(Image: Spielvogel. Abandoned V-1 launch site in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate)
They may look like any other peaceful woodland ruins of days gone by. But these seemingly-anonymous concrete foundations reflect a vengeance unleashed on Britain and Belgium by Nazi Germany during World War Two. For it was from here that countless V-1 flying bombs were launched into England, with the goal of striking fear into the hearts of the civilian population.
Just after 4 am on June 13, 1944, residents in northeast London reported a strange droning sound that eerily cut out before the craft that it belonged to fell to earth. Six residents were killed in the borough of Hackney, and the ‘doodlebug’ menace had begun. In the days that followed, dozens of V-1s, or ‘buzz bombs’, as they were also dubbed, reigned down on London, killing and wounding hundreds.
(Image: German Federal Archives)
The era of the cruise missile had dawned, and the nature of warfare would never be the same again. As Londoners became ever more familiar with this new and deadly threat, it became apparent that the sound that frightened them the most was the sound of silence. When the simple jet engine cut out, the brief quiet was soon shattered by a hideous explosion, as the V-1 flying bomb’s 1,870 lb warhead detonated.
Developed at the PeenemÃ¼nde Army Research Center under the codename “Cherry Stone”, more than 100 of the so-called “vengeance weapons” were launched daily in the direction of Southeast England, culminating in 9,521 in total. To counter the V-1 menace, Allied forces initiated Operation Crossbow, which targeted all phases of Nazi Germany’s long-range weapons programme. This included the bombing of launch sites as well as factories, research and development facilities and transport links.
By October 1944 the last V-1 rocket launch site within range of England had been overcome by Allied forces. The doodlebug menace had been short-lived, but psychologically devastating. The abandoned launch pad pictured in this article, situated in the peaceful forests of Rheinbreitbach municipality, in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate, is one of many such ruins forgotten amid the landscape of Western and Central Europe.
As Morris M wrote on Urban Ghosts earlier this year: “In an anonymous stretch of German woodland lie these unassuming relics of the Third Reichâs military machine. Although the pictures may look like nothing more than a few overgrown lumps of concrete, these ruins were once at the forefront of Hitlerâs psychological terror tactics. It was from here that multiple V-1 flying bombs were launched at Britain. Known as Doodlebugs, these early-vengeance rockets would emit a loud drone as they sailed over London, before finally silencing as their engines cut out and they plummeted to earth.”
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