First Launch of the V2 Rocket

V2 rocket

One of the deadliest weapons commissioned by Adolf Hitler during the Second World War was the V2 rocket. Earlier in September marked the seventieth anniversary of the first time one of these weapons was ever launched. A small area of London marked the first target ever struck by the weapon. Although casualties were not as bad as they could have been, the first launch of the V2 rocket was still fairly devastating.

The missile first struck Staveley Road, a fairly quiet street in one of London’s suburban districts. It landed near Chiswick station on the eighth of September in 1944, where it killed three people. The youngest casualty was a young girl named Rosemary Clarke, who was only three years of age. The V2 rocket left a thirty-foot crater, destroying over ten houses and damaging for than five hundred. Given this level of destruction, the number of deaths was fortunately small. The number of injuries, on the other hand, was much higher. John Clarke, Rosemary Clarke’s brother, had a mild hand injury. He remembers seeing that his sister’s body was not badly damaged, but the force of the blast had caused her lungs to collapse.

At the time of the explosion, many were not fully aware of the cause. A number of witnesses believed that the explosion was caused by a faulty gas main, though the depth of the crater and the lack of piping in the debris raised suspicions. The V2 rocket became known colloquially as a “flying gas pipe” due to the confused rumors. Officials did not reveal any detailed information on the weapon until two months later, but many were aware of the nature of the attack within one hour of the explosion.

Londoners were not new to such attacks. They had already suffered the Blitz years ago. The reason that this particular attack came as something of a surprise is that, less than a week before the V2 rocket hit, it had been reported that the Germans did not likely have the capabilities to fire such weapons as far as London. This turned out to be far from true. Over five hundred more of these explosives would strike London before the war’s end, causing nearly three thousand deaths, the Express reports.

The first V2 rocket strike was shocking, but it was not the worst of what was to come. Another attack in November would kill over one hundred and fifty people. All five hundred explosives would be dropped between September of 1944 and March of 1945. Hitler had thought that the V2 rocket would help sway the Allies to give up the war. He was wrong, but there is no questioning that the weapons caused their fair share of devastation during their heaviest periods of use.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE