The remains of a V2 rocket fired by the Nazi Germany at London during Second World War have been unearthed in a field of South East England, where it crashed & exploded before reaching its target.
This is the 6thmajor excavation of a V2 site carried-out by conflict archaeologists and brothers Colin & Sean Welch, who spent more than 10 years investigating the sites of Nazi “vengeance weapons“ launched at British capital, they said.
They have even excavated the impact sites of dozens of V1 flying bombs, a pre-cursor to modern cruise missiles that were launched generally from catapults in Nazi occupied France in 1944 & 1945.
In latest V2 excavation near Platt, a village near Maidstone, researchers called Crater Locators, recovered more than 1,760 pounds (800 kilograms) of metal debris, including large pieces of rocket’s combustion chamber, from when rocket exploded at mid-night on Feb.14, 1945.
The site is now-open farmland, but it was an orchard when rocket struck. The impact was far-enough from any of houses that no one was hurt, but one elderly woman said later that the noise of blast damaged her hearing, Sean Welch said.
The team spent 4 days at the end of September using a mechanical digger & shovels to excavate frost crater, which was filled in with earth although its location was known. They will now spend up-to 18 months conserving the objects before writing-up an archaeological report for county’s official historical libraries.
The team used metal detectors to find the deepest remnants of the blast, which were greater than 14 feet (4.3 meters) underground, Colin Welch said.
“(Although) rocket is traveling at up to 3.5 times the speed of sound, detonation isn’t supersonic,” he said. “The rocket gets at least 5 feet (1.5 meters) into the ground before it begins to detonate duly.”
The V1 flying bombs & V2 rockets were one of the last-ditch “Wunderwaffen,” or “wonder weapons,” that Nazi leadership hoped would turn the tide of war, which Germany was then losing, but they came too-late.
Consistent with Smithsonian Institute’s Air & Space Museum, Adolf Hitler ordered V1s & V2s deployed against London following calamitous Allied bombings of German cities in 1943 & 1944 and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels dubbed them “Vergeltungswaffe,” or “revenge weapons. “The first V1 hit London on June 13, 1944 and first V2 hit on Sep. 7, 1944.
V1s flew at about speed of a fighter plane at time and Royal Air Force pilots soon-learned to shoot them down or knock them off-course. Their pulse-jet engines even made a lot of noise, they were dubbed “buzz lemons”, so people could hear them coming & try to take shelter.
The V2 rockets, so, were the first supersonic weapons and were greatly afraid because no one could hear them coming and they flew too high & fast to intercept. The German military launched rockets from sites in Germany to an altitude of about 50 miles (80 kilometre), they then fell to their targets, reaching speed of up to 3,500 mph (5,600 kmph.)
Although, V2s were greatly sophisticated, V1s were much cheaper to make & tended to explode at ground level, instead after entering the ground, which made them greatly effective weapons, Colin Welch said.
The V2 rocket attacks on London, killed around 9,000 civilians & military personnel, while both Germany’s Vergeltungswaffen combined killed up to 30,000 people, consistent with the Imperial War Museum in London.
Some V2 rockets fell short of British capital & landed in Kent. Colin & Sean Welch believe this was because they had been launched at night when the targeting was less accurate. As V2 campaign progressed, they argue, launches could be spotted by Allied radar operators, who would then guide fighter-squadrons to the location. To avoid Allied aircraft attacks, Germans began launching V2s at night when many fighters could not fly, which led to worse accuracy by ground crews, who aimed rockets, they said.
Some of twisted metal remnants of V2 that crashed & exploded near Platt in 1944 are embossed with 3 letter code that signifies the factory in Nazi occupied Europe where part was made.
Until recently, historians believed all the later V2s were made under the direction of German rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun, in under-ground tunnels near Nordhausen, at the bottom of Germany’s Harz mountains.
But it now seems that Nordhausen plant was only an assembly line and 3 letter codes show that Nazis made V2 land in factories as far afield as occupied Czechoslovakia, Sean Welch said.
Von Braun is a controversial character. He claimed not to know about Nazi atrocities, but he was a member of Nazi para-military SS (“Schutzstaffel,” meaning” protection squad”) and consistent with White Sands Missile Range Museum greater than 12,000 forced laborers died on his V2 production line in a single year.
But von Braun had been captured by Americans after war and became a pioneer of Space Race in 1960, he had been appointed as director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he developed rockets that propelled Apollo spacecraft to the moon.
The American military in post-war Germany even captured some V2s at different stages of assembly and shipped them to United States, where they became foundation of the fledgling space program. In 1946, a modified V2 launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, reached an altitude of 65 miles (105 kilometre ) and took the first photograph of Earth from the space, Air & Space Magazine reported.