Farms under fire (part II): 8th September 1944 to 28th March 1945

Cropped wheatfield
A wheat field, seen from Kent Gate Way, Addington, Croydon – a stone’s throw from Layhams Farm (see below).  The area is closer to suburbia than this view suggests; the New Addington housing estate is just beyond the horizon & if you continue NE along Kent Gate Way (left of the picture) the suburbs of Bromley are about a mile away.

In early September 1944 the German V1 launching units evacuated France and the threat to London from the flying bomb was greatly diminished – if not quite at an end.  However, 8th September marked the start of another bombardment (lasting until the end of March 1945) as two V2 long-range rockets fell to earth – one in Chiswick, the other in a wood near Epping.

If the V1 struck like a tornado, the V2 was more like a mini earthquake, slamming into the ground at speeds in excess of 3,000 miles an hour.  The damage caused by the two weapons was not dissimilar (they both carried about the same weight of explosive), except that the fall of a V2 usually resulted in greater damage at the point of impact, including a large crater with considerably more damage to  gas and water mains (whereas a V1 typically left only a shallow crater, but caused wider blast damage).  However, the rocket tended to cause more casualties, about twice as many fatalities.  In terms of its psychological effect on Londoners the rocket appeared like a bolt from the blue and so did not provoke the same fear and tension that preceded the fall of a flying bomb; there was no air raid siren, no sound of its approach; you simply did not know it was coming.  Londoners were reported to be stoic as they went about their day-to-day lives in the knowledge that at any time, day or night, they might fall prey to Hitler’s ‘Wonder Weapon’.

The V2 attack turned out to be much less heavy than the V1 raids.  On average only 18 rockets reached Greater London each week (peaking at around 27 p/w between January and March 1945), as opposed to the 200 flying bombs that fell weekly during the peak of the raids in June and July 1944.

For two months the UK Government decided to conceal the fact that London was under rocket attack, in an attempt to prevent any useful information regarding its performance from reaching the Germans.  At one point officials blamed the explosions on faulty gas mains.  Surprisingly, for a regime usually quick to exploit the dark art of propaganda, it was not until 8th November that the Nazi’s announced in a radio broadcast that ‘V2′ was being used against London (possibly because they were unsure where the rockets were falling).  Churchill responded two days later with a statement in the House of Commons acknowledging the capital was under fire from a long-range rocket, but playing down its effectiveness and predicting Allied armies would overrun the launch sites in due course.  In reality the existence of the rocket was already common knowledge and early on it had been nicknamed flying gas main.

The rocket was so fast that the roar of its arrival was heard moments after it had already hit the ground and exploded. It was, however, prone to failure: nearly 10% either broke up, or exploded in the air.  (By comparison the V1 flying bomb was vastly cheaper, simpler and mechanically much more reliable, except by the end of August 1944 it had become almost completely neutralised by the R.A.F. and the guns of Anti-Aircraft Command).

Once it was launched the V2 was unstoppable (by external forces, at least), but it turned out to be less accurate than the V1.  Its mean point of impact (i.e. the average position when all its impacts are taken into account) was mostly around the boundary of London and Essex (see map).  As a result many rockets fell in rural areas – at least 25 on London’s farms.  These incidents caused a handful of serious injuries along with some minor casualties, but no fatalities were recorded – a very different outcome to those occurring in urban areas.  Other open spaces to avoid in London during this period

POI V2s P1010528.jpg1.1

included golf courses (10 rocket incidents), the Lee Valley reservoirs (5 known incidents) and the capital’s parks (13).  In all, around 10% of rockets fell where they could do less harm or damage.

Although most V2s fell short in the east, a number did manage to reach the outskirts of west London.  This included a rocket that shattered the peace of Cain’s Farm in the tiny hamlet of Heath Row, on 16 September 1944, by which time this area was already in the process of being obliterated in advance of an even heavier assault (on the senses at least) from the air.

Below is a list of London’s Farms Under Fire  between September 1944 and March 1945:

Andrews’ Nurseries | Top of Dawes Hill, on open ground. Sewardstone Rd, Waltham, Waltham Holy Cross. (9.3.45 at 13.52) – V2 long-range rocket

Avery Hill Farm | On open ground, Coalpits Wood, adjacent to farm, Crown Woods Way, Eltham, Woolwich. (8.3.45 at 01.37) – V2 long-range rocket

Big Bush Farm | Salmon St, Kingsbury, Wembley.  (16.9.44 at 08.31) – V2 long-range rocket

Cain’s Farm | Opposite farm. Cain’s Lane, Heathrow, Yiewsley.(16.9.44 at 10.29) – V2 long-range rocket

Claverhambury Farm, ‘The Kennels’ | Fell on open ground. Claverhambury Rd, Waltham Abbey, Waltham Holy Cross.  (28.3.45 at 07.55) – V1 flying bomb

Coldharbour Farm | Airburst, Coldharbour Farm area. Green Lane, New Eltham, Woolwich.  (3.3.45 at 03.50) – V2 long-range rocket

Cooks Farm | Fell in allotments. Old Park Rd, Plumstead, Woolwich.  (5.3.45 at 20.05) – V2 long-range rocket

Coombe Farm | Fell in second field W of Coombe Farm, Lloyd Park, Sandilands, Croydon.  (26.1.45 at 18.07) – V2 long-range rocket

Copped Hall Estate | In farmland, south of Spratt’s Hedgerow Wood, Waltham Abbey, Waltham Holy Cross.  (23.2.45 at 01.04) – V2 long-range rocket

Crouch Farm | Fell in orchard. Exploded on impact with trees. Crockenhill Rd, Crockenhill, Orpington.  (11.9.44 at 09.10) – V2 long-range rocket

Cuckoo Hall Farm | Bomb fell in allotments, NW of Cuckoo Hall farmhouse. Cuckoo Hall Lane, Edmonton.  (10.1.45 at 00.28) – V2 long-range rocket

Friern Hospital Farm | Bomb fell in field. Pinkham Way, New Southgate, Friern Barnet.  (22.1.45 at 12.20) – V2 long-range rocket

Grandfield’s Nurseries | Fell in nurseries. West Common Rd, Hayes, Bromley.  (9.2.45 at 17.25) – V2 long-range rocket

Heathfield Nursery | Exploded on farmland. Galley Hill Rd, Waltham Abbey, Waltham Holy Cross.  (20.2.45 at 13.37) – V2 long-range rocket

High Cannons Estate | Fell in field, NE of Buckettsland Farm, Buckettsland Lane, Shenley, Elstree.  (26.1.45 at 06.15) – V2 long-range rocket

Hockenden Farm | Fell in ploughed field. Hockenden Lane, Swanley, Chislehurst.  (12.12.44 at 17.59) – V2 long-range rocket

Holly Hill Farm | Open farmland. The Ridgeway, Botany Bay, Enfield.(24.1.45 at 10.50) – V2 long-range rocket

Home Farm (“Old Farm”) | Fell in open ground. Old Park Ride, Waltham Cross, Cheshunt.  (7.1.45 at 15.38) – V2 long-range rocket

Hostye Farm | On farm, Cudham Lane, Cudham, Orpington.  (27.3.45 at 05.25) – V1 flying bomb

Jackson & Bryant’s Nurseries | On farmland, Whitewebbs Rd, Crews Hill, Enfield.  (5.3.45 at 12.32) – V1 flying bomb

Layhams Farm | Exploded among trees. Layhams Rd, Keston, Orpington.  (12.9.44 at 08.52) – V2 long-range rocket

Lusted Hall Farm | Fell in open country, Hesiers Hill & Beddlestead Lane, Tatsfield, Orpington.  (12.1.45 at 22.15) – V2 long-range rocket

Myrtle Farm | On open ground. Colyers Lane, Crayford.  (6.12.44 at 07.15) – V2 long-range rocket

Old Park Farm | Fell in South Osiers Wood, 400 yds south of farm, Old Park Ride, Theobalds Park, Cheshunt.  (27.3.45 at 03.02) – V2 long-range rocket

St Lawrence Farm | Bomb fell in field, E of farm, Hammondstreet Rd, Cheshunt.  (7.10.44 at 20.09) – V1 Flying bomb

Sheepcote Farm | Fell in ploughed field south of Hockenden Wood, Crockenhill, Orpington.  (6.3.44 at 04.35) – V2 long-range rocket

Shenley Lodge (land army hostel) | On open ground, Ridge Hill, Shenley, Elstree.  (30.10.44 at 20.45) – V2 long-range rocket

Spring Farm | Fell in field near Dysons Osiers, Off Old Park Ride, Waltham Cross, Cheshunt. Damage to Sloeman’s farm. (13.2.45 at 06.18) – V2 long-range rocket

Woodgreen Farm | Bomb fell in field. Old Park Ride, Goffs Oak, Cheshunt.  (23.2.45 at 11.25) – V2 long-range rocket

For details of where rockets were launched and where many of them fell visit this site: http://www.v2rocket.com/start/deployment/timeline.html

Sources:

CAB 121/215, Cabinet War Papers, 2 February to 28 March 1945, HO 198/106 & HO 198/106 Long Range Rocket Bomb Census (The National Archives)

LCC/FB/WAR/3/11 (London County Council, Fire Brigade), Final situation reports on Long-range rockets, Sep 44 – Mar 45 (London Metropolitan Archives)

Hitler’s Rockets by Norman Longmate

Aldwych, 30 June 1944

Flying bomb.  Aldwych, 38 yds from junction with Kingsway.  Fell in about the centre of the roadway between Adastral House, Bush and Melbourne Houses.  (Extract from the Ministry of Home Security Bomb Census report filed in HO 198/83 held at The National Archives)

  Aldwych POI P1010502 

The point of impact – depending on whether the measurements were taken from the centre, or the edge of Kingsway – was either just in front of the taxi, or roughly where the red car is (view: facing NW from outside Melbourne House with Kingsway in the background).

Below is an extract from the Twitter feed of ARP London WW2 which began just over a year ago to mark the 70th anniversary of the V-weapon attacks on London.  The words are taken from messages exchanged between the air raid wardens and controllers of the Westminster Civil Defence Service, following the fall of a flying bomb at Aldwych, between Strand and Fleet St in central London.

The role of the Civil Defence was to protect the civilian population.  In the aftermath of an air raid one of its key tasks was to coordinate the rescue and other emergency services.  Air Raid Wardens were stationed in posts dotted across every borough.  When a bomb dropped within their Post Area the warden would telephone the borough headquarters, or Control, reporting its location and calling for what they judged to be the appropriate services (typically rescue parties and ambulances).  The same warden, or a more senior colleague, would be appointed Incident Officer (I/O).  On receipt of the message Control would summon the services from their depots.  As the response got underway, Control would report the incident to Group, the next level up in the chain of command.  London was divided into eight Groups (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, but by this time no Group 2).  Each Group was in charge of a clutch of boroughs and could call upon them to provide  reinforcements or relief services during a heavy attack or major incident.  Group also had access to cranes, tipper trucks and searchlights if needed.  (Westminster was in Group 1, along with Chelsea, City of London, Fulham, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Kensington, Paddington, St Marylebone and St Pancras).

The Civil Defence messages give a hint of the scale of the Aldwych incident, occurring as it did in the middle of a major London thoroughfare, lined with blocks of offices, opposite a post office and crucially around lunchtime.

Aldwych – 30.6.44

Time:

14.07
Westminster | Express Report | Position of Occurrence: Aldwych, Strand. FLY. (From Post 9)

14.10
Occurrence: Adastral House [Air Ministry], Kingsway.  Street casualties. Send as many ambulances as possible.

14.25
Melbourne House, Aldwych, Strand. Send 4 Light Rescue Parties, 4 AMB. (From Post 9)

14.29
Bush House, Aldwych, Strand. Send 4 Heavy Rescue Parties.
(From Post 9)

14.34
At request of Air Ministry we have despatched 4 AMB. to S end of Kingsway. (From Holborn Control)

14.45
Bush House, Aldwych entrance. Mortuary Van req. for at least 10 bodies. (From Mr Sutton)

14.50
Incident at Melbourne House is reported as serious with many casualties including 15–20 dead at least.

14.55
TEM 8196 (Offices of Western Union); nearest telephone for Incident Officer. (From Post 9)

15.04
Supplementary Report. Bush House, Aldwych. Contact all AMB. attending Incident. Get names of all casualties.  [From Post 9]

15.10
Adastral House very badly blasted. Bush, Houghton, Alexandra, Aldwych Houses blasted. 26 fatal casualties. Many scores of injured. [From Air Ministry]

15.25
[To Group One]
Aldwych. Injured very scattered & being taken to hospital by all kinds of transport as ambulances were held up by bad traffic jam. [From Westminster Control]

15.50
[To Westminster Control]
Please remove 3 bodies from Stukeley St ARP Mortuary. They were brought from Bush House incident by Police. (From Holborn Control)

16.00
[To Group One]
Kingsway blocked from Sardinia St (Westminster Boundary) to Aldwych. Aldwych blocked E & W of Kingsway. [From Westminster]

16.29
Bush House, Aldwych. Mobile Canteen wanted for 300 persons. [From Post 9]

[16.30]
To Group One. In reply to your inquiry, Bow St Police report that FLY at Melbourne House, Aldwych, fell at 1407 hrs. (From Westminster)

16.38
Have you any information regarding Mrs Brister & Mrs Nash? Telephonists in Bush House, but missing since this incident.
[From London Region Communications Office]

16.53
Aldwych. If assistance is required at Adelphi Depot, Savoy Hotel would like to know if they could be of use. [From Councillor Thornywell]

17.55
Aldwych completely roped off. Services on spot: Police, NFS, 2 H/RP, 3 AMB. & WVS. Casualties cleared. Situation well in hand.

18.15
[To Westminster Control]
Hendon Control inquiry about a member of staff (ARP), Mr Trowbridge, employed by Cable & Wireless at Electra House…

Missing all afternoon. Last seen walking towards Bush House from Kingsway just before bomb fell. [Note added to this message: Told to ring TEM 8196 (Inquiry Point). If possible leave for an hour. Cas. lists just being got out].

20.17
Bush House. Closing Incident. Any further messages to TEM 5685
[From Post 9]

20.30
Casualties at Aldwych are 40 killed. Approx. 200 injured.
[From Westminster Control]

1.7.44

08.10
IIP, 1 Kingsway, want field telephone. Personal Effects Officer required to collect valuables, handbags, etc. from Post 9.

[12.47]
Bush House Incident, can Incident Officer have further Mortuary list, as only ten names have at present been received. (From Post 9)

2.7.44

17.55
Aldwych. Casualty Officer phoned at 1750 hrs to report Mrs Dorothy Brister (telephonist) had been identified at mortuary.
[Note added: Regional Communications informed, 18.05]

3.7.44

[16.00]
Position of Occurrence: Bush House, Aldwych. Please send 1 Mort. Van to collect remains of body, Incident Officer’s Office.

 

The original documents relating to the Aldwych incident (ref. CD1/1879, CD2/1879 & CD3/1879) are held at Westminster Archives Centre.

Information added for the purpose of this article is in [square brackets].  I’ve also included one or two messages that were not Tweeted and these are indicated by bracketing the original message time above the text.

‘The Battle of the Flying Bomb’

It is exactly a year since ARP London WW2 @HIT_4610 marked the 70th anniversary of the V1 campaign against London with the start of its own real time Twitter “campaign”. So it seems like an appropriate time to put together a concise history of the flying bomb attack on England*.  The attack came in three distinct phases:

Phase I. (13th June to 1st September 1944)
During the first phase the great majority of flying bombs were launched from ramps in the Pas de Calais and their principal target was London.  The attack commenced one week after the D-Day landings and ended as Allied invasion forces overran France.

Defence of London P1010017
‘Life’ magazine, 20th November 1944.

The above map appeared in a remarkably detailed article published in ‘Life’ magazine in November 1944 (see also A TOP SECRET CYPHER TELEGRAM) at a time when the V weapons still presented a threat to England.  Despite the title, Defense of London 1944, the map only really depicts a six-week period beginning mid July.

Even before Phase I of the flying bomb attack had begun (and several months before D-Day) a battle was already underway just across the channel, as the Allies tried to neutralize the threat posed by the V weaponsThe RAF and US Army Air Force dropped thousands of tons of bombs on launch sites and storage depots in Northern France – as well as a number of facilities in Germany.  The damage caused by the raids delayed the flying bomb attack by several months, but at great cost to the bomber crews (nearly 3,000 airmen were killed).  German military casualties at the launch sites were comparatively light with under 200 fatalities, although large swathes of the French countryside were devastated.  Hundreds of French civilians were  killed along with an unknown number of forced labourers.  The Germans responded to the bombing by constructing prefabricated launching ramps which were small and could be erected in just a few days.  They were often hidden in woods or orchards and in some instances shielded by the homes of French villagers.

When the flying bomb raids on London began in June 1944, the guns and fighter aircraft tasked with shooting them down were largely uncoordinated.  As a result, during the first month of the attack, over 200 flying bombs per week reached their target.

From the middle of July the defences were completely reorganized.  Hundreds of guns, their operators and ancillary equipment were moved in vast convoys to the south coast.  Fighters were given the freedom to operate uninterrupted in two zones either side of the guns (see the map): one inland over Kent and another over the channel.  It was during this latter part of Phase I that both fighters and in particular Anti-Aircraft guns (now automated and radar guided) gained the upper hand over the flying bomb.  Perhaps most significant was that the guns now fired shells fitted with the newly developed proximity fuse. Instead of a direct hit the shell had only to get to within about 30 feet of a flying bomb to destroy it.  The author H.E. Bates described it as a battle between robot guns and robot bombs.

In addition to London around 100 flying bombs were targeted at Southampton and Portsmouth,  a number of which were launched from aircraft. All fell wide of the target, although a handful came down on the Isle of Wight.  Of the bombs aimed at London hundreds came down, or were brought down by the defences, in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and other parts of the South East.

Phase II. (16th September 1944 to 15th January 1945)
The second phase of attack, was on a much reduced scale and came from bases in occupied Netherlands and Germany.  These bombs were all launched from aircraft flying over the North Sea and a considerable number went astray over the southern and eastern counties including: Suffolk, Essex and Hertfordshire.

In the early hours of 24th December the Germans targeted a second major conurbation, namely Manchester.  Around 50 Heinkel bombers approached the east coast between Skegness and Bridlington, outflanking Anti-Aircraft guns which had been deployed along the coast of East Anglia.  Each aircraft carried one bomb which it launched over the sea.  A number of bombs crashed immediately, including one with its carrier aircraft still attached; 30 crossed the coast, only one reached Manchester’s city boundary, although a number fell within 10 to 15 miles of the centre.

During the second phase an RAF report noted that 608 flying bombs were successfully launched, of which 324 were destroyed by anti-aircraft guns and 70 by fighter aircraft. 63 bombs were reported to have reached the target area (London and Manchester). However, Bomb Census records reveal at least 65 fell in the London region.

Phase III (3rd to 29th March 1945)
During the third and final phase of the V1 attack 124 flying bombs were ground-launched from sites in The Netherlands.  All were aimed at London, but only 13 reached the target.

Casualties
According to RAF statistics 5,375 civilians were killed in Greater London by flying bombs and 15,258 were seriously injured and detained in hospital. In addition, 207 service personnel were killed and 280 seriously injured.  The total civilian casualties in other parts of England were 462 killed and 1,504 seriously injured, plus 95 service personnel killed and 197 injured.  During the raid on Manchester 37 people were killed on the ground and 67 seriously injured.

*England was the only part of the UK within the flying bomb’s range, although a handful made it as far west as Cheshire and one fell in Shropshire.

A brief history of the V2 long-range rocket will appear at a later date.

Information sourced from AIR 20/4127 Flying bombs: statistical summary by Operational Research Section, Fighter Command;  CAB 121/215 Report by the Chair of the Crossbow Committee (1058) – both at the National Archives in Kew; ‘The Flying Bomb & Rocket Campaign’, by the Air Historical Branch of the Air Ministry; ‘The Doodlebugs’ by Norman Longmate; and Flying Bombs over England, by Squadron Leader H.E. Bates.

VE Day in London, 08/05/2015

I took a trip around London earlier today, visiting a handful of locations referred to in other posts and on Twitter by ARP London WW2 @HIT_4610

88 Kynaston Rd P1010122

At 1130 hrs I found this rather unassuming bungalow in the suburbs: 88 Kynaston Rd, Orpington, where on 27/03/1945 Ivy Millichamp was in her kitchen when the UK’s last V2 rocket slammed into the gardens at the back of her home and exploded.  She was the last civilian in the UK to be killed by enemy action.

New Cross Rd P1010164

By 1230 hrs I was making my way westwards along New Cross Rd, formerly in the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford.  At the far end of this impressive sweep of 19th century terrace shops (with dwellings above) you can just make out some post-war buildings. They replaced premises housing a Woolworths and Co-op store which were destroyed by a V2 rocket on 25/11/1945.  It was a  Saturday afternoon and the shops were packed. The rocket brought the buildings down on the shoppers with devastating consequences.

New Cross Rd P1010160

Iceland P1010145

Iceland moved into the rebuilt Woolworths some years ago.  Just upper-left of the doorway is a memorial plaque. In fact there are two plaques from different eras – and underneath what looks like the backing plate of another.

NEW CROSS RD V2 Plaque P1010139

An unattributed ‘Report on Rocket Incidents’ (0484-1/001) [possibly written for Deptford Council] held at London Metropolitan Archives observes: New Cross Rd at the time of the incident was crowded. People going home from work from the stations were involved, there was a queue of people at the fishmonger’s & there was plenty of traffic on the road. People in a passing bus were victims of the incident, the driver & others in a lorry in St James’ were also killed. One’s first impression of New Cross Rd after the incident occurred was that it looked like a battlefield. There were scores of people lying about dead & wounded.

The report differs from the plaque and states: The death roll was 164.  It adds:  Some 123 persons were taken to hospital & countless others received first aid treatment. 

Goodwood Rd.2 P1010143

The small building on the left in Goodwood Rd is the spot where the rocket fell. The explosion resulted in the greatest loss of life in a single incident in the UK during WW2.

About an hour later at 1340 hrs I was in Grove Rd, Mile End trying not to look too shifty as I photographed a railway bridge.

Grove Rd Bridge P1010170

Looking south along Grove Rd, you can just see the English Heritage blue plaque on the right hand buttress. London’s first V1 flying bomb struck and demolished this bridge causing a great deal of damage to houses in Antill Rd, Burnside St, Grove Rd & Belhaven St. Six people were killed and 42 injured.

GROVE ROAD Plaque & graffitti P1010179  Grove Rd Plaque CU P1010184

This spot is looking a bit unkempt today, but at least the taggers seem to have worked around the plaque.

At 1430 hrs I passed Trafalgar Square, “accompanied” by a Scottish piper playing the ‘Star Wars’ theme.  I was on my way to Whitehall, where I waited with not a particularly huge crowd to see the VE Day Commemoration at 1500 hrs.

Cenotaph P1010219

Guards band P1010211

Chelsea Pensioners P1010201

Beating The Retreat P1010226

WHITEHALL FLAGS P1010195

Hello! No point letting a ceremony to commemorate the end of the war in Europe stand in the way of a bit of cheap publicity.

Monument to the Women of World War II

Women of WW2.1 P1010196

I’m glad I took this picture whilst in Whitehall yesterday.  I think this is one of the most powerful war memorials in London.  Twenty-four hours later, during an ‘anti-austerity’ protest, ‘Tory scum’ was sprayed on it in red paint…

 

 

A TOP SECRET CYPHER TELEGRAM

Flying bomb & long-range rocket attacks
A trickle of information here, a torrent over there!

Generic Docs Image P1010115

Reports about flying bomb and rocket attacks were heavily censored in Britain. Even by 26 April 1945, when all the evidence suggested the threat to the country from the V weapons had ended, only limited information was allowed into the public domain. The message below was sent from Regional Headquarters to Lewisham Civil Defence Controllers:

To Lewisham

Controllers are now authorised to give information to the Press on request about individual Flying bomb and Rocket incidents, including particulars of casualties and damage, providing that no actual dates are given, other than the month, and no map showing distribution of Fly bomb or Rocket incidents and no figures as to the number of incident, or casualties caused by V Bombs, or total value of V Bomb damage are given for any Local Government area as a whole. Information about the attacks given in open council should be similarly restricted.

From Group IV
26/4/1945 at 16.20 hrs

[The above document is held at Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre]

The following message dated 18th January 1945 – three months earlier – was forwarded to the Chief of the Air Staff in London. It was written by General George Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff in Washington:

A TOP SECRET CYPHER TELEGRAM [Extract]
RECEIVED BY TELEKRYPTON

From: J.S.M. Washington
To: A.M.S.S.O.

18 January 1945

Personal, for Chiefs of Staff from Admiral Somerville

I received the following letter from General Marshall:
[George Catlett Marshall, Jr, United States Army Chief of Staff]

I am to talk “off the record” to the members of the House of Senate (Senators & Congressmen) on January 24. No stenographic notes of what is said are to be made.

I have been searching for some method other than an ordinary statement to accentuate the critical necessity for Allied military teamwork during this confused period of international post-war political discussions & recriminations. It seems to me that if I could give this particular audience about a minute’s glance at the V-1 & V-2 bomb pattern on the Metropolitan area of London I could make a profound impression on them in two ways, first, a real appreciation of the suffering the British nation is now enduring in its Homeland & second, the tragic injustice our writers & speakers frequently do the British under the existing circumstances, together with a humiliating appreciation of the furore aroused in this country, over incidents or threats of trifling importance by way of comparison.

I am told by my G-2 people that undoubtedly there would be a British objection to my proposal based on the information it would give to the Germans in the event that there was a Congressional leak. From my point of view I am inclined to think the Germans would learn little that they do not already know but the reaction among members of Congress might be of considerable importance to the British Government.

Ends.

The Deputy to the Chief of the Air Staff in Britain seems to have been persuaded by General Marshall’s argument:

TOP SECRET [EXTRACT]

[To] C.A.S. [Chief of the Air Staff]

It seems to me that General Marshall’s object would be adequately served if he were to display a pattern of strikes of the ground launched V.1 which would be far more impressive than the V.2. The number of flying bombs which landed in the London Regional Area during the period of ground launched flying bombs was 2,341*. The casualties suffered by the country generally as a result of these attacks were about 5,860 killed, over 17,000 seriously injured & over 20,000 slightly injured. 23,000 houses were destroyed & nearly one million damaged. Of the fatal casualties suffered 92% occurred in the London Region. Those are facts themselves which should serve General Marshal’s purpose.

It would be sufficient for General Marshall to say that although the scale of attack of the rocket was not as great as that of the flying bomb nevertheless its destructiveness & demoralising effects were adding a growing strain to the population of London who have already suffered so severely from the effects of the flying bomb.

On security grounds it is most undesirable that we should present any such overall picture of the pattern of the strikes of the rocket. There can be no guarantee that the information displayed by General Marshall on the chart would not reach the enemy. The knowledge that the head of the pattern was some distance short of the centre of the built up area of London would without doubt be of the greatest value to him. It has been roughly estimated that if the enemy were to shift his mean point of impact six miles westward about 75% of strikes would fall in the built up area of London.

On this side we have been most careful to restrict information as to the fall of shot to the very minimum number of people. We have pressed the Ministry of Home Security that they should exercise the most extreme measures of censorship in the Press. The Ministry of Home Security are even now contemplating prosecution in the case of the Daily Express where some general indication might have been given to the enemy as to the general fall of rockets as interpreted from an article on theatre attendance in London & the suburbs as a result of rocket attack. We should be open to the gravest criticism at home if we were to sanction General Marshall’s proposal & this were followed by some leakage reflected in the American Press.

N.H. Bottomley, D.C.A.S.
[Sir Norman Howard Bottomley, Deputy Chief of the Air Staff]

19 January 1945

*This was the first and by far the heaviest phase of the flying bomb attack, between 13th June – 1st September 1944, launched from ramps in northern France.

[The two documents above are held at the National Archives, filed in AIR 20/6016]

Surprisingly, neither Gen. Marshall in Washington, nor the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff in London make any reference to an article published two months earlier in the USA in ‘Life’ magazine (20th November 1944). It included graphics that might well have served the General’s purpose [example below]. The piece seems to have been sanctioned by the UK Government as it is credited to WW1 veteran and author Hilary Saunders,  described by ‘Life’ as an ‘official British war historian’.

Bombing of London 1944 P1010014

According to Norman Longmate in his book The Doodlebug’s [1981], on 15 September 1944 The Kent Messenger newspaper published a map showing where the V1s fell in that county during the first phase of attack (a hundred more than in London); and from 25th September the London Evening News began publishing a series of daily maps showing where the flying bombs had fallen in each of London’s boroughs – until the War Cabinet intervened and the series was ended abruptly on 11th October.

Five noteworthy V1 & V2 incidents

27 March 1945
At 0721 hrs, the last V2 long-range rocket to reach inner London fell at Hughes Mansions, Vallance Rd, Stepney, demolishing two blocks of flats & killing or injuring over 200 people including many refugees.

 

Photos taken in April 2015 show the surviving Block “A”, Hughes Mansions, which received only minor (“D”) damage to the rear.  The red car in the right hand photo is at the end of the spot where Block “B” stood, which received the full force of the explosion and was 3/4 demolished, as was Block “C”.  Both were replaced by post war flats (visible through the gap, in the left hand photo).

At 1654 hrs, the last long-range rocket to fall in Greater London (& on British soil) exploded in gardens between Court Rd & Kynaston Rd, Orpington.  This incident resulted in the last civilian fatality in the UK as a result of enemy action, Mrs Ivy Millichamp. In addition, 55 people were injured.

61 Court Rd P1010129Court Rd SignKynaston Rd Sign88 Kynaston Rd P1010122

The rocket was reported to have fallen at the rear of 61 Court Rd (left).  Ivy Millichamp lived at 88 Kynaston Rd (right).  Despite contemporary photos showing a scene of devastation the bungalows, as rebuilt, retain much of their prewar character.  [Date of photos: 8/5/2015]

28 March 1945
The last V1 flying bomb incident in Greater London to result in casualties fell in the grounds of Scadbury House, Chislehurst, at 0754 hrs.  Four people were injured. (Air Raid Warden, Mr Eros Roberts, died two years later of an illness contracted whilst on duty at this incident).

One minute later, at 0755 hrs, the last flying bomb in Greater London fell on Claverhambury Farm, Waltham Abbey (with no reported casualties).

And a parting shot,

29 March 1945
The last V weapon to reach the UK – a V1 flying bomb – was destroyed by anti aircraft fire at Iwade, near Sittingbourne, in Kent.

Hyde Park Corner

St Marylebone File No. 709 [V2 Long-range rocket] Incident Messages held at Westminster Archives.

ARP/M3 To: Group Ops Officer

Re your verbal message of event date [18/03/1945]

List of damaged premises:-

Redmans                             486 Oxford St             Furriers
Busyards                             496 Oxford St             Baker & Pastry cook
Barnes                                  498 Oxford St             Pianos
Thos. Wallis                       500/516 Oxford St  Stores
Bradbury                             518 Oxford St             Furrier
Cadburys                            520 Oxford St             Advice Bureau
Lucille Gay                         522 Oxford St             Costumiers
Dorothy Perkins             524 Oxford St             Costumier
Paige                                      526 Oxford St             Gowns
Cooper                                 528 Oxford St             Photographer
Dolces                                   532/536 Oxford St  Shoes
Christian Science            528 Oxford St             Reading rooms
Lyons Corner Hse           [N/S]                                 Tea shop
Cumberland Hotel         [N/S]                                 Restaurant
Lyons                                      4 Marble Arch            Tea shop
Lewis                                      3 Marble Arch            Tobacconist
De Bry                                   2 Marble Arch            Tea shop
Bird & Storey                     1 Marble Arch            Chemist shop
Regal Cinema                    [N/S]
Maynards                            9/10 Marble Arch     Confectioner
Edwards                               9/10 Marble Arch     Jewellers
Lewis                                      9/10 Marble Arch     Tobacconist
Express Dairy                   11/12 Marble Ar.       Tea Shop
Everbody’s                         12 Edgware Rd            Bookshop
Empire F’d Stores           14 Edgware Rd           Cooked Meats
[N/S]                                       16 Edgware Rd           Café
Lion & Co.                            18 Edgware Rd           Tobacconist
Masons                                 20 Edgware Rd            Sweetshop
Bicards                                  22 Edgware Rd            Café
Marble Arch Pharmcy 24/26 Edgware Rd    Chemist
Edith Quick Service      30 Edgware Rd            Renovators
Cozens                                  32 Edgware Rd            Shoe Repairs [or blank]
Russ & Co.                           52 Edgware Rd            Shoe Repairs
United Dairies                  56 Edgware Rd            Milk Shop
Seagull Restaurant        60 Edgware Rd            Restaurant
Welbeck Supply Co.      62 Seymour St             (N/S)
West Carnel                       59 Seymour St             Antiques
[N/S]                                        60 Bryanston St         Teashop

M/Ends.

(St Marylebone Control, 19/03/45 at 15.45)

Central Market incident, Charterhouse St

  Harts Corner P1000975

The arrow shows the spot where the rocket fell – the former Hart’s Corner. The black gates to the left of the arrow control access to a passageway that housed a memorial plaque. The site is bigger than the photograph suggests. This time the buildings have been cleared by demolition contractors in preparation for the new Farringdon Crossrail station.

Premises damaged when a Long-range rocket fell at Farringdon Rd by Charterhouse St, 8th March 1945 at 1104 hrs.

Farringdon St – Nos. 42, 52, 54, 75(R), 77, 79(R).
Plumtree Court – Nos. 7, 8, & Evening Standard Building
Central Market – All.
Central Market (Fish & Vegetable Section) – Nos. 408/418, 420/427,  531/533, 537, 538
West Smithfield – Nos. 4(R), 5(R), 6, 7, 8, 9(R), 11/21(R), 58, 61, 64, 66(R), 63, 62, 59.
Holborn Circus – Nos. 1/6(R).
Shoe Lane – No. 79.
Bow St Square – Messrs Wymans, 14(R).
St Bride St – Nos. 3, 7, 9.
Newbury St – No. 25.
Middle St – Nos. 1(R), 4(R), 5(R), 9.
*** St – No. 2.
Long Lane – Nos. 52, 54, 61, 59.
East Passage – No. 74.
Cloth Fair – Nos. 38(R), 39(R), 40, 41(R), 43, 44a, 45, 63.
Holborn – Nos. 12, 14/18(R), 19, 20/23(R), 24(R), 26(R), 30(R), 113, 115(R), 121, 123, 124/126, 128a, 142, 5/11(R), Mercers’ School.
Holborn Viaduct – Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6(R), 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31(R), 32/34, 57, 58, 59, 60.
Snow Hill – Nos. 1/2, 3, 4, 5(R), 6, 7, 8, 9, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36.
Charterhouse St – Nos. 9, 11, 13(R), 15(R), 17(R), 19, 21, 23, 25, 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61, 63, 66, 67, 88, 93a. St Bartholomew’s Hospital (R).
Bartholomew Close – Templetons.
Smithfield St – No. 27.
Smithfield Market – Nos. 307, 308.
Giltspur St – Nos. 1, 5, E.M. Richfords.
Cock Lane – Nos. 28, 29, 30, 35, 36.
Hosier Lane – Nos. 4(R), 7(R), 10, 12, 14/21, 25/29.
Little Britain – No. 56.
Aldersgate St – No. 16.
Fetter Lane – Nos. 75, 76, 77, 78/81(R), 82, 83, 84.
Holborn Building – No. 9.

A.J. Haynes
For Chief Warden.

File: COL/SJ/05/021 (CLRO: Police Papers. Box 2.8 Air Raid). Documents held at London Metropolitan Archives.

The Prime Minister’s “Rocket”

 Churchill P1010254

Note to the Prime Minster (CAB 121/215, sheet 1140: From Chiefs of Staff Committee papers at the National Archives)

Prime Minister

I think you should know that the daily post contains a growing number of letters about rocket attack from your constituency [Epping] & from Ilford & the most seriously attacked areas in East London & Essex. Unlike the letters when the flying bombs were at their worst, they are for the most part not anonymous or couched in abusive terms. They do, however, make three points:

  1. There is a widespread feeling that if the main weight of attack had been falling not on the East End but on the Whitehall area & Buckingham Palace, far more vigorous attempts would have been made to counter the attack.
  2. If the rocket sites are being spared heavy bombing attacks in order to save Dutch life & property, they would much prefer if there have to be victims that they should be Dutch rather than English.
  3. They ask for some public announcement which would show the discontented members of the population that the Government took some interest in them & would inform them whether any serious attempt is being made to put an end to rocket attack.

I understand that Sir James Hawkey* is becoming rather anxious about the attitude of the constituency.

The Secretary of State for Air is considering whether he can include in his estimates speech next week some reference, which will reassure the districts most affected by rockets that they have not been forgotten or neglected, without giving the Germans any encouragement to persevere with this form of attack.

J. H. P.

26 February 1945

*Conservative politician, Mayor of Wanstead & Woodford & friend of Churchill

Ley St incident

For Ley St

Incident at Ley St, Ilford, 8 February 1945 at 1237 hrs.  [Abridged]

On 8/2/45 at 1237 hrs a Long Range Rocket fell in Ley St near its junction with Cranbrook Rd, in the yard behind a garage & close to the L.N.E. Railway. The garage was demolished, as also was a shirt factory next door & much damage was done to a cinema on the opposite side of the road. Ilford station was damaged & a lot of debris was strewn over the railway line. Trains were however running in a very few hours.

I arrived on the spot at about 1615 hrs by which time all casualties except those still trapped had been sent to hospital, or otherwise attended to. Two Light Mobile Units had functioned, but before my arrival had been sent away having completed their task.

There were upwards of a dozen girls who were having lunch in the shirt factory, still to be accounted for & it was feared that many of these were under the massive debris. There was no chance of any surviving.

I learned this morning that the bodies of six girls had been got out during the night & that it was feared there were about five more still to be found. In this stricken factory there were about 60 girl employees & that the casualty list was not higher is due to the fact that the majority had gone out to lunch.

A N.F.S. man is known to have been engaged on repairing a bicycle at the exact spot where the missile fell and in all probability no trace of him will ever be found.

S Whitworth-Jones
Chief Casualty Services Officer, Region 5 [London]

9 February 1945

 

The use of the term ‘girls’, in referring to the female employees of the shirt factory, seems dated now, but perhaps it isn’t so inaccurate when one looks at the age of a number of the fatalities (according to Commonwealth War Graves Commission):

Darby, Lilian R. (14)
Harrison, Joyce J. (15)
Jones, Doris E. (14)
Palmer, Joan M.M. (18)
Sparrow, Freda E. (14)
Wells, Audrey J. (18)

The fireman who happened to be repairing a bicycle precisely in the wrong place at the wrong time was:

Leading Fireman Loader, Henry G. (31)

The Super Cinema had a close call on 2 February when a section of rocket fell in the road outside after an airburst. Less than a week later luck ran out for the cinema & two of its staff. The blast from London’s 327th rocket badly damaged the roof which partly collapsed killing two usherettes:

Gray, Hilda M. (44)
Walsh, Nellie (24)

Original document is filed in HO 186/2399 at the National Archives, Kew.

@HIT_4610