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> FIRST ONES IN LONDON
tanith
post Feb 27 2011, 08:19 AM
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On the 8th September 1944 a huge explosion occured in Staveley Road Chiswick in SouthWest London.
There was no siren, no warning. This was the first ballistic missile,Hitler's much vaunted V2 Rocket. It weighed 13 tons and had arrived via the stratosphere at 3,000 miles an hour.
3 People died and 17 were seriously injured in the tragedy which reduced rows of houses to the apperance of a battle field.
Londoners would have heard for the first time the distinctive sound of the Rocket.
Firstly the explosion,secondly the roar of the rocket motors catching up (because it travelled slower than the supersonic Rocket) and lastly the noise of the sonic boom from the upper atmosphere. The noise could be heard all over the capital.
A second V2 hit Epping at around the same time but fortunately in this case there were no casualties.

The V2 Rockets had been known about by British Intelligence for some time but it had been assumed that the launch sites had been overun by the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Indeed only on the day before Duncan Sandy had memorably announced at a press conference "except possibly for the last few shots the battle of London is over"
At the same time a wave of optimism had been sweeping the country as it was assumed that Germany would capitulate at any time.
The V2 Attacks went on until the 18th September by which time about 14 had fallen on the London area,when they abruptly stopped because of the Allied Operation Market Garden at Arnem which forced the Rocket batteries to withdraw. They continued to fire but could only reach East Anglia.London had temporary relief.


On the 3rd October, after a lull which had lasted since 18th September, the V2 attacks re-commenced on London, with the first one falling in Wanstead. The Nazi's were able to do this because of the Allied failure at Arnhem and the subsequent oppurtunity for them to re- position their rocket units in the Hague. It was not until 10th November that Churchill admitted that "we are under attack again" and the press were able to give details of the Rocket attacks.


The attacks then continued at a fairly steady rate until the last missile in March 1945.
The V2 attacks never reached the scale of their forerunners the V1 and the highest number experienced in the area of South London that I have studied was 9 in the week commencing 1st January 1945.
Inspite of the lower numbers the V2 was a very terrifying and destructive weapon.
Because of the lack of warning the V2 delivered death from the sky without any chance of shelter or protection. Indeed there was little point in using Anderson or Morrison shelters as the V2's penetrating capabilites rendered them useless. Only the deepest tube stations or deep level shelters could be considered totally safe.
The V2, although less in number, was a much deadlier weapon than the V1. The Death rate per missile for the V1 was 2.70 but for the V2 11.06 (figures for S.London area of Study)
These more deadly results were as a results of the missiles penetration and concentrated blast which caused much greater destruction at the epicentre than the V1, as well as the lack of warning.
The V2 made a crater sometimes ten feet deep. It caused an earthquake effect which cracked washbasins a 1/4 of a mile away. Even a few miles away floorboards shuddered,window frames shook and clouds of soot blew out of fireplaces
The brunt of the V1 attacks had been in the South London. The focus now shifted and the East and North Eastern side were the worst hit with Ilford recording the highest total (35) but South London was still to endure a considerable amount of V2's.
This distribution of missiles was simply caused by the launch being from the Netherlands, from the East and short-falling Rockets therefore struck that side of London


Londoners had been blasted out of their homes in some cases time and time again during the Flying bomb period, and when it was thought that was over this new terror arrived. They were tired, weary and it was now cold. Also after Duncan Sandy's premature statement about the "Battle for London being over" there was anger at the Government.
Tens of thousands of people had no roofs,no windows, no running water. Repairs had been carried out at a vigoruous pace after the V1 attacks but there was far too much of a back log and many waited months for glass in their windows or tiles on their roofs.
People fell ill in large numbers with Flue and other winter illnesses. They felt that the war in Europe would not last much longer and desperately did not want to be killed by "one of the last bombs". During the blitz there had been a sense of community, a stoic attitude, Britain at its finest hour. The V2 attacks caused a different response. Londoners were terrrified. One comptemporary report describes "Brixton women preying in the street for the war to stop" People felt vunerable at all times of day and night.
The Rocket attack, the final terror, continued until March 1945 when the allied advances into Europe curtailed it. Up to the end a steady rate of missiles struck. The death toll was relentess. .One of the worst tragedies in London was just before the end of the attacks when 134 died at Hughes Mansions in Stepney on the 25th March 1945


On the 25th November 1944 New Cross High Street was busy with South Londoners . Woolworths on the corner of Goodwood Road, and the adjacent Co-op were packed with shoppers. One report mentions that a sought after supply of saucepans had become available and many were queing outside Woolworths in the hope of being able to purchase one. At 12.26 PM there was an enourmous explosion as a V2 Rocket impacted into the Woolworths store.
Comtemporary reports from a number of witnesses indicate that the V2 had been seen in its last moments of flight, a line drawn across the grey November sky.
The store bulged outwards and then imploded and in the carnage 168 people were die and 121 were seriously injured. It was the 251'st Rocket to be sucessfully launched. This was the worst tragedy in the entire V weapon campaign and one of the worst civilian disasters of World War II.
As the store exploded there was blinding flash of light an an enourmous roar followed by a dense cloud of smoke and powdered dust. Witnesses several hundred yards away felt the warm blast on their faces,some were physically pushed backward by its force. The Co-Op Store next door also collapsed killing more people inside. The bodies of passers by were flung for great distances, and an army lorry was overturned and destroyed killing its occupants. A double decker bus was spun round causing yet more deaths and injuries,its occupants were seen still sitting in their seats covered in dust..
There were piles of masonory and peices of bodies all around, where Woolworths had been was just an enourmous gap.
The debris stretched from the Town Hall to New Cross Gate station and it was to take 3 days to clear this and to retrieve all the bodies from the debris.Today the site has been totally re-developed but the extent of the damage area can be seen from where the new buildings commence both in the New Cross Road and in surrounding streets. Lewisham council have erected a blue plaque on the building to commemorate the tragedy.







On the 8th March 1945 at 11.30 a V2 Struck Smithfield Market. This was the building which stood on the corner of Charterhouse Street and Farringdon Road. The Rocket penetrated to the railway tunnels which lie beneath this area and were originally used as sidings for the market. There was a huge explosion which was heard all over London and the market buildings then collapsed into the void below. A massive crater formed filled with the rubble of the devasted buildings. The market was very busy at this time with both market workers and those queuing for produce. Many of the victims of this V2 fell through the floor of the market into the railway below. In all 110 people were to die in this attack and numerous more were seriously injured. There were many women and children amongst the dead who had gone to the market to try and obtain one of a consigment of rabitts that had gone one saleThis dreadful death toll occured only two weeks before the end of the V2 strikes. Today there is no trace of the Victorian market buildings that stood at this point. They have been replaced by a typical 1960's office block.




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