V1 and V2 Bombing Campaign
In the latter stages of the Second World War Germany developed a range of guided missiles called 'V' weapons (V standing for vergeltung meaning retribution). The V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets were used in the 1944 bombing campaign on London.
V1 Flying Bombs
The V1 flying bombs were guided missiles designed to explode on impact. Also known as 'doodlebugs' or 'buzz bombs', V1s were used by the Germans as part of a major offensive from June 1944. Within five minutes of being launched from northern France, they rattled to a halt and dived into England.
The first V1 bomb landed in Grove Road in E4 hitting a railway bridge and killing 6 people. The British government deliberately exaggerated reports of doodlebugs hitting north London in an attempt to protect densely populated areas, but the Germans shortened their aim and south London bore the brunt of the bombing.
Around 70 flying bombs landed on London every day, each one causing much more damage than the traditional bombs because of their greater explosive power.
The drone of the doodlebugs stopped just 10--15 seconds before they exploded, leaving people very little time to take cover. Londoners were likely to be buried alive if they were within 50 yards (46 metres) of the explosion. They caused widespread panic because of their unpredictability, massive explosive power and, unlike conventional bombs, they fell during the day when Londoners were on the streets. However less damage was in fact sustained in 1944--45 than had been in the bombing campaign of 1940--41.
The V1 flying bombs were shortly followed by the next German development in warfare, the V2 rocket. Unlike the V1, the V2 travelled supersonically and the characteristic whistling of the falling bomb wasn't heard until after the explosion.
The first rocket hit Staveley Road in Chiswick killing three people and seriously injuring 17 others. Initially the British Government tried to keep the attacks secret and attributed the explosions to other causes. It was not until the Germans officially announced the V2 that the British Government confessed that the country was under attack from rockets.
The V2 rocket was the first ballistic missile and the first man-made object to reach sub-orbital spaceflight.
Over 1,300 V2 rockets were launched against England killing 2,724 people. Londoners, used to the sound of the German bombers and the buzz of the V1 flying bombs, found this new mode of silent attack incredibly unnerving and its main success was psychological.
Unlike the V1 which flew low and slow enough to be intercepted by fast aircraft, the V2 traveled so high and fast that there was no defense against it. Instead the English had to target the launching sites, which they did with some success.
The V weapons were Hitler's last, desperate attempt to change the course of the war.
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