V1 Flying Bombs ("doodlebugs")

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by jamesicus, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. jamesicus

    jamesicus Senior Member

    There had been a resurgence of Air Raids on London by the Luftwaffe in early 1944 but in late spring officials began hinting that this was a last gasp effort and the danger was pretty much over. I seem to recall newspaper reports that a large number of children evacuated to the outlying countryside due to the earlier air raids were now returning to London.

    Just about a week after D-Day everything changed! The news media announced that a new kind of pilotless flying bomb was being used to attack London (the first actually fell on London 13 June 1944). It didn't take long before they were given an unofficial name: "Doodlebugs".


    Initial reports were that they were very fast, carried a huge explosive charge, sounded like a small motorcycle driven at a steady speed and that the engine cut out before it dived to the ground ("you can count to twelve before the bang").

    Air raid sirens sounded every time a Doodlebug (now officially announced by Goebbels as the first "vengence weapon" -- the pulse-jet powered V1) was detected -- and that became very irritating as they came by the dozens day and night. At first everybody scurried to their air raid shelters when the siren sounded, but after awhile people went about their business albeit anxiously on the alert for a chugging Doodlebug engine to cut out -- then you had fifteen seconds or so to dive for cover before it unpredictably impacted. I checked the "count to twelve" system to predict impact after engine cut-out -- it worked pretty well!

    The planned impact point was the Tower Bridge (area) in London. However, their guidance and aiming system was imperfect and a great number crashed shortly after launch, veered off course or undershot/overshot the target area -- sometimes by a considerable distance. It was the gross unpredicability of their impact that rendered them such a terrible weapon.

    Interdicting V1 Flying Bombs before they reached London was problematical. Their speed was variable between individual units -- 300 MPH+ to 450 MPH -- very fast for the time. Some went down after impacting barrage balloon wires and some were shot down by anti-aircraft guns. Shooting them down using fighter planes was an adventure. V1 pursuit units consisting of modified, fast flying aircraft -- Spitfire IXs & XIVs, Tempest Vs, Hawker Typhoons and later, Gloster Meteors -- were formed, the first V1 being shot down by a Spitfire on 16 June 1944.

    Statistical analyses vary a little, but in general 2,419 V1's impacted mostly the London area between mid-June and early September 1944 killing approx. 8,000 civilians (men, women and children).
    Eskil likes this.
  2. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    The German V-1 campaign ended in September 1944, when the Canadian 1st Army overran the launching sites at the Pas de Calais. The British proclaimed victory over the Doodlebugs.

    Next day the first V-2 impacted in London.

    The V-1s re-appeared to bomb the heck out of Antwerp in an effort to shut the port. More V-1s were flung at Antwerp than London, and one blasted open a movie theater and killed several hundred unfortunate Belgians.

    Still not done yet, the Luftwaffe figured out a way to launch V-1s from He 111 bombers over the North Sea, and hurled those at England for a while. Otherwise, the He 111s were pretty much obsolete.

    One factor in preventing the V-1s from being effective was that the British press reported the V-1s as hitting further north in London from where they actually landed. The German intelligence service determined from these reports and those from the "Double-Cross" turned agents that they had to set the V-1 engines to cut out sooner. So they did. Soon V-1s were landing well south of Central London, which helped cut down on the damage.

    But by then they had torn apart the Guards' Chapel in Kensington.

    Attached Files:

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  3. jamesicus

    jamesicus Senior Member

    The Government subterfuge of announcing impact of V1s north of London really did work for awhile. The gyroscopic timing mechanism was adjusted and V1s began impacting south of London -- on Surrey! The center of Croydon took a direct hit.

    The cutting out of the engine -- putting the V1 in a silent glide -- was actually due to a design flaw. As the nose of the V1 dipped, the pulse jet engine starved for fuel causing it stop. The original intent was for the device to dive to the ground under full engine power.
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  4. jamesicus

    jamesicus Senior Member

    Kiwiwriter wrote:

    But by then they had torn apart the Guards' Chapel in Kensington

    I am sure you are referring to the direct hit by a V1 on the Guards chapel on Birdcage walk, Sunday morning, 18 June, 1944. The Chapel was full of worshippers and the service was underway. The impact occurred as the Te Deum laudamus was being sung -- 119 people were killed outright and 102 were seriously injured, many of whom died later.

    We sing the Te Deum laudamus as part of the liturgy during the regular Sunday morning service in my Church (Anglican) and I always think of that tragic morning as we sing the third stanza (The moment of impact).

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  5. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    Although the speed of V1s was variable, they flew straight and level, making their flighpath relatively easy to predict and, therefore, they were vulnerable to AA fire. For this reason, virtually all of London's AA guns were moved down onto the Kent coast to create an AA zone, which was very successful. If they got through this zone, then the fighters took over.

    Some were simply inaccurate. One landed close to where my mother lived at the time, about 50 miles to the SW of London.
  6. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    two Good books on the subject

    Mares Nest by David irving available as a download from his website and Flying Bomb by peter G Cooksly goes into great technical detail.

    Attached Files:

  7. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    Originally posted by jamesicus@Sep 17 2004, 05:12 PM
    Kiwiwriter wrote:

    But by then they had torn apart the Guards' Chapel in Kensington

    I am sure you are referring to the direct hit by a V1 on the Guards chapel on Birdcage walk, Sunday morning, 18 June, 1944. The Chapel was full of worshippers and the service was underway. The impact occurred as the Te Deum laudamus was being sung -- 119 people were killed outright and 102 were seriously injured, many of whom died later.

    We sing the Te Deum laudamus as part of the liturgy during the regular Sunday morning service in my Church (Anglican) and I always think of that tragic morning as we sing the third stanza (The moment of impact).

    [post=28201]Quoted post[/post]

    Yes, I meant Birdcage Walk. They have a barracks in Kensington, I believe, but I meant the chapel on Birdcage Walk. I visited the new chapel, which is adjacent to the Guards' Museum. They have some good stuff there, including Field Marshal Alexander's jacket.

    The Guards' Chapel incident was a major horror of the V-1 bombardment.
  8. jamesicus

    jamesicus Senior Member

    On Christmas Eve 1944, a formation of specially configured HE-111 Heinkel bombers (I/KG53 squadron) flying over the North Sea launched 45 V1 Flying Bombs (Doodlebugs) aimed at Manchester 31 of which reached the target area. Fifteen fell on Manchester, the remainder impacting in surrounding towns and sparsely populated outlying areas. BBC Report -- Doodlebug attack on Manchester: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england...ter/4122627.stm

    One hit a row of terrace houses in nearby Oldham killing 37 people, including some evacuees from London, and seriously wounding many others. The blast damaged hundreds of nearby homes.

    Six people died when one landed on Chapel Street, Tottington, near Bury.

    One of the errant V1s impacted in a farmer's field at Gregson Lane near Bamber Bridge just outside Preston. This crash site has recently been examined and recorded by the Lancashire Aircraft Investigation Team (V1 Gregson Lane 24.12.1944): http://web.ukonline.co.uk/lait/site/V1%20Gregson%20Lane.htm

    This V1 raid was a rude Christmas Eve shock for all of us in the Manchester area, for local officials had been hinting that the danger from air raids was was pretty much over for us in the North. D-Day had heightened the expectation that the war was winding down, besides, the unexpected V1 raids had been directed against London. Certainly none of us expected an air raid siren alert followed by the sound of Doodlebugs chugging across Lancashire skies during that Christmas of 1944!

    The V1 raid on Manchester occurred exactly four years after the first major Air Raid on the city -- the horrendous firestorm Blitz of Christmas 1940.

    (cross-post for reference)
  9. jamesicus

    jamesicus Senior Member

    Some of these V1s probably fell on the desolate moors to the north and east of Manchester -- in that event their impact sites would be unknown.

    I came across a large crater on the moors to the south east of Burnley toward Bacup during a hike in 1948. It could have been the result of an impact by a V1 or HE bomb -- but the area was overgrown by moorland grass and heather so the crater's origins are speculative.
  10. jamesicus

    jamesicus Senior Member

    One V1 that impacted near Oswaldtwistle during the Christmas 1944 raid on Manchester carried a load of propaganda leaflets. Leaflets from these V1s were also found at Brindle, near Manchester and Huddersfield, Yorkshire.

    Evidently a large number of V1s were loaded with propaganda leaflets. This subject is covered in meticulous detail by Herbert A. Friedman in his Web page article The German V1 Rocket Leaflet Campaign. This fascinating article explains how the leaflets were stored and dispersed and includes an impressive number of V1 related photographic images and numerous actual propaganda leaflet reproductions. It is also a treasure trove of V1 Flying Bomb information.

    The British government was pretty secretive about V1 impact sites for they did not want the Germans to know the number of those that reached the target area and exactly where they had fallen.
  11. Compo

    Compo Member

    Late in the war my grandmother was living in London working as a Censor, as a German speaker she scanned mail looking for statements that would only be made by native Germans.
    She was relaxing at home one evening playing a grand piano and heard a V1 motor cut out ovehead, she had enough time to dive under the piano before the blast wich was close enough to bring the house down on her. Diving under the piano saved her as two of the three piano legs held.
    One of her legs was exposed to the blast and was so filled with small pieces of the piano that she was still picking these pieces of wire etc. out decades later.
    The V1 was slow enough that the FAF fighters could sometimes tip them with their wings by diving on them. I read about one such that was turned 360 degrees and headed back over the German lines. That must have been a puzzle to the Germans. images/smilies/default/biggrin.gif
  12. jamesicus

    jamesicus Senior Member

    Great story, Compo! I was fortunate -- no V1s impacted close enough to us to cause injuries or significant property damage.

  13. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor

    Nice story Compo! That would have really confused the Germans, would have been interesting to see their faces when it flew back over them :closedeyes:
  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    The V1 was slow enough that the FAF fighters could sometimes tip them with their wings by diving on them.

    I think this is a myth,a pilot using this technique would likely hazard his aircraft.However it might have been attempted before the Fying Bomb specification was appreciated and pilots had devised the best method of dealing with them.

    The established technique appears to have been by destablising the Flying Bomb auto pilot equipment by creating turbulence. The positioning of the interceptors wing in front of the Flying Bomb for sufficient time was enough to create turbulence that would initiate failure of the gyroscope equipment and the Fying Bomb's fall to earth, hopefully in an area of little importance.

    Large numbers of the the Fying Bombs were shotdown using radar controlled Ack Ack and airborne interception by cannon fire.Again the problem with airborne interception was to have a technique which would not hazard an interceptor from any Flying Bomb explosion resulting from a successful hit.

    Regarding aircraft released Flying bombs,one fell at Epworth,east of Doncaster.May have been in the batch targetted at Manchester.Casualties were not recorded.
  15. adamcotton

    adamcotton Senior Member


    Regarding the method of allied fighters dealing with the V-1:

    Without consulting my books, I can't quote names and squadrons at present, but I know that Spitfire XIVs and IXs would indeed dive on V1s from above and behind, and using the extra speed gained, pull alongside and position a wingtip beneath one of the V1s wings and, applying a little aileron in the required direction, quite literally "tip" the bomb into a bank from which, lacking a pilot and ailerons of its own, it was unable to recover, even with a pre-programmed auto-pilot. Yes, it was a very hazardous undertaking, but perhaps no less so than the other common method, particuarly favoured by the Newchurch based Tempest Wing commanded by Roland Beamont, of diving to within close range of the bomb's taipipe and letting fly with the cannon. Bombs often exploded right in front of the fighter, but as the latter's speed was so high, that velocity carried it safely through the fireball in the blink of an eye......in theory! In practice, many Tempests were holed like colanders...
  16. pieterserrien

    pieterserrien Member

    Dear all,

    I am looking for witness stories (interviews, memoirs, diaries...) of Allied (mostly American and British) soldiers who came to Belgium to help defend the cities Antwerp, Brussels and Liège against the V1 flying bombs.

    During the V-war in Belgium (1944-1945) 6448 Belgian civilians and 882 Allied soldiers lost their life. I am researching this forgotten story and I also want to give a voice to the soldiers who gave their life defending our people.

    I want to focus on some specific histories, such as:
    - The defense program Antwerp X under the command of general Armstrong
    - Men and women of the Anti-Aircraft units who got the job to shoot down as many V1's as possible
    - Pilots who did the same job in the air
    - Allied soldiers who were victims of V-bombings in Belgium, such as the V2 on Cinema Rex the 16th of december 1944, where 296 Allied soldiers died. 271 died, which brings the total to 567 deads by a single rocket. It was the most deadly V-bombing ever.

    Also other witness stories are welcome.


    Pieter Serrien
    Belgian historian and writer

  17. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Letter from a soldier's wife, living in south London, to her husband in Italy, 9/8/44

    "It would seem there was some news today. At about a quarter to seven this morning, I woke to hear the roar of a damned fast Doodlebug approaching – it got louder and louder and I didn’t think it was at all a nice one – I wriggled myself up as small as I could and near to Lyndsay [her one year old daughter] and then the dear little thing “cut out” – then “wheee” – wallop! The poor old cellar was full of dust and Lyndsay and I had chunks of plaster all over our beds. Mum and Dad shot upstairs to see where it was and how much damage we had. I had to barricade Lyndsay in her “bunk”, for she was all for scrambling out and climbing over the rubble on our beds! Then I went up to see – grit and dust everywhere of course. The upper large window in the lounge broken, and our bedroom window. But Daddy’s room – phew! I’ve never seen such a filthy mess! Jolly good he wasn’t sleeping there for he would have had a couple of chunks of ceiling on him each weighing easily 7lb! And on the floor was a lot a good foot deep in great chunks all round! As you may know this house is 75 years old so you can imagine the state of the lathes under the plaster and the black sooty dirt came down on top of the plaster – all over everything. Mummy and I just shovelled it up into buckets and staggered downstairs with it. Then the roof – Daddy had it retiled some years ago and every slate was nailed with copper nails. The tiles would not give so the rafters did! So we now have a roof with a kink in it fore and aft! It will have to be shored up."
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  18. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    .Below was posted on a thread , V1 Flying Bombs any records please Under allied units general.
    Some interesting comments.

    This slightly edited from original
    At the time we were living in Guinness Buildings Stamford Hill London
    might be wrong on the date of Fathers leave ,it may have been leave after D Day (Python?)
    A gate in the boundary wall to the right of the flats led to the allotments.
    At this time V.1 flying bombs (doodlebugs) were coming over they were OK as long as you heard the engine puttering away.
    But once it stopped the doodlebug went into a dive and exploded when crashing (about a ton of high explosive)
    Well one came down in the allotments and did not go off.
    Dad and all the other soldiers and men in the area took their rifles (which the soldiers took home with them on leave) and pickaxe handles
    and went hunting for the pilot, because at that time the general public thought that flying bombs were flown by Kamikaze type suicide pilots.
    We went over the allotments to get a look at the bomb from about one hundred yards away.
    Then the local home guard (I think) came and put a cordon around it to keep us away.
    Some days later it was taken away on a lorry under a sheet.
    I must be one of the few people to see a flying bomb on the ground.

    I have since learned that Flying Bombs were adapted and flown by test pilots one a famous woman.
    Is there any site where I might find a record of this event
    .(The grounded V1 not the woman pilot)

  19. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  20. rockape252

    rockape252 Senior Member


    "Operation Diver" was the name of the defensive measures used against the V1 attacks.

    So named because of the V1s habit of diving after the engine cut.

    See http://www.bpears.org.uk/NE-Diary/

    "Saturday, 23rd/Sunday, 24th December 1944"

    There is a report about one of the V1s which was air launched and targeted at Manchester.

    This V1 was one of the many that veered off course and this one came down at Tudhoe, County Durham.

    So it is the farthest North these weapons reached.


    "Christmas Eve 1944:

    06.05.. Co Durham.. Eleven people were injured when a V1 landed on the cricket field at Tudhoe, the pavilion was destroyed. There was severe damage to 22 houses and slight damage to 368 other houses, a C of E Vicarage and nearby Catholic Church and orphanage were also damaged

    Regards, Mick.

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