The bombing of British towns and cities during the Second World War was far from uniform. The intensity of the raids, the places targeted and the types of bombs that were used all varied considerably.
One of the most significant changes in the pattern of bombing occurred 70 years ago today, on Tuesday 13 June 1944. In the early hours of the morning, the southeast of England experienced its first V1 raid. This was to be the first of many.
V1 is an abbreviation for the official German name for these devices: Vergeltungswaffe 1 (meaning ‘retaliation weapon 1’). In the British government’s records of the time, the usual term is ‘flying bomb’. Unofficial nicknames included ‘fly’ and ‘doodlebug.
In British records of 13 June, and for the next few days, V1s are referred to as ‘pilotless aircraft’ (or ‘P.A.C.’s). 1 This reflects the fact that – unlike those used in earlier air raids – these bombs were not designed to be dropped from aircraft with human pilots. Instead, they could be launched from mainland Europe, without risking deaths or injuries to members of the German Luftwaffe.
The Ministry of Home Security recorded the fall of four V1s during this first raid. 2 Three of these (in Kent and Sussex) had a relatively slight impact. The fourth, however, struck a railway bridge over Grove Road, in Bethnal Green, to the east of central London, causing terrible damage. At least six people were killed and many others injured. 3 Continue reading »
- 1. The minutes of the Cabinet meeting on 19 June 1944 note that flying bomb had replaced pilotless aircraft as the preferred term. CAB 65/42/38, p 122. ^
- 2. HO 198/170; see also CAB 65/42/35, p 105. ^
- 3. The figure of six deaths is cited in HO 192/492. Different sources for a single bombing incident often cite slightly different casualty rates, sometimes as a result of how soon afterward the figures were compiled. ^