It turns out that three past and present Shoreham residents Brian Bazen, Denis Turrell and I are linked in a surprising set of coincidences. Earlier this year I was looking through Bob Hill’s collection of Old Shoreham photographs (he wrote the booklets ‘Old Shoreham Village & Farms’) in Marlipins Museum and found one of a V1 flying bomb (they were known generally as doodlebugs) that was taken through a window.
That looked iffy for a start – how could anyone be ready with a camera at the very point in time that a V1 happened by and click the shutter quickly enough to capture it? It all seemed extremely suspect. Was the photo a hoax, had it been tampered with before being given to the Museum? With today’s sophisticated photo editing computer programmes it is not difficult to fake photographs but these were collected by a reputable author and historian many years ago when photo editing without computers was difficult.
I know that view of the rooftops well which is not Old Shoreham at all but in the town. It shows the roof of today’s car bodywork repair garage in Middle Street, beyond it the roofs of the Royal Sovereign pub (right) and its neighbour (then one house and now split into two properties). The latter is easily recognisable by its two distinctly dissimilar dormer windows.
I could see that the photo was taken from the southernmost, rear window on the first floor of our old house in Church Street and shortly after we moved there some twenty years ago I was contacted by Denis Turrell, an earlier resident, who was able to give me information on the history of the occupants and the building. He was there during the 1930’s and 40’s and his bedroom was the same room that the V1 photo was taken from although I didn’t know that when I spoke to him and we have since lost contact. I found Denis to be a genuine chap and, if it was him that took the photo, I have no reason whatsoever to think he would have wanted, or even had the expertise necessary then, to alter it.
The only recorded instances I know of V1s actually impacting on the area (there were many that overflew on their way, presumably, towards London) was on 13th July 1944 near Lancing Chapel and the 5th November 1945 at the top of Eastern Avenue. The V1 in the photo is not falling (once their engines cut out the nose-heavy machines would plummet head first). Its sillhouette is unclear although this is to be expected as it was travelling at speed. V1’s normally had straight, level flying attitudes pointed towards London but this one seems to be banking and is in fact flying southwards, away from the capital!
No convincing arguments in favour of a genuine photo there then, that is until the discovery of an article by Shoreham resident Brian Bazen of his wartime reminiscences in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Britain at War’ series. The V1 that hit Eastern Avenue actually exploded on Brian’s allotment there which is coincidence enough but he also goes on to say on another occasion ‘I actually saw a doodlebug being nudged by the wing of a British fighter, and watched it turn back out to sea. I was disbelieved, but I actually saw it happen!’ Could this have been the Middle Street doodlebug and did Denis Turrell photograph it?
V1 engines had a noisy and distinctive sound that warned of their approach, add to that the fighter aircraft’s engine noise and the time it took to turn the missile then there may well have been sufficient warning for a photograph to be taken.
Some V1s that were ‘nudged’ off course didn’t always crash immmediately but, because their gyros were affected, would start circling and losing height. The Shoreham V1 is very low and looks to be banking in the same way, perhaps in a wide circle towards the sea.
The image has been checked by a photographic expert who confirms there is nothing in the image that suggests it is technically a fake and further examination revealed even more surprises. Compared with most photos of flying bombs, and unless there is some optical distortion, the silhouette indicates a slightly longer nose and tapered wings – there is a conflict of opinion on this, some hold that operational V1s never had tapered wings wheras others say they were used for a while only in the early stages of the attacks on London. Photos of V1s with tapered wings are scarce, if not completely non existent.
All in all, and if this is a genuine untouched photo, something of a rare discovery perhaps.
22nd July 2017