|The V1 Flying bomb was the worlds first cruise missile. An
unmanned gyro guided plane which delivered a ton of high
explosive. 2419 exploded in London between June 1944 and
March 1945. The distinctive noise of their pulse jet engine
which cut out after a predetermined mileage terrorised the
population. They quickly became known as Doodlebugs.
|V1 Flying Bomb
|The V1 was capable of killing large numbers of people, inflicting terrible injuries and causing huge material damage to
buildings. It exploded on the surface, and a viscous blast wave rippled out from the epicentre. Behind it left a vacuum,
which caused a second rush of air as it was filled. This caused a devastating pushing and pulling effect, The blast area
extended across a radius of 400 - 600 yards .
At the impact site buildings were totally demolished. In inner London suburbs where terrace houses were packed together,
up to 20 would totally collapse. Brick walls were pulverised into small fragments.
Further out from the epicentre walls, roofs and window frames were ripped out exposing the contents and innards of the
house. Further out still, all the windows were blown out and roofing slates blown off. Every time a V1 landed hundreds
of houses were damaged. 1944 was a cold, wet summer and repairs would take many months. Londoners were
de-housed or shivered in cold, damp and roofless houses.
Anyone unlucky enough to be close to the impact site were blown apart or suffered crush injuries from falling masonry.
Others were trapped below collapsed buildings and had to be dug out. Further away from the impact site awful injuries
were inflicted by shards of flying glass. During the course of the attacks the nature of the injuries changed somewhat. At
the beginning people were caught unawares on the street and injuries from flying glass were widespread. Later on, people
had understood the necessity of shelter in safe (er) areas of their home e.g. under the stairs. However, this had the effect
of less flying glass injuries but more crush injuries from people being buried in the ruins of collapsed houses.
The toll of human suffering was appx. 6184 people killed by V1's and 17981 seriously injured and maimed. Tens of
thousands of others received lesser injuries. Countless more would suffer the pain of bereavement or from the loss of
their home and treasured possessions.
People left London both through official and unofficial evacuation schemes. By mid July 15,000 a day were leaving the
terminal stations on packed trains. Some reports describe a situation at the main stations of near panic as people struggled
to get tickets and onto the over flowing trains. It is variously reported that somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million people
fled the capital during this period. This created and eerie and empty feeling Children disappeared from the streets and
food stuff which had been in short supply became easier to get again.
People in London became used to bombing and hardened to its horrors during the Blitz of 1940-41. Since then attacks had been
more sporadic .There were heavy hit and run raids in 1943 and In February 1944 the 'Baby Blitz' caused further damage and
death. After D day there was great relief and expectation the war would quickly be over. There had been rumours for some time
about Hitler's secret weapons but these were taken as a joke by civilians.
On the night of the 13th June 1944 Londoner's heard a strange sound in the sky. It was later described as sounding like a
motorbike without a silencer or a badly maintained steam train going up hill. Some also thought they saw a burning enemy
aircraft with a sword of flame emanating from its tail. Others knew this was the first of the Vengeance weapons code named
"Diver " by British Intelligence. For a year Bomber command had been engaged in a campaign to destroy the V1 launch sites in
Northern France. This delayed the launch of the first missile by about 6 months but at the cost of the lives of 2000 allied airmen.
The first V1 dived to the ground and exploded in Grove Road,London E4 at 04.25 on the morning of 13th June 1944. It hit the
bridge which carries the Railway. The bridge and track were badly damaged, A number of houses were demolished and six
people were killed. London had its first taste of what a V1 could do. This was one of five launched that
night which was a range finding exercise by the Nazis. After that nothing much happened for about 48 hours as they prepared the
next wave of the attack.+
|The Aldwych was packed with people out on their lunch hours when the V1 struck. Others were at their desks and some
of the girls from the Air ministry were sunbathing on the roof. The modern steel frame buildings stood up well to the blast
and indeed much of it was absorbed by the blast wall outside the Air Ministry. This caused the blast to be channelled
down the street rather than dissipating in collapsing buildings . Numerous people were mown down and killed or maimed,
more died in the ruins of buses and the girls on the Air ministry roof also perished. Some workers at the Air Ministry were
sucked out of office windows by the blast and vacuum and perished. It is normally accepted that 48 people lost their lives
at the Aldwych with 200 serious injuries. I have seen other reference's to 198 deaths and it may be possible that the
number was concealed as many would have been government officials or service personnel.
|Victoria Station 25th June 1944
|This V1 was a direct hit on the Eastern side of Victoria station (by Wilton road) at 02:00 25th June 1944.This was on the offices by the part
of the station that is known as the Chatham side (the platform 1 side of the complex). 17 people were killed in the blast and 30 injured. Just
before the Doodlebug came down a porter was on the roof of the building watching the searchlights in the night sky. He came back
downstairs and opened the door of an empty room. At that moment he heard a V1 cut out overhead and he dived under the cover of a desk.
He heard no explosion at all ( apparently this was often the case for people near the centre of the blast area). The only thing that he was
conscious of was that he was unable to get his legs under the desk and he could fell rubble falling on them. After the mayhem stopped he
was able to get back on his feet and stumble out of the wreckage of the room. He tried to get down a staircase and found this unusable as it
was blocked. He then found a lift shaft and was able to climb down the metal framework. Once at the bottom he was able to leave the
building and he immediately tried to join the rescue party. However it was soon realised that he was too dazed and shaken by the experience
and he was taken to a first aid station himself. Apart from the human toll the whole of the Eastern side station offices were badly damaged.
There was also lesser damage to the Grosvenor Hotel and to shops in the Wilton road area.
The entire eastern sized arched roof at Victoria did not have any glass left in it at all.
In the ruins of the offices a fire started and the fire crews were badly hampered because some of their tenders had been damaged by blast (it
was not recorded why-perhaps they had been attending a previous bomb).
The name of the porter is not known but his story is typical of that endured by ten of thousands of
Londoners throughout Doodlebug Summer
|Gypsy Road Welling which received 2 V1 hits
|Clockhouse Beckenham 2nd August 1944
|This disaster happened on 2nd August 1944 at 13.02 when a Flying bomb hit a restaurant crowded with people lunching. It
stood in the Clockhouse area of Beckenham, just South of the railway bridge that carries the Beckenham to Crystal Palace
line The restaurant was on the west side of the road. 44 people were killed, many instantly and many badly injured. As well
as the restaurant huge destruction was caused to the shops and houses that used to line the road at this point.
This was one of the worst V1 incidents in South London and, for the borough of Beckenham the worst single civilian
incident of the war. The blast extended many hundreds of yards in each direction , by this stage of the attacks the Nazis
were packing the V1's with more powerful explosives.
Whilst researching I found one particular tragedy relating to this incident that really brought home the horror. One of the
fatal casualties was a Herbert Steer, aged 56. As this was not bad enough his 17 year old son Sydney had been killed, along
with 16 others when a V1 hit Elmers End bus garage on the 18th July.
The Clockhouse V1 demolished 14 shops and 12 houses in the Beckenham Road and in the same road caused major
damage to a further 17 shops and 42 houses. Another 18 shops and 124 houses were damaged to one degree or another in
Beckenham Road,Churchfield Road, Thayers Farm Road,Chaffinch Road and Sydney Road. There was a fire in the debris
in Beckenham Road.
Viewing the area today the major extent of the damage is clear. The road has been widened and new flats stand near the
original impact point. On the east side of the road property has been re-built. In the adjoining roads clear signs can be seen
where formally terraced houses now have become semi detached and display a bare end wall
|This picture is of the site in 2004 and shows the extensive
re-development on both sides of the road. The restaurant
stood about half way up on the left. The 60's block in the far
left Background is on the site of the Mckenzie Road bomb
which hit on th 30th June. Since this picture was taken further
re-development has taken place
|Grove Road London E4 after the attack
13th June 19444
|The V1 exploded on the roof of a shelter outside Marks and Spencer's.
Major damage was caused to the shops which also include Woolworth's and Sainsburies and devastation was caused to the
market at this point,
59 people died in this tragedy and a further 124 were very seriously injured. Hundreds of others suffered less serious injury.
Casualties occurred in the shops, in the basement café of Woolworth's and on passing buses. The Post Office was also
badly damaged. This was the worst single V1 incident in South London. The blast area was particularly large and extended
Up to 600 yards in each direction. This is probably indicative of the larger and more powerful warheads that were used by
the Nazis later in the attacks.In total about 100 shops were very badly damaged and flats,shops and houses suffered varying
degrees of damage across a wide area. The High Street in this point was completely re-built after the war on both side of
|Lewisham Market 28th July 1944
|Twenty worst V1 Incidents in the part of South London studied
|Sloane Court Chelsea 3rd July 1944