V for Vengeance - V Weapon Sites
Second World War 1939-45
The first attacks by V-1 Flying Bombs came on the 13th June 1944, only one week after the D-Day landings in Normandy. In the early hours of the morning observers reported a mysterious object flying inland and within hours more reports of similar objects were being received. They were seen to crash and explode, causing terrible damage and killing unsuspecting civilians. The war had entered a new phase with the Germans launching their secret weapons, which the British referred to as 'Doodlebug', but known to the Germans as Vergeltungswaffen or V-1 weapon.
Allied Military Intelligence circles had long known that Germany was developing a range of secret weapons and were concentrating in particular on rocketry. The V-1 was a Luftwaffe project, termed project FZG-76, costing just £125 to produce each rocket, largely through the use of slave labour. The V-1 carried a warhead of almost three-quarters of a ton of explosive, which was more powerful than RDX/TNT and during the first week of its operational offensive some 500 had been launched against England. During the war V-1s alone had accounted for over 5,000 killed and many thousands more wounded.
The V-2 or 'Vergeltungswaffen 2' was a different weapon altogether. For a start it was supersonic speed, being Mach 1 through the sound barrier and had a maximum altitude in flight of 60 to 65 miles, it was undetectable. This was an army project, termed project A-4, and they were produced at a cost of some £12,000 per rocket, again through the use of slave labour. By the end of the war Germany had built around 10,000 V-2 rockets of which they launched some 1,115 against England and 1,341 against Antwerp and a further 198 against other targets, including the bridge at Remagen which the Americans had captured to cross the Rhine.
There were to be other long-range variants for attacking the eastern seaboard of America, but apart from a few test launches this part of the programme was never developed. Trials were also conducted to allow the rockets to be fired from special containers towed by U-Boats. This tour will examine the developments and planned projects of these first ballistic missiles and we will visit some of the sites which absorbed so much of Germany's war effort but in the end failed to make any difference to the outcome of the war.