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The Rise and Fall of Hitler's V-1 Rockets

Discussion in 'German Heavy Weapons' started by Jim, Sep 29, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    "Except possibly for a few last shots, the Battle of London is over," declared Mr. Duncan Sandys, M.P. Chairman of the War Cabinet Committee on operational counter measures against the flying bomb, on September 7th 1944. How Germany's attempt to destroy London with her vaunted VI weapon was foiled makes one of the most memorable war stories.

    "Diver, diver, diver!" The words drummed into the ears of a telephone operator at Air Headquarters, Air Defence of Great Britain, a few minutes after 4 o'clock in the morning of June 13th 1944. The code message came from the Royal Observer Corps station at Dymchurch, Kent; it marked the moment for which the authority’s had long been prepared. Two members of the Corps had seen the first flying bomb approaching over the sea, and in less than 40 seconds their warning in code had been received at headquarters: the whole intricate machinery of defence was at once set in motion. Difficulties of the airmen in getting to grips with this devastating weapon, especially in the early stages of the battle, can be summed up in the following statements.

    "We found that by getting in to 200 yards range we could hit the target. If we were further away we missed. If we were nearer our aircraft were liable to be damaged by flying debris. In fact, quite a number were brought down. After the first fortnight or month we had so improved our tactics that we were knocking down at least 80 per cent of our sightings. The three squadrons in my wing destroyed 600." This by a Wing Commander who led the first Tempest wing into action against the flying bomb and himself shot down 23. Squadron-Leader J. Berry, of Carlton, Nottingham (his photograph appears below), said: "Our chief difficulty was that, though we could see the bombs much farther away at night, we could not easily judge how far away they were. All we could do at first was to fly alongside the fairly slow bombs and remember what they looked like at lethal range. In this way a very good interception system was worked out before the new shilling rangefinder was issued."

    Squadron-Leader J. Berry, top scoring pilot in the battle against the flying bombs, of which he destroyed 60, all but 3 of them between sunset and dawn. His tempest was damaged on several occasions by the explosions of his robot targets.

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    That shilling rangefinder, which provided "the complete answer" to pilots difficulties, was the invention of Sir Thomas Merton, unpaid scientific adviser to the Ministry of Production. He told a Daily Mail reporter that 24 hours after he was first struck by the idea he had manufactured a prototype. In less than a week the manufacture of hundreds was in full swing. "The rangefinder must remain secret," he said, as its possibilities in this war may not yet be exhausted. But I can say that it is very small and no heavier than a box of matches. It was one of those ideas that look so obvious afterwards."

    New and resourceful tactics were evolved by the fighter pilots. One, who ran out of ammunition after destroying two doodle-bugs and wanted to tackle a third, brought his fighter alongside of it and slid his starboard wing-tip beneath the port wing of the bomb. A flick of the control column and the "diver," its delicate gyro mechanism thrown out of balance, spun to earth. The pilot reported this novel method of attack when he arrived back at base, the news spread, and soon other pilots were repeating the trick. It was not always easy; they were compelled sometimes to make two, three and even four attempts before the flame erupting target crashed. Another pilot discovered that the best position for an attack was slightly behind and to one side of the flying bomb, when it became possible to shoot off the jet or, a wing. At times fighters would co-operate with ground defences to bring the missiles to destruction; several flying bombs were destroyed by heavy and even light A.A. fire after having been "flipped down" to a convenient height by an obliging fighter. Heavy A.A. guns, moved to suitable sites, were supported not on the usual 15 ft of concrete but on improvised "mattresses" of railway lines and sleepers. For this purpose 35-miles of lines and 22,500 sleepers were collected from 20 different railway depots. There were instances of pilots who deliberately "steered" flying bombs into balloon barrage concentrations. The greatest balloon barrage in the history of the R.A.F. was massed to support the defences at the height of the menace nearly 2,000 balloons were brought from every part of Britain and concentrated into an area to the south-east of London. Altogether they destroyed 278 flying bombs out of those which escaped the outer defence rings of A.A. guns and fighters. To step-up the production of balloons the Ministry of Aircraft Production demanded of one factory an-all out effort. We were offered, said the managing director of the firm concerned, "the use of another factory and urged to discontinue making our dinghies and lifebelts, but we knew these things were also of vital importance, so decided to appeal to our workers. They put in such a spurt that we increased the production of balloons by a very considerable proportion without affecting our output of dinghies and other things. Young girls and women toiled to the limit of their endurance, inspired by the fact that they were helping to defeat the flying bomb" The youngest of those girls and women was 14 and the oldest 68!

    The famous Guards Chapel, attached to Wellington Barracks, London, was hit by a flying bomb during a Sunday morning Service in June 1944, with many casualties.

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    Balloon sites were completed swiftly, and to link these with headquarters thousands of miles of telephone cable, much of it borrowed from Army formations on the spot to save time, was laid by G.P.O. engineers, assisted by men of the R.A.F. Signal Units and Royal Signals and manned by W.A.A.F. telephonists. The vigil of the crews who manned the sites was continuous. Thousands of W.A.A.F. personnel played their part in the flying bomb battle, as photographers, photographic interpretation officers, plotters, balloon fabric workers, cooks, and so on. A.T.S. girls also were well to the fore. And non-Service girls at London's telephone switchboards did a magnificent job in helping to keep the phones going during the attacks. Gas and water services were frequently interrupted and as frequently put into operation again. The work of the various transport staffs was of the very highest order: 78 bus workers of the London Passenger Transport Board were killed and 1,410 injured. Worst hit district of London was Croydon, with 75 per cent of its houses damaged. In a single day 8 bombs dropped there, and 15 in one week-end; 211 of its citizens were killed. Engaged in repairing London's damage, in August, were 1,500 naval ratings, each vigorously upholding the Royal Navy's tradition of "Jack of All Trades." These Servicemen were called in to ease the heavy burden suddenly thrust upon the heroic and ever-willing Civil Defence organization, every branch of which toiled unceasingly to save life and mitigate the hardships suffered by the “man-in-the-street.”
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Killed in Action

    From Bradwell Bay before dawn at 05-35 on the 1st of October flying his Tempest SD-F he led a Ranger sortie with F/Lt E.L. “Willy” Williams SD-L and F/Lt C.A. “Horry” Hansen SD-H to attack ground targets of opportunity between Bad Zwischenhan in Northern Germany, a He111 airfield; and a nearby rail yard where trains transporting V1's to these airfields and launch sites could be found, and any other He111 airfields or enemy targets of opportunity from there to the Rhine. But while flying fast and low to their target; bursts of small arms fire from a German soldier, stationed at the German Radar Site "Gazzelle" just East of Veendam unluckily struck Joseph's Tempest rupturing his glycol tank, struggling to control his stricken aircraft, “eye witness reports say; that he increasing his height to 500ft presumably in an attempt to bail out, leaving a glycol vapour trail in his wake”; he radioed to his fellow pilots "I've had it chaps; you go on". Just over 2 miles to the East of “Gazelle” Joseph's plane crashed in flames in Kibbelgaarn, a small hamlet 4 ½ miles South of Sheemda. The two other pilots circled the crash site a couple of times to see if their commanding officer had survived the impact, and then carried on their mission. Two inhabitants of Kibblegarrn; Mr A.Jager who was the head teacher of the village junior school that Joseph's airplane had just narrowly missed, and Mr S. de Lange were the first to reach the crash site, they pulled the dead pilot from the blazing wreckage, desperately trying to extinguish the flames from his uniform, the name of the pilot at that time was unknown as his identity tags were destroyed in the blaze. The only clue to his identity was a small metal medicine box and a cigarette case with the initials JB engraved on it. Two hours later the Germans arrived.

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    Joseph was buried in a quiet plot in nearby Scheemda, on the simple wooden cross were written the words, “Unknown RAF Pilot”. The remaining two pilots returned home safely at 09-25 reporting attacks on four trains, leaving them smocking and steaming. Three trains were reported attacked between the River Gruis and Dummer Lake, and the fourth train attacked 12miles East of Zwolle. His total of V1's has been put at 60, but recorded claims appear to indicate 59 ½. He was awarded a second Bar to his DFC on the 20th January 1946, back dated to October 1944.
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    V1 Bombs

    Many flying-bomb launching sites were put out of action by the Germans themselves before they were captured: a disabled runway (1) found at Belloy-sur-Somme, near Amiens. "This indiscriminate weapon," as Winston Churchill called it, was an unpleasant sight as it took the air (2). Sometimes it failed to function (4) and crashed near its launching site. Camouflage was employed to conceal flying-bomb depots from the R.A. F., some assembly houses having roofs resembling farm buildings (3).

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  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    V1 Comes Down In London

    Almost at the end of its final glide, motor cut out, impact and shattering explosion a matter of seconds only. A flying bomb (1) just missed the Law Courts in London. Frequenters of Fleet Street passed on almost unheeding as a pillar of smoke (background, 2) marked the crashing of a bomb in the Aldwych, almost the proverbial stone's throw from them. Ripped apart in the dead of night, a block of flats sets heroic C.D. rescuers toiling with the aid of searchlights and cranes (3).


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  5. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    German Flying Bombs

    Driven from their coastal launching sites in France and Belgium, the Germans resorted to the “Piggy-Back” method of sending their flying-bombs against England, a method founded on the British built Mayo composite aircraft of 1938. The flying-bomb was perched on launching rails on the top of the fuselage of a semi obsolete Heinkel III, flown over the North Sea, pointed at London and then released.

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    The operation had its dangers, the main problem being to launch the bomb clear of the parent aircraft, before the flaming jet of gas began to stream from, the bombs power-unit. It was conjectured that, to avoid setting the parent aircraft ablaze the combustion chamber in the bomb was heated; the Heinkel engines sharply throttled back and the bomb launched almost simultaneously.

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    The computed range of the flying-bomb was not above 150 miles, so the parent aircraft had to fly to within range of the East Coast, aim its bomb, launch it, and return to base, all the time trying to elude the patrols on the watch for the tell-tale flash from the flying bombs tail. Numbers of these carrier Heinkels had been shot down before or after launching their deadly missiles.

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    As regards the actual launching, the walls of the bombs combustion chamber were rendered red-hot by a gas mixture ignited by a spark plug operated from the parent aircraft. While the bomb was in flight ignition was effected by the heated tail-tube. The gas emerged in a series of jerky impulses at a frequency of 45 per second.

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  6. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Doodle Bug

    Plane launched flying bombs used by the Germans in renewed attacks against Britain were described by Mr. Duncan Sandys Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply and Chairman of the Flying bomb Counter-Measures Committee, on October 31st 1941, as being under the launching planes (semi-obsolete Heinkel 111s), contrary to previous principles governing composite aircraft and as shown in page above, They were probably released in the same way as torpedoes or rockets carried by R.A.F Typhoons, though the risk to the air crews, as well as the take-off difficulties, were considerable, Carrier-planes were said to fly on1y a few feet above the sea, rarely venturing nearer than 50 miles to the coast.

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    In this sectional drawing, pilot and observer in the Perspex "nose" of the Heinkel are seen as the bomb is launched, Points of interest are (1) small propeller driven by the bomb's flight, and (2) the electric revolution counter. When the propeller has registered a set number of revolutions, the elevators (3) were automatically moved into “diving” position, thus urging the bomb to earth. Other bomb parts were (4) warhead, containing 2000lbs of explosives; (5) tubular main span passing through the fuel tank, which had a capacity of 130 gallons; (6) wire bound compressed air bottles which injected petrol into the engine; (7) automatic pilot, which kept the bomb on a set course; (8) rudder and elevator operating mechanism. The insert shows the working of the large impulse-duct engine. (A) Air stream through the grille to be compressed (B) simultaneously with the injection of petrol. The mixture was then fired by a spark, thus closing the valves. The white hot gasses were then omitted (C) propelling the bomb on its flight.
     
  7. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    A V-1 missile is seen here loaded on the Walter catapult and ready for launch. The gas generator trolley is in place as is the Anlaßgerät on the left rear side of the fuselage, which contained the electrical controls and air pressure attachments to start the launch.

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  8. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Two Canadian soldiers sitting astride a V1 Bomb downed in a field somewhere in Southern England. This is the same V1 seen in the picture in #3 post ...

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  9. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    An American-built V1 buzz bomb, created to help the Allies learn more about the weapon, on display in New York at a war Bonds rally

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