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Whitstable at War - World War II

Bomb Strikes: The V2 Rockets

    

Towards the end of the war, Germany unleashed another secret weapon in the form of the V2. This was a very different device. It was "rocket powered" and had a faster, higher and steeper approach than the V1. This made defence measures impossible and there was no real warning.

Brian Smith has provided some background for this later and potentially more deadly weapon.... 

  

Background to the V2 

 

At 6.40pm on 8th September 1944, the first V2 to hit any part of Kent landed in Orpington (part of Kent in London). Ironically, the last rocket to hit Britain also fell in the Orpington area on the 27th March 1945. 

A total of 67 V2 rockets fell in the part of Kent outside London. Whitstable’s share was 2. 

Flying faster than the speed of sound, the explosion on impact preceded the sound of the rockets approach – not unlike an express steam train. 

The sole defence against the V2 was prevention by eliminating the launch sites.  However, they were easily launched from mobile platforms which, apart from their mobility, were small and difficult to detect.

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia 

 

The super sonic nature of the V2 caused some unusual effects and memories for those who survived an attack. Geoff Kemp explains....

  

The scary thing about the V-2 was that the noise of its arrival followed the local explosion so we all thought another one was en route!

Geoff Kemp
Washington DC
USA

   

Conversely, those who died probably never knew anything about the attack.

We understand that there were only two recorded V2 strikes on Whitstable. The most well known was the device that fell in London's Field between Seymour Avenue and the old Whitstable-Canterbury railway line.

Fortunately, it didn't land directly on houses. However, there were casualties and nearby residences suffered damage including my grandparents home in Railway Avenue which faced the field on the other side of the rail track. The house lost all its windows. 

So large was the explosion that it's impact was felt across town. It even caused considerable disquiet a quarter of a mile away at several local schools...... 

  

Regarding Bill Dancer's account of V1 (some say it was a V2, it was late in the war) in Londons Field. 

I lived in Thurston Park, but I was at the St. Alphege Infants School (Mrs. Cooks?) next to the railway bridge. 

I must have been about 6 years old at the time. I remember we used to practice, on command , diving under our desks. On that day, we got the command and dived under our desks. There was a loud noise, the world shook and a large piece of plaster fell from the ceiling onto our desks. 

The thing that often puzzles me is how I got home. I used to walk to school. They must have said ‘you had better go home’ . 

So I must have walked home. When I got home, all the windows had been blown out and half the roof was missing.

Brian Elsey

  

I was in Mr McKenna's class when that V2 arrived. My ruler jumped about a foot high as my desk shot forward. The desk returned, the ruler fell back in place, the ceiling fell in as we all dived under our desks. I recall a white powder coated McKenna still standing before us looking rather surprised). That V2 was reputedly only half charged! 

Brian Smith 
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia

 

On another subject, Stan mentioned the day the V2 fell in Londons Field at the back of Seymour Avenue. I was in Mrs.Holman's class at Frank Newsome's school at the time and part of the ceiling fell in.

Bill Dancer
Victoria
British Columbia
Canada

 

We lived in Old Bridge Road during the war & I was only a baby but my Mum told me I was asleep in my cot when a bomb fell nearby & when she dashed upstairs all the windows had smashed but the curtains had been closed & had protected me from the broken glass. 

Jackie Perry nee Giani 
Hertfordshire

 

I can’t remember the exact date the V-2 hit but I was at school and like one of your other contributors, I remember being hustled under the desks at Westmeads. 

Geoff Kemp
Washington DC
USA

 

I remember the V2 very clearly. My mother was expecting and I was sent out for the day in the care of a dentist's wife. There was a huge explosion and the road was full of bricks and tiles - and, then, I got the good news. My sister had been born. 

So I remember the date 15 January but my knowledge of biology remained a bit shaky for many years.

Peter Elvy
London

   

"I remember the V2 rocket which fell behind Downs Avenue and Douglas Avenue houses.  I believe it may have been on a Monday morning.  I was working in Woolworths at the time and when the V2 came down, Woolworths plate glass windows remained intact but the blast shattered the windows of Reeves Estate Agents next door. 

The Woolworth staff who lived in Douglas and Downs Avenue were allowed to go home to see if their families were unhurt.  

My mother, Harriet Miles,  was hanging out her washing at 23 Belmont Road and the blast swung her round the clothes post.

Mollie Fallon (nee Miles)
London - formerly Whitstable

   

The effects were even felt  a considerable distance inland..... as far away as South Street....

  

Small pieces of the V2 that landed in Jack London's field were actually heard falling near South Street Railway Crossing by my mother and retrieved by me after school.

Bill Dancer
Victoria
Canada 

  

The explosion caused some debate in our Visitors Book.... on the subject of whether it was a V1 or V2. 

   

In the 'Wartime' material, there are 3 postings referring to the London Field V2 as a V1. They are, Brian Elsey's, mine and Bill Dancer's. 

Both Bill & I have referred to it elsewhere as a V2 which was officially confirmed. The thought, by some, that it may have been a V1 possibly stemmed from the low level of both the explosion and damage done.

That was officially credited to the smaller than usual amount of explosive used - it was commonly said to have been only 'half charged' as a result of Germany running out of explosive. 

Quite some years ago, I read that the low charge was most likely a result of sabotage - by the crews responsible for loading the charge due (some claim) to a growing belief that the War was lost.

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia 

   

Thus, Whitstable sampled the range of civilian horrors but without the intensity or the massive casualties of more significant targets. In this respect, it provided local residents with a window on the war and sufficient evidence to ponder wider issues. 

As far as the V2 was concerned, there was much to ponder. Here, we had the forerunner of the inter-continental ballistic weapon... and one that gave no warning and no opportunity for defensive measures. It's sheer power meant that it could cause widespread damage when "half charged" and dropped in a field of a small town.

It is also relevant to consider that WWII scientists were engaged in a race to produce the first atomic weapon. Such a device combined with rocket powered delivery would have provided Hitler with the means for victory.

Fortunately, the V2 came at the end of the war and Germany failed to produce an atomic device. However, it is worth considering that some scientists who worked on the nuclear project in the United States were probably Jewish people who had fled Europe. It is a touch of irony and justice that they were forced there by a man whose prejudice and warped views meant that he placed no value on them. In effect, his own evil curbed his ambitions. There is an irony and a sense of justice in that.

   


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