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Bookmark this page, and return later in 2008!!!

A new section. New and more information on the Slave Camps,
Secret Weapons and Dr. Wernher von Braun.
The new project based on the 'Space Race'. Release Date 2008.

: The First V2 Attack On London? :

After the V1 threat had arrived on 13th June 1944 to terrorise the populace of London, measures were taken to limit the ‘flying bombs’ impact, and to defend London and other cities of Britain.

These measures included moving AAA batteries along the south coast of England and lining them along the corridor the flying bombs travelled to their intended targets, from their launch locations in Nazi held Europe. Other measures included deploying RAF fighter squadrons and using them as interceptors, they would chase and shoot down the cruising ‘flying bombs’ over the English Channel or over the countryside.


V1 "Doddlebug".

With these defensive measures in place, the Allied bombers concentrated on destroying the V1 launch sites on the northern European mainland, combined with the Allied ground forces advancing across northern Europe, continually pushing the Nazis into retreat, to the point finally where British targets were out of range from the threat of the V1.

In the early days of September 1944 Mr. Herbert Morrison, Home Secretary, had claimed that Hitler had lost the battle of London. In the ‘Independent on Sunday’ (4th Oct 1992) it reports that Herbert Morrison’s Rocket Consequences Committee rejoiced as late as 5th September 1944, saying "…the enemy is unlikely to be able to launch rockets or flying bombs against London on any appreciable scale…We have therefore directed that…plans…to meet the contingency of severe rocket attack should so far as possible be kept on a paper basis."

But several days after making that announcement a new menace would emerge and would threaten London, and this threat would have no defence. This menace took the shape of Dr. Wernher von Braun’s A4 rocket, developed in secret by his German rocket team at the Peenemünde centre on the Baltic coast, deep inside Hitler’s Third Reich.


Von Braun briefs
Nazi onlookers at
A4 test.

For propaganda purposes Hitler had the rocket named ‘Vergeltungswaffe’ (Retaliatory Weapon), Vengeance Weapon 2 or known more infamously as the V2. The rocket would be launched from deep inside occupied countries from mobile launchers, hard to detect and destroy.

On September 7th 1944, the first V2 was launched in anger, and its target was Paris. The V2 campaign had begun, and with it 6 months of uncertainty and terror would befall London and other cities in Britain, as well as cities in northern Europe newly liberated by the Allies.

This particular moment in time signalled a new threat, a demoralising, soul destroying moment and not in hindsight a turning point in history, which on reflection it was. Especially as the end of the war was in sight, and with it, the promise of returning to some normality, and the secret weapons threat meant that the people of London would have to endure a ‘Blitz’ for a second time.

In fact London had already returned to some normality during the closing years of the war. The Luftwaffe had ceased to be a threat and Allied air forces dominated the skies over Britain and northern Europe. Long gone were those dreadful nights at that beginning of the Battle of Britain, night after night of bombing raids known as ‘The Blitz’.

But seven days after the D-day landings (6th June) and the successful execution of ‘Operation Overlord’, June 13th 1944, saw the beginning of the new Blitz using new technology to terrorise in the hope of changing the course of the war back in favour of the Nazis. Although the Allies quelled the V1 threat, the V2 menace was near impossible to deal with, and defend against.

The V2’s launch procedure compounded the problem of detection. Unlike the V1, the V2 did not need static built ramps for launching, hence launch sites could not be easily detected and then destroyed by allied bombers. The V2 could be launched anywhere by the use of mobile carriers. These mobile units where near impossible to locate, constantly on the move to avoid detection until such time they were needed to launch the rocket.

Once launched from its secret location it would take less than 5 minutes to reach its intended target, while at the same time the mobile unit would be back on the move and disappear into the shadows. 50 years on, in the Gulf War, the very same threat would be encountered when dealing with Iraq Scud missiles.

During that conflict its interesting to note that the Allies did not locate or destroy any of the Iraq mobile Scud launchers.
The other factor that made defence impossible was the rocket itself. Its incredible speed made detection impossible, and so made air-raid warnings also impossible.

The V2 on re-entry would achieve speeds of 3000mph, several times the speed of sound. At the least the V1 gave some warning, if only from listening to the drone of the pulse jet engine. When the drone ceased, the engine having its fuel automatically stopped, the V1 would shed its wings and engine, and would hurtle to the ground and dispatch its bomb load.

The V2 on the other hand gave no warning at all, unless you can count the ‘double thunder clap’ or ‘a Rumble and plop’ that could be heard as the supersonic rocket re-entered the atmosphere. The warning served no purpose for the victims, for a fraction of a second after the ‘double thunder clap’ the rocket’s 1 ton payload would unleash its devastation on the impact area. The victims would know nothing about the attack.

On Friday 8th September 1944, in a quiet picturesque road in Chiswick, west London W4, would be the Britain’s first recipient of Hitler’s silent, but deadly V2 rocket. Launched from occupied Holland just minutes earlier the V2 re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and hurtled towards London at supersonic speed. It was a drizzly Friday evening at 6.44pm when a ‘mystery explosion’ shattered the quiet surroundings of Staveley Road in Chiswick and killed three people.

Private Frank Browning was walking down the quiet cherry tree lined road. The young soldier was on leave and about to visit his girlfriend. He was killed instantly.

A young child, Rosemary Clarke aged 3 years old, was killed in her cot while asleep. No details exist regarding Mr & Mrs Clarke, but obviously they were among the injured that survived.

The adjoining house to the Clarkes resided Mr & Mrs Harrison. Mrs Ada Harrison, 65 years old, became the third fatality. Mrs. Harrison and her husband, William, were sitting by their fireside at the time of the attack, and the house collapsed upon them.

The local school caretaker was a 64-year-old council worker Robert Stubbs. By his own account he was blown 20 yards across a playing field by the V2 blast. After which he staggered to the scene of the blast to offer assistance. By this time Ada Harrison had managed to crawl out from the wreckage and the debris of her house, only to die in the arms of the Robert Stubbs.

William Harrison was severely injured but survived. An accurate account of the injured is unknown, but it is believed between 17 and 20 people were trapped or injured due to the ‘mystery explosion’. But its without a doubt that the death toll and injured would have certainly been much higher, if it had not been for the evacuations caused by the V1 threat earlier in the summer of 1944.

Also inaccurate reports appeared in newspaper articles regarding the Staveley Road blast immediately after the incident, and in reports found in the press 50 years on. This only lessens the effect of the devastation caused by the V2, termed a ‘mystery explosion’ at the time.

The authorities were in no doubt that this incident was in fact a new Nazi secret weapon, the first of Hitler’s new ‘Vergeltungswaffe’ (Retaliatory Weapon), the V2. The ‘mystery explosion’ even prompted an immediate visit to the scene by the then Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, accompanied by Ellen Wilkinson, his Parliamentary Secretary and Admiral Edward Evans of the Civil Defence.

Even before Herbert Morrison’s visit, RAF, British and US army experts wasted no time at all, and arrived on the scene 30 minutes after the explosion to investigate the damaged they suspected was caused by the new Nazi weapon.

But the incident in Staveley Road would remain ‘a mystery explosion’, even though another ‘mystery explosion’ happened approximately 15 seconds later on the other side of London in Epping Forest. But journalists and residents were informed that a gas mains was the official cause of the explosion. But rumours were abounded that it was far from a gas mains that was the cause of the explosion.

The Government ordered a complete news blackout that lasted for two months, even though more devastating incidents of ‘mystery explosions’ occurred, and rumours circulated amongst the populace. Photographs of the Staveley Road incident, and others from that period, have the censors official red stamp "Not to be published". Also a complete ban in naming the area in which the explosion occurred was implemented. This logically denied important information to the enemy regarding their accuracy, and so denying them the opportunity to improve their targeting.

In the newspaper report from The Daily Telegraph 50 years on, 9th September 1994, it states: "By Oct. 25, the first 100 rockets claimed 82 lives. On Nov. 1, V2’s killed 24 people at Dulwich and 31 at Deptford. Continuing strikes killed 32 more in Islington on Nov. 5, 19 at Luton the following day and another 19 at Aldgate on Nov. 10."

The authorities continued, and would have continued in their stance of denial of a new Nazi weapon longer, if it had not been for a Nazi propaganda announcement about stepping up their attack on London with the V2 rocket on the 9th November 1944. The Nazis announced that a new weapon had been introduced with a more devastating effect than the V1, a "far effective missile’.

The Telegraph continued by saying "The next day (10th Nov.), Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, gave the commons the first formal news of the V2 campaign, explaining that no official statement had been issued because it might have given useful information to the enemy."

Its no doubt that the Government also had one eye on trying to avoid panic amongst its populace, which in turn would have demanded immediate action to stop the threat. Something that would have obviously caused the Allies major headaches, as the rockets were undetectable and unstoppable. This would have been part of Hitler’s plan to demoralise the people of England and other cities in the Allied sphere.

Now it was out in the open, and these ‘mystery explosions’ and ‘Gas mains explosions’ was in fact a new Nazi secret weapon.
Going back to the Staveley Road incident, using the ‘Brentford & Chiswick Borough Record of Incidents Caused by Enemy Action, 1939 – 1945.’ We can see an accurate account of the incident logged in the official records of the devastation caused by the V2 rocket.

The entry for the 8th September 1944 V2 attack on Staveley Road reads:

"Centre of Staveley Road opposite No. 5". It continues, "11 houses demolished, 12 seriously damaged and evacuated, 516 slightly damaged, 40 minor. Water and gas mains. Very large crater, 20ft deep, in middle of road."

The report goes on to explain the actions taken by the authorities with regard to the incident. "St.Thomas Rest Centre opened 16 accommodated, closed 15th Sept. W.V.S. Incident Inquiry Point opened 9th Sept., closed 10th. 14 families re-housed, 3 persons killed. Searchlight from the Searchlights Unit Riverside Lands was used to illuminate site but was not effective."

The log entry ends with "This was the first and only Long Range Rocket (V.2) to fall within the borough, and understood to be the first to fall in this country (certainly the first to fall in the London region)."

The official log helps locate the exact impact point for the V2 in Staveley Road. Which is something constantly amiss in various reports and articles that have been published. One major blunder stands out, and pointed out by Donald Eustace who lived in 13 Staveley Road at the time of the attack.

Mr. Eustace, recently deceased, was the last surviving resident in Staveley Road when Cal McCrystal interviewed him in Sept/Oct. 1992. Cal McCrystal wrote an article for the ‘Independent On Sunday’, which was sparked by the then forth coming celebrations being held in Germany of the launching of the first V2, 50 years previous (3rd October 1942).

Within the article, published 4th Oct. 1992, 84 year old Donald Eustace of 13 Staveley Road describes visiting the Science Museum (London) in 1989. They presented him with a poster of a photograph of the bombed road. Printed over the photograph were the words:

“13 STAVELEY ROAD, CHISWICK W4. THE FIRST STEP ON THE JOURNEY TO THE MOON.”

"This is a British poster celebrating the V2," Mr. Eustace tells Cal McCrystal, "they made a balls of it. It wasn’t my house that got hit. It was No 7."

So between the official log, and the words of an eyewitness, the impact point can be attained. But the poster should be regarded as a swipe rather than as an obvious celebration of the V2, with the use of British ‘black humour’. It’s a reminder that there is a darker side to the story that got a man to the moon, that achievement came at a high price in human lives. It’s a dark side that is often forgotten when telling the story of Man conquering the moon. A facet to the dark side, as it reminds us of the victims of the V2 attacks, but we must remember the many thousands so that suffered and died in captivity, in forced labour camps building the secret weapons.

The Daily Telegraph reported that one of the first victims of a V2 attack in Britain was a Mr. Ernest Butler. Mr. Butler was blown out of a fruit tree somewhere in southern England, location and date is unknown, when a V2 landed nearby. He was discovered unharmed near the impact crater, but missing his trousers which had be removed by the shock wave caused by the V2 explosion.

Without a date and location for this incident Staveley Road is remembered as the first British target for a V2 rocket.

The V2 attacks on London ended on the 27th March 1945, when V2 mobile units retreated deep into Germany because of the advancing Allied armies. This put London out of range of the rocket, but the V2 continued to target other Allied liberated cities such as Antwerp and Rotterdam. These targets were important to the Allies as the advancing armies relied on supplies via these ports to continue goal of defeating Nazi Germany.

An interesting article on the Staveley Road incident appeared in the ‘News Chronicle’, which was published on 7th September 1945, the eve of the first anniversary of the V2 attack in Chiswick.

Nearly four months after the Nazis surrendered in Europe and one month after the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima, an unnamed reporter for the ‘News Chronicle’ remarks:

"…exactly one year ago, when the people of Staveley Road, Chiswick, unwittingly and involuntarily became part of history."

On hindsight, and considering what the V2, and its creator, led to in the not so distant future, how accurate he was. Unbeknown at the time, but if still alive in 1969, the reporter would have witnessed Neil Armstrong set foot upon the moon, and I wonder if that reporter think back to the Staveley Road incident he wrote about, and realise how prophetic his words really were?

: For All Our Tomorrows : Return To : Dr.Wernher von Braun :

: Return To : V2 1944 :
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