V1 attack on Manchester, Christmas Eve 1944

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Luftwaffe V1 attack on Manchester, Christmas Eve 1944

After the air raids of 1940 and 1941, the North of England saw little of the Luftwaffe following Hitler’s decision to go to war with the Soviet Union. German bombers were pulled from attacking British cities and while V1 Flying Bombs and V2 rockets fell on London and the South East, they could not get as far north as Manchester from the launch ramps in Occupied Europe.

However on Christmas Eve 1944, 45 Doodlebugs were launched off the Yorkshire coast from beneath Heinkel He111 bombers flying over the North Sea. The bombers released the V1s aimed at Manchester, then turned back to base. Many of the missiles landed harmlessly; the worst was at Abbey Hills Road in Oldham where 27 people were killed.

Below; my not very good attempt at showing what a V1 in flight might have looked like… If you squint and use your imagination.

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Some stats about this air attack;

45 V1s were launched in total.
31 crossed the Yorkshire coast, while 14 fell in the North Sea.
Only 7 fell within the built up area of what is now Greater Manchester, and only 1 missile (out of 45) fell within the Civil Defence Area for Manchester (that one was at Didsbury).
It was the furthest north V1s were ever used.

42 people were killed in the attack.
109 were injured, of which 51 people were seriously injured.

The V1s were launched between 0500 and 0600 on the morning of Christmas Eve 1944.
It took about 30 minutes from launch to the missiles falling to earth.

Typically buildings were damaged up to a mile away. The missiles could not be guided with accuracy, hence they came down in fields, on the moors as well as in towns. Sometimes they would turn round or spiral down. A few of the Doodlebugs were well off target, one landing near Chester, one as far north as County Durham while another came down at Woodford in Northamptonshire.

1 of the attacking Heinkel 111s was shot down over the North Sea by Mosquito TA 389 while another was damaged by Mosquito HK 247 and crash landed at Leck in Germany, killing one of the crew.

Map showing where the V1 missiles fell, click here to view the map and list of all locations.

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From the numerous testimonies beneath the photos on this site from people who were there, it is clear that although V1s were unheard of in the north of England, people quickly recognised the tell-tale sound of the Argus pulsejet engine from having seen newsreels of V1 attacks on London. Consequently they reacted quickly, getting children to hide under their beds.

Links to photos of the V1 bomb sites from this attack I have visited.

Stockport, Cheshire

Matley, Cheshire

Edgworth, Lancashire

Howden Moor, Derbyshire

Sowerby, Yorkshire

Tottington, Lancashire

Oldham, Lancashire

Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire

Radcliffe, Manchester

Worsley, Manchester

Black Edge, Buxton

Macclesfield Forest, Cheshire

Didsbury, Manchester

About V1 Flying Bombs

V1s were over 27 feet long with a wingspan of 17 and a half feet. They carried an 850 kg warhead and flew at about 400mph.

Also called Buzzbombs (on account of the noise of the pulsejet engine) or Doodlebugs, the V1 was part of Hitler’s Vergeltungswaffen programme, i.e. ‘revenge weapons.’ There was no intention to attack particular targets which might assist the war – ordnance factories or airfields, for example. V1s could not be aimed with such precision. Instead the intention was to strike terror among British civilians as revenge for what the Allied airforces were doing to German civilians.

Below; A V1 about to impact, probably in Antwerp. Picture courtesy of Terry Foote, taken by his father. You have to admire the bravery of the (American) photographer!

V1

Below; sound file of a V1 flying bomb passing overhead before the engine cuts and there’s the silence before the thing impacts.

Had V1s been in use earlier in the war, the outcome may have been very different. They were cheap, involved no risk to Luftwaffe personnel, put RAF fighters on the defensive and caused massive damage when they hit built-up areas, as well as affect the morale of British civilians. V1s were the first cruise missiles.

There was not much in the way of a guidance system, a basic autopilot kept the flying bomb stable, using the rudder to steer rather than the weapon needing to bank. A propeller on the nose counted down to the intended target area, at which point the weapon would be put into a steep dive. This caused the fuel flow to be cut, meaning people on the ground knew that if the overhead V1 suddenly went quiet, it was about to impact. The Luftwaffe got round this flaw and later models went into a powered dive with no warning.

V1s were in use from the summer of 1944. Although the majority were launched from ramps in occupied Europe and aimed at London, over a thousand were air launched from beneath Heinkel bombers over the North Sea.

Below; Cutaway image of a V1 from wikipedia commons

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V1s were painted pale blue/grey underneath with olive drab on the upper surfaces. The inside of the metal was painted red.

Sometimes propaganda leaflets, mini copies of Signal magazine and ‘POW letters’ were stashed in canisters in the missile. As the engine cut, the canisters were ejected and, the Germans hoped, the material would be picked up by British civilians. Many did so out of curiosity. This is an example;

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These letters were were genuine. The idea of these Prisoner of War letters was that someone would pick them up and one would eventually make its way to the relative, whereupon the person would write to their relative in a POW camp, and the Germans would know then where the letter was found and thus where their missile fell… It was a long shot really, depended on the letter getting to the relative and then the relative obligingly telling the German censor how they came about it!

Pages from Signal magazine Nr 17 which were in the V1s used against Manchester on 24 December 1944 from Gothicstamps.com.

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Lead photo; an Airfix model of a V1 suspended from the ceiling and photographed out of focus and layered over a photo of the moon.

41 comments on “V1 attack on Manchester, Christmas Eve 1944
  1. Through Collette's eyes says:

    very very cool : )

  2. Sebastian.Schneider says:

    Great picture!

  3. nondesigner59 says:

    Neat work.!!

  4. bill_fawcett says:

    Nicely done Ian and again, very interesting commentary.

  5. pasujoba says:

    Brilliant work Ian , it must be very satisfying to be able to still find these sites .

  6. SolarScot. says:

    well done Ian

  7. mick cooke says:

    nice one ian well done very interesting story to go with the photos
    take care

  8. **Hazel** says:

    Brilliant shot Ian, wonderful work to create this photo!!!:-) Thanks for the information on the 1944 attack!!

  9. Nate Parker Photography says:

    what a crazy shot, great history description, and i haven’t heard the term doodlebug in this context in the longest time- right on Ian, have a good one Bub-

  10. Tech Owl says:

    Well put together Ian – and I though you were getting better at your moon shots …

  11. Ian D B says:

    Many thanks everyone.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/25514319@N02]

    only after doing this I realised I could’ve used one of yours!

  12. Billy Currie says:

    very creative and great info as usual

  13. stuant63 says:

    very striking piece of work – looks menacing

  14. C J Paul (chris) says:

    cracking picture ian great idea love it mate…

  15. andyholmfirth says:

    Airfix models ! Great stuff.

  16. P_H_I_L_L says:

    From the thumbnail, I thought ‘no way, amazing’. Then from the initial description I thought it was a bit funny, then reading more I totally got it. Very different obviously from your usual shots, but with your usual indepth history.

  17. 5DII says:

    Another interesting shot and information, thanks.

    My dad, and his brother, was blown over by a V1 ‘landing’ in Bethnal Green, London. They were bowled over but otherwise unharmed.

    Bill

  18. Reflective Kiwi %-) says:

    Very clever and creative shot. That original of the V1 about to impact is an amazing shot too. i’ll have to come back later and have a proper look through all the links! You put a lot of work into your images Ian. I always enjoy your ‘history lessons’ %-)

  19. Ian D B says:

    many thanks everyone.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/22323192@N03]
    Bethnal Green Tube Station, as you will probably know Bill, was the scene of a dreadful civilian disaster when people panicked and surged forward while seeking shelter during an air raid. Pleased your Dad and your Uncle survived the blast!

    Photo on wirewiping’s stream;
    Bethnal Green Tube Disaster 3rd March 1943 - 67th Anniversary

  20. het broertje van.. says:

    Brilliant Ian!!!

    Janwillem

  21. MikeyColebourne11 says:

    Interesting photo =)

  22. McAlister says:

    A most ominous looking image – very well conceived Iain.

  23. Mike J Chapman says:

    An imaginative idea Ian, and a picture very well taken.

  24. IANLAYZELLUK says:

    WOW, simply WOW.

  25. bandman12 says:

    I came late to your flickr party… so only now discovering some of this. Your stream really is a lot of interesting history illustrated through the photos. Quite nice. Striking image, well imagined and created, and interesting narrative.

  26. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/51809269@N08]

    Thank you very much. It is how I mostly use Flickr, never intended it that way, but just found myself photographing things and places that interested me.

  27. Ray~Watson says:

    Nice work… really creative! A great idea which has worked excellently!

  28. hannes vosgerau | unknown711 says:

    Very cool picture! Great work!

  29. purplewon2000 says:

    Amazing photo.

  30. cgullz says:

    great creativity and effect with this photo. !! scary that shot showing the V1 about to impact !! brave photographer!!

  31. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/angwickham] I know, I think that every time I see it!

  32. james mclaren says:

    On x-mas eve 1944 at beswick in manchester my familly was in a street air shelter during an air raid alert.I was sent to return an empty cocoa jug to our home a few yards away. It was a moonlight and as I crossed the street a shadoww passed over my head.it was a v1 bomb gliding silently to its doom.I was 10 years old

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi James, a scary memory to have, thanks for adding that. Your parents must have thought air raids were a thing of the past, the sirens had barely sounded at all throughout 1944 – until Christmas Eve.
      Best wishes to you and yours for a peaceful Christmas 2013!

  33. Elephant says:

    My Great Aunt was in the raid on Oldham.I was born on a street two away from Abbeyhills and my Mother often talked about the raid.I remember there were new houses in the gap where the Doodlebug had dropped which looked very strange.The raid was designed to destroy Manchester.

  34. Chris Lucas says:

    I was five and in a shelter at 61 Kingston rd.Didsbury with my family when it went over and hit just down the road. We heard the engine cut out and then the bang.Went to have a look in the morning but it was cordoned off. My grandfather worked at the Shirley Institute.

  35. Regan, Kevin says:

    Christmas Eve 1944, Our farm at Scammenden had no gas, electricity or water suply…there was the wells and rivers. The search lights were the only glow – piercing the sky on a distant horizon. The bombers were occasionally illuminated like dancing fish – a dance macabre a fish bowl, flying into the ground as the ack ack pierced their armour.
    As time passed, they perfected intercontinental rocketry, indeed, inter world rocket science, to be sure.
    Pitch black, the moors make only a sound of absolute silence. Clean, clear, unspoilt. They launched their vengance weapons from the under carriage, launched when near the Yorkshire coast. Five ballistic missiles flew over head. I fell into the grass and froze, what on Gods earth is this, witchcraft, fire in the sky – manchester must be the target, the end of days?

  36. Kevin Murphy says:

    Absolutely brilliant, thanks Ian.
    I’m doing a study of the POW camp system as applied in WW2 Britain, based on local testimony from South Yorks to South Notts.
    I include the Heinkel shot shot down over Gringley Carr and capture of 4/5 of crew as POWs and burial of the Squadron Leader.
    One of my informants saw 3 of the Doodlebugs fly over Gringley and ‘one landed by Scaftworth bye-pass’. He may have confused it with the Heinkel – 2 of the men were captured there.
    I see other detail that it landed near Mount Pleasant Rossington. a few hundred Yards from RAF Finningley!
    Have you any details on that and Sturton – On Christmas Eve 1944 at 5:45 AM a German V1 “Doodlebug” flying bomb landed and exploded at Sturton. http://www.sturtonward.org.uk/world-wars/ please?
    I had just a few days ago tried to make my own map, but please may I use yours for PowerPoint presentations, please? – with credit of course?

    • Ian D B says:

      Feel free to use the map Kevin, plus anything else you need. Am just off out now but will have a look later re; Sturton. Have you a deadline as am a bit busy this weekend – i.e will it wait till next week?

      You may have already seen them, but in the Britain at War section of this website there are a few stories about internment and PoW camps in Bury and Oldham.
      http://aircrashsites.co.uk/britain-at-war/

      • Kevin Murphy says:

        No rush at all. Many thanks – the ‘Gringley and Beckingham Blitz* + POW’ talk is not until Autumn, but I have others on the POW system in which I include the Heinkel and general war experience of Bassetlaw, Notts, Sheffield.
        I have testimony of people from the *two worst bombs, one of whom saw the Doodlebugs. Sturton is just South of Beckingham and Rossington just west.
        I have found lots of support from Aircrashsites, thanks

        Kevin

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "V1 attack on Manchester, Christmas Eve 1944"
  1. […] northern England. BBC Shropshire has an account of a V1 from this raid that fell outside Newport. Aircrash Sites has analysis of where the V1s fell around […]

  2. […] via V1 attack on Manchester, Christmas Eve 1944 | aircrashsites.co.uk. […]

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