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The early months of 1944 witnessed a sharp resurgence of raids by piloted aircraft. These were on a heavier scale than the sporadic excursions of 1942-3, and most of them were directed at London. They ceased as suddenly as they began. But London had only a few weeks of freedom before the "flying-bomb" attack opened.
On June 12, 1944, just a few days after the D-Day landings, the first V-1s were launched against London. During the first V-1 bombing campaign, up to 100 V-1s fell every hour on London. Over a three month period, more than 6 000 persons were killed, with over 17 000 injured and a million buildings wrecked or damaged. Out of about 8 000 launched, 5 000 fell on London and south-eastern England.
They were nicknamed "buzz bombs" due to the distinct buzzing sound made by the pulse-jet engines powering the bombs, which resembled a small aircraft. Other nicknames included "doodlebugs" and "flying-bombs." Each V-1 was launched from a short ramp and climbed to between 3 000 and 5 000 feet at speeds up to 400 miles per hour, with a range of about 200 miles.
As the V-1 approached its target, the buzzing noise could be heard by people on the ground. At a preset distance the engine would suddenly cut out and there would be a silence, as the bomb plunged toward the ground, followed by an explosion of the 1 870 pound warhead.
A strong bomber offensive against the V1 launch sites forced the Germans into creating mobile launch sites and launching some from Heinkel 111 bombers. This method of warfare never became a menace to to the civilian population, but the next one did.
On 8th September 1944 the Germans launched the first long-range rocket at Britain, the V-2, a liquid-fueled rocket that traveled at supersonic speeds as high as 50 miles, then hurtled down toward its target at a speed of nearly 4 000 miles per hour, smashing its 2 000 pound high explosive warhead into the ground without warning.
Unlike the V-1, the V-2 rockets could not be intercepted. Once again London was the chief target. This assault lasted for seven months, and a total of 1 054 rocket incidents were reported. Of this number 518 fell within the London civil defence region.
With the allied advance into Holland in March 1945, when the launcing sites were occupied, the attack ceased. The last rocket landed in Orpington, Kent on 27th March, and the last enemy action incident of any kind on British soil occurred at Datchworth in Hertfordshire on 29th March, when a "flying-bomb" was again used.
Copyright © 2002 Peter