Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Nicht Anfassen - V1 Doodlebug fragment

From an early age I have been interested in militaria. An interest that has now been focused into medieval arms & armour, and it's very near cousin, Fantasy. As a child an elderly neighbour became aware of my fascination and gave me a broken piece of metal.

Sadly at the time I didn't appreciate it's significance, and it was a over a decade later when I rediscovered the fragment in a box in my parent's attic, and read the pencil inscription:

V1 Doodlebug
Shot down by 2018 Squadron RAF
Aug 28 1944 at Rye S Robinson F/Lt.

By then Mr Robinson had long since passed on, and I had missed the opportunity to ask him about the circumstances under which this doodlebug had been shot down. However it still felt very much like a link to a collective past. One in which my Father, as a child, had sat playing in his back garden in Heston, London, when a V1 demolished a house at the end of his street and sent a fragment of shrapnel flying past his head.

This piece of memorabilia has now sat on a shelf for many years, but recently I noticed the pencil had begun to fade, and I felt it was time I did something with it. As a consequence I have been in contact with a curator at the Imperial War Museum and have just donated this to their collection. I think it is much better that this is held in the national archives where it can be archived, and the connection to our past, and F/Lt Robinson's service, properly maintained and recognised.

The above photo shows the V1 that is currently suspended from the ceiling of the Imperial War Museum, London, and I have highlighted in red the part of the missile I believe my fragment is. Oh, and I think Nicht Anfassen means Do Not Stand On.*

* Florian Stitz has provided the correct translation - Do Not Touch.

Next time it will be back to the art, and less of the influences.


  1. This is one cool blog post Ralph! I enjoyed every word, donating the V1 steering paddle to the Imperial War Museum was a noble act indeed!
    Living History in action and a wonderful story.
    R.I.P Flight Lt Robinson.

  2. My gran used to talk vividly about those things and the sinister droning sound they made which resulted in the doodlebug nickname. It's quite interesting how RAF pilots learned to disable the rockets by tilting them with their wing tips. (If 'Nicht Anfassen' means 'keep off' it was a better message to send back at the Nazis!)

    By the way, any plans for any (real world) historical themed artwork?

  3. Hi ATOM and Gordon,

    Thanks for the comments.

    Much as it was cool to own this, giving it to the Museum feels like the right thing to do. They were interested in adding it to the collection because of the provenance, which elevates it from just another piece of shrapnel. Apparently they already own a fragment from the first V1 to be successfully 'tipped'.

  4. More doodles and less bugs :)

    Great post!

  5. Hey Ralph, thats really cool you are into collecting militaria as well. Its great to be surrounded by history, definitely provides for some excellent inspiration. Also thats great you decided to donate a piece like that.. I think I'd have trouble letting my (admittedly small) collection go just yet.

  6. Awesome story behind your item Ralph! I heard a story from an uncle of my girlfriend the other day. He was telling how as a child he would find helmets and even guns from the war! This is in Belgium by the way.

    I actually come from Manchester,
    Trafford park being famous for the construction of the Lancaster bomber by Avro, if I remember correctly. Also spitfire engines. So my home town got hit for the industry etc. I remember hearing a story of how the first anti aircraft guns arrived in the area and were that loud they shattered windows in the surrounding houses.

    Thanks for the post,great!


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