Flying bombs

Photo:Shirley Freke's house was badly damaged by a flying bomb in June 1944. It was not until January 1947 the family could move back into the house.

Shirley Freke's house was badly damaged by a flying bomb in June 1944. It was not until January 1947 the family could move back into the house.

Shirley Freke

V1 and V2 rockets

The main air offensive against British cities diminished after May 1941, with the change of direction of the German war machine towards Russia. However, sporadic and lethal raids, using increasingly larger bombs, continued for several more years. In June 1944, the first V1 rockets were launched against Britain. Their arrival was not unexpected and the British Government designated the V1 as a flying bomb. Londoners initially nicknamed it a 'Bob Hope' because when one approached you bobbed down and hoped that it would continue to fly over.

'Doodlebugs'

They soon became more generally known as 'Doodlebugs' or 'buzz bombs', and continued to fall on Britain until the final weeks of the war. Over 6000 British civilians died as a result of V1 attacks between June 1944 and March 1945. In all 9,251 V1s were launched against Britain, of which 4,261 were destroyed by the Royal Air Force, the Army’s Anti-Aircraft Command, the Royal Navy and the balloon barrage.

V2 Rockets

Less than three months later on Friday 8 September 1944, the first V2 rocket landed in the London suburb of Chiswick killing three people.  These were the first of 2,754 British civilians to be killed by the 1,115 V2 rockets launched against Britain.

On the morning of Saturday 25 November 1944 at 12.25 pm a V2 rocket landed on Woolworth’s store in New Cross Road at Deptford. At the time of impact the store was crowded with schoolchildren and housewives and casualties were very high:  160 killed, 77 seriously injured and 122 walking wounded (some of these figures are disputed).

‘Everyone was wearing bandages, the whole place was full of people with bandages on their heads, their arms...’

Florence Hunt, who had been away visiting her sister who was serving in the WRNS in the North of England, recalls the strange sight that greeted her when she arrived in the vicinity on her way home. ‘Everyone was wearing bandages, the whole place was full of people with bandages on their heads, their arms...’

In total, more than 40,000 died and there were 67,000 British and Commonwealth civilian casualties. One in five homes were destroyed or damaged as a result of enemy action:  107,000 houses were totally destroyed, and over 1,500,000 were damaged.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 22/11/2011.

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