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WW2 Memories: Cliffe in Kent

by lesleyharrison

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Geoffrey Martin
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 March 2004

By Geoffrey Martin

On 6 June 1944, the biggest Armada of ships the world had ever seen, crossed the English Channel and started landing Allied Forces on the Normandy beaches of Northern France. It was known as ‘D Day’. On 13 June 1944, a week after the landings, Hitler launched the first of his vengeance weapons, the V1, it was a bomb with wings, powered by a jet engine in the tail. The engines had different amounts of fuel and when the fuel ran out, the bomb fell out of the sky, crashing with a large explosion, with one ton of explosive in the nose. It caused a large amount of damage and heavy casualties. They soon got the name of ‘Doodle Bugs’. When I went in the Army in April 1944, my youngest sister, Jill who was only thirteen years old, took over my early morning paper rounds. One misty morning whilst she was out delivering papers, a V1 came over and its engine cut out. Another girl who was with her pushed her to the ground behind a grass bank. The bomb exploded in a field about fifty yards away, causing damage to houses nearby. My sister and the other girl escaped unhurt, they would have been killed by the blast, had they been standing up. There were no serious casualties in the houses.

I had been in the Army for sixteen weeks before we were allowed to go on leave. The day we were due to go, I was feeling unwell with a pain in my stomach. I wouldn’t report sick as I would have been stopped from going on leave. I travelled from Chester to Cliffe on trains and a bus, feeling very ill and being very sick. When I got home, the pain was unbearable and my mother called the Doctor. He took one look at the big red spot on my stomach and immediately phoned for an Army Ambulance to take me to the Royal Naval Hospital in Gillingham. I was operated on straight away. I had acute appendicitis. I was told next morning that I was very lucky, as the appendix was on the point of bursting. If it had burst, it could have been fatal. After an operation, we were not allowed out for eight days, even to go to the toilet. We laid in bed day and night listening to the flying bombs going over, hoping their engines wouldn’t cut out. When I was allowed up, I sat at the end of the ward watching the flying bombs going over. One appeared to be heading for Cliffe, its engine cut out and it fell with a loud explosion. I had my pulse rate taken just after it had exploded and it was sky-high. The bomb had landed in an open field.

By the time I came home on three weeks sick leave, Hitler had launched his second vengeance weapon, the V2. It was a huge rocket and when launched, it went high into the atmosphere and when its fuel ran out, it fell to earth with a massive explosion. From Cliffe, on a clear day, we could see the smoke trails as the rockets were launched from Northern France and Belgium. After about four minutes, we heard a boom in the sky and saw a puff of smoke, then the explosion. We later found out that the boom in the sky as the rocket came down, was the sonic boom as it went through the sound barrier. Only one V2 landed in the area of Cliffe, it was in a wood.

Between 13 June 1944 and March 29 1945, a total of about 9,220 V1’s were launched and about 2,400 landed in London. About 1,440 landed in Kent. Nearly half the V1’s were destroyed by anti-aircraft guns, RAF fighters and barrage balloons. About 1,115 V2’s were launched, half fell on London, they were a terrible weapon as there was no warning and no defence against them. They caused huge damage and heavy casualties. Over 8,000 people were killed. If Hitler had launched the V weapons before the D Day landing, the outcome of the War could have been very different. They only stopped when the launch sites were overrun by Allied Forces. England was the only country to suffer rocket attacks in World War II.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - The V1

Posted on: 20 April 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear lesleyharrison

I read your story and your description of the V1 with interest.

You say that the V1's " engines had different amounts of fuel and when the fuel ran out, the bomb fell out of the sky". This, however, is a popular misconception. All V1s carried exactly the same amount of fuel: 680 liters (approximately 180 gallons). This was for aerodynamic reasons, all loaded V1s weighed the same: 4,780 lbs.

The guidance system of the V1 was flawed but effective and quite sophisticated. A small propellor-like fan in the nose, turned by air flow, contolled it. On reaching the set target range the desired altitude was reset to negative. This should have led to a power dive, but the steep descent caused the fuel to run away from the pipes and so the engine cut out, leading to a free fall and reducing the impact speed. It was intended for the engine not to cut out in this manner but there was no time to correct the design before it was put into use.

You will find a full description here: links



Message 2 - The V1

Posted on: 21 April 2004 by John de Mansfield AbsolonResearcher 238443

You might find "Hitler's terror weapons" by Roy Irons published by HarperCollins 2002 an interesting read.
John Absolon


Message 3 - The V1

Posted on: 21 April 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Just to round off this persistent story that the target range of a V1 was controlled by varying the amount of fuel so that when it ran out the engine would stop. I said above that all V1s had exactly the same amount of fuel, 680 litres of low grade petrol, and that this was for aerodynamic reasons, but more accurately all required the same amount of thrust at launch if they were all the same weight. But aside from that, you cannot control the range of any object in flight by varying the amount of fuel so as to stop an engine. This is because on any flight one cannot accurately predict wind direction and wind speed. A V1 flighing into a headwind would require more fuel than one with a tailwind, to reach the same distance. And one with a 40 mph headwind more fuel than one with a 10 mph headwind, and so on. In reality, of course, windspeeds, head, tail, and cross-winds would vary continuously from launch to target.


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