilots who learned to intercept German Buzz Bombs and flip them harmlessly into the British Channel using the wings of their B-1s, Mosquitos, Tempests or Messerschmitts.
“Those Buzz Bombs were terrifying and it was thrilling to watch our pilots risk their lives by flying under them, easing upward and flipping them over with their wings,” Gooden said.
“That whole scene at the beach was surreal thinking about it today. At Dover, the Channel is only 15 miles wide. You could look over to the other side and lorries (trucks) grinding up sand and you knew it was the German Army.”
By Jim Goodson
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