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V1 Flying Bomb site, Didsbury
I am grateful to Paul Hodgins for advising of his research which has led to me changing my record of the site of the Didsbury V1.
Many thanks also to Maurice and Leanne at Didsbury Golf Club for enabling me to visit and photograph the site, and to Greenskeeper Stewart who drove me across the golf course in his cart – the first time I have ever been chauffeur driven to one of these places!
Of the 45 air launched Luftwaffe V1 Flying Bombs which were aimed at Manchester on the morning of Christmas Eve, 1944, only one actually made it to the Manchester Civil Defence Area and that was the one which fell here.
Click here for a summary of the V1 attack on Manchester on Christmas Eve 1944, links to other locations where the V1s fell and more about V1 Flying Bombs. 42 people were killed in this attack and another 109 injured.
The lead photo above replaces one which recorded the Didsbury V1 as coming down close to the rugby fields at the bottom of Millgate Lane at about grid reference SJ 8401 8949 on the other side of the M60 and the Mersey. The actual site is now on the south side of the River Mersey.
Back in 1944 this was not a lake but a field of Brussels sprouts. No one was injured or killed when this particular missile fell, though there was some damage to properties in Didsbury, Burnage and Northenden.
The reason the original location was determined by Peter Smith (Flying Bombs Over The Pennines, 1988) as being the other side of the river may be because it was recorded that the bomb site was on the north bank, which it was. But the north bank of the Mersey at Didsbury was moved with creation of flood defences which slightly altered the course of the Mersey, diverting it by over 200 metres to the north east. The field the V1 was at first believed to have come down in is now part of Didsbury Flood Storage Basin while the V1 site is now south of the river.
Paul Hodgins had long believed this lake to be the location after being told the story by his mother who recalls seeing the V1 in its last moments.
But only after period maps were discovered and made public in December 2012 which show the location, date and type of every bomb to fall on Manchester, was he able to confirm the spot as being in the middle of what is now Loonts Lake on the edge of Didsbury Golf Club.
Below; Part of the bomb map for Northenden. X marks the spot. The note in red ink gives the date and details Crater 22′ 0″ Diam. 5′ 0″ deep. See link below to view all maps at the library.
The red circles on the left record where incendiary bombs fell on 10/10/40 on what was Rose Hill Convalescent Home which has since been converted into flats with new houses in the grounds around the top end of Bronington Close. The air raids on the night of 10 – 11 October 1940 killed people in Moston and Hulme and in Northenden at 31 Royle Green Avenue, Annie Austin was killed and next door at number 29, Maud Bardsley Wyatt was injured in that attack (Smith, Luftwaffe over Manchester, 2003)
Below; Google mapping image showing the same area now, the southern end of Didsbury Golf Club bordering Loonts Lake on one side, the M60 on the other.
Paul overlaid contemporary maps onto the old maps to prove the point. I did my own using the railway tracks at Northenden Junction and the Longley Lane bridge over the tracks as reference points, layering the old bomb map over a scaled Google map.
Below; My map showing the bomb map overlaid on a Google map. The number 1 indicates the spot previously identified as the place the V1 came down. The number 2 on the map shows the position from which I took the lead photo which was previously the southern bank of the River Mersey. Note also the course of the River Mersey on the bomb map and how the continuation of its course to the right of what is now Loonts Lake can clearly be seen on the satellite image.
Paul Hodgins’ mother lives still at Weston Grove, Northenden. He writes, “She was awoken by the sound of the engine in the distance and looked out of her window to see it fly down the street, engine running! She thinks the engine may have stopped just past the street.”
Meanwhile Peter Smith recorded interviews with a couple of people who say the missile turned to the right and away from Wythenshawe over Gatley or Sharston (though he also cites one person in Stockport who said the V1 was overhead when the engine cut some 3 miles from the impact point…)
V1s certainly did turn or spiral down as the fuel ran out, making it difficult to accurately track the course of the missile from witness accounts. But rather than just turning to the right it is possible the V1 made a u-turn over Wythenshawe Park, hence was seen heading south east by Paul’s mother.
Either way, and taking into account that memories of events are affected over the years by what we see and hear to create a version of the memory, the account told to Paul Hodgins by his mother set him looking at the course of the V1 and leading him to conclude the impact point was to the south west of where it had previously been believed to be. Given he was spot on, his mother’s account certainly has some validity!
Below; Approximate spot the V1 came down.
Below; Shrapnel fragment of a V1 Flying Bomb at a crater on Howden Moor; another of the V1s which fell without causing harm on December 24 1944.