V1 attack on Manchester, Christmas Eve 1944

‹ Return to

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


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.

One 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.


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!


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

Below; Video showing a V1 air launched from a He-111, then a captured and repainted V1 being launched from a USAAF B-17

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


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;


These letters 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.





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.

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

    very very cool : )

  2. pasujoba says:

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

  3. Tech Owl says:

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

  4. Ian D B says:

    Many thanks everyone.


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

  5. andyholmfirth says:

    Airfix models ! Great stuff.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  8. Ian D B says:

    many thanks everyone.

    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

  9. het broertje van.. says:

    Brilliant Ian!!!


  10. MikeyColebourne11 says:

    Interesting photo =)

  11. McAlister says:

    A most ominous looking image – very well conceived Iain.

  12. Mike J Chapman says:

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

  13. IANLAYZELLUK says:

    WOW, simply WOW.

  14. 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.

  15. Ian D B says:


    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.

  16. Ray~Watson says:

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

  17. hannes vosgerau | unknown711 says:

    Very cool picture! Great work!

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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?

  22. 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.

      • 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


  23. PAUL RUDD says:

    My dad was an evacuee at Grainthorpe, Lincolnshire that Xmas eve. He was 7 years old and remembers watching the ‘doodlebugs’ shooting across the sky towards Manchester. He was scared and was reassured by his dad telling him it ‘santa coming on a doodlebug’. I’ve been told this story for years and now this report vindicates it. Thanks to all concerned. Any more info required i’ll ask my dad …..

    • Ian D B says:

      Good stuff, thanks Paul. Glad you have been able to show him this.

      I saw your second comment but edited this – your original comment – by the way.


      • PAUL RUDD says:

        Thanks Ian. I doubted his stories presuming that the luftwaffe were just launching small rockets from their planes and not V1s! Do you have any photos of a heIntel 111 with a V1 attached? Did it sit on top of the fuselage?

        • Ian D B says:

          Hi Paul, the air launched V1s sat below the port wing root of the He-111 as shown in this photo, which must have made flying the aircraft far more difficult!


          The photo is from this page, which has a different perspective of the Christmas 1944 attack, it is an account by a Mosquito pilot who shot down one of the German bombers.

  24. PAUL RUDD says:

    Thanks again Ian, done a bit of googling and found this footage of a v1 being launched, https://youtu.be/D_Zy42dEnDg

  25. As a child, my husband was always told that Hitler “tried to get him on the day he was born” – December 24th 1944. Despite a contemporary entry, in my father’s diary for the day that ” First Doodlebugs flew over (Rawmarsh, South Yorkshire) in early hours of the morning” we have been unable to find any evidence of the event until a friend pointed us to your web site. Thanks for confirming the family story.

    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks Joan. Many people say that doodlebugs could not get this far north from the launch pads in Occupied Europe, and therefore dismiss those stories – but they don’t know about the air launched V1s!
      I’m glad you found these pages.

  26. Margi Bassnett Burtin says:

    Trying to verify my childhood memories and this site has done it. My father was in the army but home on leave in Prestwich for Christmas 1944. I was always up early and remember my mum and dad and I standing at our front door in the dark. I don’t remember why we’re doing that. We heard a buzzing sound overhead and my Dad pushed us all to the floor and laid on top of us when the sound stopped above us. He later explained that it was a V1 and that it had drifted a couple of miles away before landing. It must have been the V1 that landed in Radcliffe. Thank you for making my day!

  27. Antony Grundy says:

    Another childhood memory. I would have been 6 years old at the time and remember seeing a V1 flying West over Davenport and also seeing the glare of fires in Manchester. I find it hard to think I would have been woken up at 5 am to see this but the fires would still have been visible on the following evening.

  28. Neil Work says:

    My mother was sent to Croydon to do relief work during the V1 attacks. Many fell in the area because I believe German spies had been ‘turned'(threatened with hanging!) and told to send false reports back of V1 incidents landing further North than in reality.This meant the launch crew shortened the range. This spared Central London at the expense of areas to the South.
    Such as Croydon, which got hammered. So there were many families bombed out.
    In her diary for that period mum just wrote that she wished they could be issued with steel helmets.
    So, she got pretty used to their sound, and knew to duck under something when the motor cut.
    Then, later, after the sites were captured , come Christmas leave,she went up North to spend Xmas with my auntie in Didsbury.
    And a doodlebug woke them. My auntie was just petrified.
    Mum just said not to worry so long as you hear it.Get under the bed when you can’t. Then went back to sleep.

  29. Adele O'Leary says:

    My Grandmother told me that my Great Great Grandfather and his daughter died in Manchester from a German bomb. I have found a death record for him for Jan 1945, in Ashton Under Lyne. He was aged 74 years old. His name was Thomas Lord and his daughter was either Ethel or Hilda Lord. I don’t have an address for him. I’m wondering if he could have been a casualty of the Christmas Eve attack. Do you know where I can find a list of the victims? Thanks very much, I’m researching my family tree here in New Zealand.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Adele,
      Sorry, have drawn a blank here. There were no bombs to fall in the area in 1944 other than the V1s which you mention. The nearest to Ashton was at Matley, Hyde.

      But I have been looking at this site (below) which lists all the dead in the Greater Manchester area, you can search by name or area. No-one called Lord that I could see on the lists.
      Gtr Manchester Blitz Victims

      I also trawled through a number books about air raids on Machester, and a couple specifically about the V1 attack, which also provide lists of casualties. I was looking for a reference to someone called Lord who may have been injured in an earlier attack, only to die later, but I did not come across any.

      Finally, I also found a reference to a Thomas Lord dying at Ashton, but that gives the year 1944, though it is possible he died december 1944 and was buried January 1945? Is it the same? Reference is Tameside : ASH/20/17

      Cheshire Births & Deaths

      So sorry I can’t help Adele, I really thought I would find his name among the V1 victims. There is still a possibility he was injured in one of those attacks and later died of injuries? And I could find no record of a Hilda or Ethel Lord, but tbf, I was really searching for Thomas in the hope it would lead me further.


  30. ALFRED VARLEY says:


  31. Jeremy Sullivan says:

    Hello Ian,

    I have a question regarding this article. Were there any V2 attacks on the 24th Dec 1944, in the early morning or were they just V1’s?

    J Sullivan

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Jeremy, it was just V1s so far as I know.

      • Nigel. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN says:

        Is there any information regarding a V1 near Eyam Derbyshire Christmas 1944. My dad said there was one and it hit them tar boiler in Eyam Quarries. There was a Mine -Glebe Mines in Eyam which supplied high grade flux to the Sheffield Steel Industry and that was the actual target. I remember a huge bang and the windows blowing in.

        • Ian D B says:

          Hi Nigel,

          No V1 missile fell at Eyam, the closest was on the moors above Buxton. Also V1s could not be targetted with that sort of precision, the target of the Christmas Eve 1944 attack was Manchester and of the 45 missiles launched, only one came close.

          I imagine you are thinking of the Luftwaffe low-level attack on the evening of 03 July 1942. Two Ju-88s, the crews of which had failed to find their target (the de Havilland factory near Bolton) and so instead they strafed people on the ground and dropped their bombs at New Mills and Hayfield, killing – I believe – a dozen people. The Ju-88s dropped their last bombs at Darlton Quarry near Eyam (no-one was injured) and strafed Chatsworth House.

          The raiders headed for the North Sea whereupon they were intercepted by 5 Polish crewed Spitfires. One of the Ju-88s was shot down, the pilot making a belly landing in a corn field at Odling’s Farm near Aswardby in Lincolnshire. The crew then walked to the farmhouse and surrendered.

          I’ve sourced a couple of books and webpages for this info, but this page (link below) has the full story and includes a long range photo of the quarry after the attack, among many others. It is an excellent bit of research and reporting.

          Frank Pleszak’s blog


  32. Jeremy Sullivan says:

    My Mother pass away a few years ago and I have recently been sorting out her old PC. Over the years she often spoke about her WRAF days during the war, and below I found a couple of her accounts of 24 December 1944. I have included these two as there seems to be a slight contradiction as to the amount of V1 splitting on her radar screen. I guess old age might have something to do with her recollection.

    1st account
    The 1944 early morning raid on 24 December 1944 I remember well. I was a radar operator on night duty at RAF Stenigot and was the first person to pick up the incoming raiders on the CRT ( Cathode Ray Tube)
    in front of me. They were about 100 miles distant and coming almost directly towards our station . Filter Room had nothing on their table and asked if the signals could be birds . As the range shortened other stations along the coast began to report and panic set in . At about 50 miles I reported that they looked like V1’s when each track split into three with one starting to retreat and the other two coming on towards the coast. They were then identified as Hostile. Once they crossed the coast the ROC were plotting them but as some of them were heading our way a couple of people went out and saw two of them, one almost overhead.

    In 1944 Radar was still Very Secret so no mention of our part was ever made public at that time .

    2nd account
    Memories of 24 December 1944
    Ex-Radar Operator – LACW in the WAAF

    Today is my 83rd birthday so my memory is obviously not what it was but I recall events in the distant past in greater detail than something which happened last week.

    In answer to your questions, I was stationed at RAF Stenigot, a CH radar station, inland of Louth, Lincolnshire on six weeks “loan” from RAF Stoke Holy Cross near Norwich where I had been involved in trying to plot V2s. Four “senior” LACWs were loaned to Stenigot, one to each Watch as extra help for senior NCOs newly arrived back in this country after years overseas and who had no experience of the latest equipment.

    On the night of 23/24 December I was on the night watch, ie 11pm 23rd to 8am 24th There was little or no activity as far as I recall and none expected . I can’t remember how many people were on watch, possibly eight or nine, certainly no more. It was usual practice to have an hour each on the various positions which had to be manned, some could be doubled up at very slack times as on this occasion. After an hour “on the “tub” ie looking at the screen ,the cathode ray tube, for signs of aircraft activity , the following hour was free. My turn came at, I think,2pm. Some of the girls were making paper decorations for the Christmas entertainment and we were chatting idly, to help keep alert. Now this is where my story gets a little technical

    The Ch stations had a B system , the ‘gap filler’, with aerials set at different heights to the main ones. This occasionally picked up a/c that were not visible, or very faint on the main receiver. It was accepted practice to go over to the gap system every ten minutes just to see if there was anything on it. Sometime after taking over, I do not recall how long, I idly pressed the B button and saw to my great surprise numerous echoes at say 80 miles or so heading towards the coast . Immediately I asked Filter Room if they had any activity on the table, “No” they said with the usual question,” Are you sure it’s not birds?” By this time the echoes had come in to around 50 miles from our coast line and as I was watching, each echo suddenly started to split into two: one starting to retreat while the other one continued towards us. At this point I told Filter Room that they looked like V1s to me, having seen them once before at a previous station. By now other stations had got them on their screens, the CHLs would have good sightings. Filter Room was in a Panic and we had to ring down to camp to get our Technical Officer to come up to the Operational site. .At least two of the flying bombs passed over us, one quite close according to a couple of people who went outside to look for them. I had exceeded my one hour stint in front of the screen but was asked to stay on until all the plots had crossed the coast. From what I remember the V1s must have crossed the coast over quite a wide area as they were well spaced out. Of course we soon started to plot our own Fighters going out after the German raiders .
    From the plots which we passed to the Filter Room, I was asked to try and draw a map of the tracks before going off duty. I had never seen this done before and did not see it done again but we just did as asked in those days without question .

    After a night watch most stations did the 6pm to 11pm that same evening. Hence I was on watch that night, Christmas Eve 1944. Needless to say, there was a full watch instead of the skeleton watch which would have been the norm. We were not given much information and I thought Nottingham was as far as any V1 had reached . I believe the station received a ‘ Good Work ‘ message of acknowledgement but I guess we soon forgot all about the event as just another episode in daily life. It was what we called a ‘bind’ for a while, having a full watch with the Tech. Officer on duty and not much flying.

    It did not register with me as a special event at the time and it is only in the past decade that I have learned the full story even though I can say that I was the first person to have picked up the V1s on that fateful night. I was surprised to learn very recently that one flying bomb had actually reached the outskirts of Chester, where I have lived for many years.

  33. Peter Sharman says:

    I was wakened at 5.30 a.m. on Christmas Eve 1944 by an enormous explosion. I was 7 years old, living in Wythenshawe at the time about 2 miles from the crash site. I do not recall any comments about this at the time either by other local kids or adults.
    It was only about 5 years ago I learned the reason for the “Big Bang” all those years ago.
    Often pass the resulting lake formed whilst driving on the M60.

  34. Karl Simpson says:

    My Mother always talks about the time she saw a doodlebug flying overhead when she was 7-8 yrs old. She lived in Dewsbury West Yorkshire at the time and now thanks to this page I have been able to tell her a lot more about that sighting. thank you

  35. Paul says:

    I live quite near the Oldham doodlebug crash site. My Mother used to tell me about another bomb falling in the area, on Cranberry Street. Do you have any information or pictures of this please?

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Paul,

      Yes there are a few comments about the Cranberry Street bombing on this post on here about the air raid of 12 October 1941 which killed 27 people and injured 47 people.

      Looking at the thread, I initially thought people were referring to the V1 but it’s evident it was the 12 October 1941 raid.

      It may be possible to pinpoint the exact spot, this webpage provides the address of one person killed being at number 22. I just looked on Google street, hoping to see a gap among older houses or a newer built house, but it looks like it’s all new builds now.

      Finally, I found this image of the bomb damaged Cranberry Inn on a pdf. It is from the Oldham Record of 13 October 1944 and was inlcuded in the Life Story of Audrey Pettigrew, via AgeUK.


      Hope this helps,


  36. Rose White says:

    My mother claimed a V1 landed on the hills above Mirfield, West Yorkshire at some time.
    Over the hill were the huge ICI and LBHollidays chemical works making explosives.
    This list says one landed at Grange Moor which is close to Hopton.
    Also says one landed at Barmby Moor, East Yorks where there were several big airbases.
    If the missiles had been launched in the general direction of builtup areas then they weren’t very accurate but if the pilots had been given acurate aiming and launch points and managed to get withing a mile of ICI or the Barmby base then we have to accept the missiles were quite advanced!

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. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *