The V1 Flying bomb was the worlds first cruise missile. An unmanned gyro guided plane that delivered a tonne of high
explosive each time one hurtled into the ground. 2419 were to explode in London between June 1944 and March 1945, which is just 9 months. The distinctive noise of their pulse jet engine which cut out after a predetermined mileage terrorised London’s population. They quickly became known as Doodle bugs.

The V1 Flying Bomb

The V1  was capable of killing large numbers of people at one go, inflicting terrible injuries and causing huge material damage to
buildings and homes. The  V1 caused lots of chaos and blast damage over a wide area. It exploded on the surface, and a huge blast wave
rippled out from the epicentre. As it did so it left a huge vacuum, which caused a second rush of air as the vacuum was filled.
This caused a devastating pushing and pulling effect.

At the impact site houses or buildings were totally demolished and destroyed. In the inner London suburbs where terrace houses were
packed together, sometimes up to 20 houses would totally collapse, just at one hit.Brick walls were pulverised into small fragments.

Further out from the epicentre walls, roofs and window frames were ripped out exposing the contents and innards of the house. Further out still, all the windows were blown out and roofing slates blown off. Every time a Doodlebug landed hundreds of houses were damaged. Ranging from total demolition to  minor damage.  This was a freezing, drenched summer and repairs would take several months. Londoners were de-housed in their tens of thousands or shivered in cold, damp and roofless houses. The blast area of a V1  extended across a radius of 400 -600 yards in each direction.

Anyone unlucky enough to be close to the impact site would be blown apart or suffer crush injuries from falling masonry. Others would be trapped below collapsed buildings and have to be dug out. Further away from the impact site awful injuries were inflicted by shards of flying glass.

During the course of the attacks the nature of the injuries changed somewhat. At the beginning people were caught unawares on the street and  injuries from flying glass were widespread. Later on, people had understood the necessity of shelter in safe (er) areas of their home e.g. under the stairs. However, this had the effect of less flying glass injuries but more crush injuries from people being buried in the ruins of collapsed houses.

The toll of human suffering was appx. 6184 people killed by V1’s and 17981 seriously injured and maimed. Tens of thousands of others received lesser injuries. Countless more would suffer the pain of bereavement or from the loss of their home and treasured possessions.

The suffering and grief endured by Londoner’s during this period must never be forgotten.

The German Flying Bomb

The German Flying Bomb

October 1942
First successful Rocket test firing by Nazis


December 1942
First test launch of a V1 Flying bomb


June 1943
British intelligence identifies a Rocket on the Peenemunde   secret weapon site


August 1943
Peenemunde site bombed by RAF   delaying the onset of the V1and V2 attacks


Winter 1943
The Allied bombers destroy many Flying bomb sites in the Pas  De Calais area.
This delays the start of the attacks but the Nazis build  new, more portable, launch sites


12thJune 1944
The first salvo of Flying bombs are launched against London


13thJune 1944
16thJune 1944
73 Flying bombs have hit London  by this date


The British newspapers report that “Pilotless planes” are now raiding Britain
Anti Aircraft Guns in London   area are ordered to stop shooting down V1’s as they are falling on built up  areas


Anti aircraft guns and Barrage balloons are now  established in a line along the North Downs in Kent


30thJune 1944
30th    June 1944
70-100 V1 a day are now reaching London


4th    July 1944
617 Squadron   bomb V1 storage depots in France


5thJuly 1944
Churchill makes a statement about the V1 attacks in   parliament


6th/7th July
Immediate benefit is felt in reduced V1 launches owing to   Allied bombing raid on the 4th July


19st July 1944
Guns are moved from the North Downs   to The coast to provide a better chance of shooting down the Flying bombs


28th July1944
2nd    August 1944
Between 21:00 2nd  August and 20.59 3rd August
104 Flying bombs hit London   The worst day since late June


5th August
Co-op in Lordship lane East Dulwich   hit. 23 are killed


From about 10th August   1944
The Rate of V1 strikes in London   is drastically reduced as the air defences become more effective


End August 1944
Flying bomb sites in France   overrun by allies and V1 attacks on London   tail off


7th    September 1944
Herbert Morrison announces that the Battle of London is  over


8th September
17th    September 1944
Allied operation Market Garden parachutes thousands of   troops into the Netherlands   and the V2 attacks are stopped


First Week of October
October 1944
10th  November 1944
Churchill admits Britain  is under attack again


25th    November 1944
26th    December 1944
V2 hits Prince of Wales pub in Mckenzie Road Islington 68   killed


8th    March 1945
27th    March 1945
27th    March 1945
Final V2 fall in Court Road Orpington killing 1 person


28th    March 1945
Last V1 lands at Swanscombe



Additional Reading –

Sources –

  • Daily Mail
  • Reuters

Author – Jake Meilak