V1 Flying Bomb site, Worsley, Then & Now

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V1 Flying Bomb site, Worsley, Then & Now

The morning of Christmas Eve 1944.

People in the UK, especially in the North, probably thought they had seen the last of the Luftwaffe that late in the war.

V1 missiles had previously been launched from sites in France but when the Allies invaded and over ran those places, the Luftwaffe developed a new strategy; V1s were carried beneath Heinkel bombers and 45 were released off the Yorkshire coast aimed roughly at Manchester, to deliver a blow to civilians as revenge for the bombing raids on German cities.

For more on this attack and to link to other sites visited, please click here

The V1 which landed at Worsley, north west of Manchester, came down in the back garden of 18 Woodstock Drive, demolishing the house and that of number 16 and damaging others in the vicinity. Although many were injured, there was only one fatality, 4 year old Brian Walter Ainsbury at Number 20. (note 22 May 2022, thanks to Jan Gore for the corrected details about Brian Ainsbury including the correct spelling of his name)

Morning of Christmas Eve, 1944 on Woodstock Drive, Worsley. There are at least 7 Civil Defence rescuers surrounding this car at the front of the house.

It is evident from the people who remember this attack and have commented on other photos in this series, that their parents were able to quickly identify the sound of the V1’s pulse jet engine, having seen newsreel footage of V1 strikes on London. They knew to take cover quickly, actions which doubtless saved lives.

The missile came in over Stalybridge, Collyhurst and Cheetham Hill before impacting at 05.30.

The couple now living at Number 18 bought the property from a Mr Statham who survived the attack and had his house rebuilt. The V1 had cleared a space in the back garden, they told me, enabling an extension to be included in the new building’s plans.

Details and image above from Peter J C Smith’s excellent book FLYING BOMBS over the PENNINES, 1988.

Link below is to a sound file of a V1 Flying Bomb passing overhead when the engine cuts and there’s a few seconds of silence before the thing falls to earth and explodes.

A V1 about to impact, probably taken in Antwerp. Picture courtesy of Terry Foote, taken by his father.

46 comments on “V1 Flying Bomb site, Worsley, Then & Now
    • Linda Reynolds says:

      My brother (John Cardwell) and myself, Linda lived four doors away at 26 Woodstock Drive.
      I was born in May 1943 so was too young to remember anything but my brother who is 2 yrs older remembers hearing the bomb and our father throwing a blanket over him.
      It blew out our windows and the stairs. The Ainsburys were great friends of our parents and the tragedy of Brian was dreadful David remained a friend of ours for years. The bomb also injured Mr Ainsbury who lost the lower part of his leg. We had to go to live with our grandma in Patricroft whilst our house was repaired. Later my parents bought Millbrow Cafe in Worsley where my father made the best ever ice cream.
      Linda Reynolds (Cardwell)

      • Ian D B says:

        Hi Linda,

        Thank you for adding your family memory of this bombing.

        It’s something that I think about every year, a terrible thing to happen at any time but what a blow for it to happen at Christmas.


        • Julie Wakerley says:

          Hi Ian , I live at 16 Woodstock drive, I was told about the bombing from neighbours when I bought the house. Every Christmas Eve I think about it and that poor little boy . Could I ask is there a way that I could get a copy of the photograph.

          • Ian D B says:

            Hi Julie,
            Which photo would you like? If you can’t download it by clicking on it, please let me know and I will see if I still have the original and will email it to you.

  1. Stezzer says:

    Quite terrifying times to live through. I always enjoy your documentaries of our local history. Hope you had a great Christmas mate, all the very best for 2013.

  2. **Hazel** says:

    It must have been a very frightening time Ian!! An interesting story as well and great to see your before and after photos!! I hope you and the family had a nice Christmas Day!!!:0))

  3. fleabo says:

    wow.. amazing pictures. Thanks for posting and for the links

  4. pasujoba says:

    Thorough research Ian and i like how things l;ink together …i well remember the shrapnel at the V1 site on the moors

  5. mick cooke says:

    can remember my dad saying to me some years ago he was in the raf and could reconise the sounds of different planes when a massersmit came over belper sraffing it with machine gun fire where we lived he heard it before it got there and got every one under cover i had just been born about 4 days old when this happened , it shot all the houses down the road bullet marks are still to be seen on the old houses to this day
    a spitfire was dispatached from derby to sort it out , he got it was flown by a polish pilot, dad said he came over and did the victory roll
    great info ian and old photos i take your photos and info down to the home and show him on my ipad he loves to remernish about the old days in the raf
    thanks ian
    hope i havent bored every one
    with this
    all the best for the new year

  6. amyrey says:

    Frightening to hear what people had to endure at Chistmas time. The events themselves were terrifying, but the underlying fear following them must have been hard to endure.

  7. Reflective Kiwi %-) says:

    Lovely to see another one of your ‘then and now’ stories Ian. Quite fitting with it having occurred at Christmas. Hard to believe looking at the spot today that it holds such history. It’s always fantastic the way you bring these stories and memories back to life and so interesting with your comparison photos. You must add this to the Dec Diary group! %-)
    I hope you had a nice Christmas day… sorry I’ve been scarce these past few days!

  8. Ian D B says:

    Thanks everyone and seasons greetings one and all!

    I will catch up soon – busy Christmas and am back in work now.
    : (

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/mick_cooke_wildlife] Mick those are great memories. I am fascinated to hear about the buildings still bearing the scars of the bullets. Interesting too about how your dad could identify the German aircraft by the sound of its engines. Best wishes to you too.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/32955908@N04] I have added it to the group, wasn’t going to as I didn’t feel it belonged but doing this sort of thing is definitely one of my favourite things – and I have neglected the group of late.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/amybigkiss] Yeah can you imagine. It is very sad. A global war, advanced weapons technology created out of a desire for revenge and resulting in the death of a 6 year old boy on Christmas Eve.

  9. Jainbow says:

    If only Christmas could guarantee no bad news. Thanks for the interesting stories and photos. :~}

    Seen in December
    Diary Project 2012

  10. Reflective Kiwi %-) says:

    Of course it belongs Ian! It’s a story of interest pertinent to December… and as you say is one of your favourite pastimes to research and document! Hey don’t worry about neglecting the group’… we’ve all been pretty busy these past few days . I’d not had the chance to catch up until yesterday either! %-)

    Seen in December
    Diary Project 2012

  11. BarbaraCZ says:

    What a history…. Wonderful of you to share it with us!

    Seen in December
    Diary Project 2012

  12. cgullz says:

    Your presentation of the events and the photos that are connected is always done so well. Very interesting to read the bit about the edu-news reel! Back when the news was worth listening to no doubt, and very unlike now. Sad to have the loss of any life, more so when a young one at what should be a happy time of year. Great work again Ian, and nice that you intro’d this to DDP 12 as a hobby, though the word hobby really doesn’t do such a past time justice, we need to find a better one.

  13. paloetic says:

    a great record of history … it is people like you Ian that help the rest of us to remember

    Seen in December
    Diary Project 2012

  14. SolarScot. says:

    really interesting Ian and quite frightening to think of

  15. Marty 1955 ... says:

    Wow…..what a great story….sad ….but …it’s history …..

    well said and depicted Ian ….. a very thoughtful and repectful post mate

    Seen in December
    Diary Project 2012

  16. Highy says:

    Great notes mate, remember you telling me about this raid.
    Must have been absolutely terrifying to be on the end of any raid but especially these indiscriminate V bomb raids.

    I can well imagine how excited that lad would be about Christmas, such a tragic outcome for the family. Well done bud.

  17. pasujoba says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/angwickham] Pastime …better than hobby !

  18. Orchids love rainwater says:

    Thankyou Ian for your then and now history ! very thoughtful presentation
    Thankyou so much for your kind wishes too, still full of cold…nasty bug… Yep not being able to smell and taste this time of year is not nice 🙁 wishing you and your family a wonderful weekend, all the best, Julie 🙂

  19. Mustang Koji says:

    "Blimey", Ian, you are so darn good at this stuff! I’m happy to have met you! Have a wonderful new year…

  20. cgullz says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasujoba44] ae, there must be a word in the English language that represents ‘dedicated pastime’!

    Thankyou for sharing

    with the War Stories Group

  21. the incredible how (intermitten.t) says:

    great piece of history. The layers of life. the stories and the trails they leave. there is so much to know – I’m sure pupils in school would get a lot out of learning about things that happened where they live – not just the stories of the leaders of the county!

  22. pasujoba says:

    Thankyou for sharing

    with the War Stories Group

  23. PeaceLoveScoobie says:

    Great work Ian. Again, it amazes me how fast technology advanced from the early days of the war in the 1930’s. Sad results for those on the receiving end of those advances.

  24. Tech Owl says:

    Fab work as always Ian – hope you managed a breather over the break.
    Happy New Year to you sir!

  25. crusader752 says:

    Such scenes belie the history behind them Ian but we can always rely on you to tease out the fascinating details. As an Air Cadet we were taught the workings of piston engines, turbo-props’, jet-engines and ram-jets as per the V1’s. Simple but so effective as were many German designs from their prolific engineers. Small wonder so many were ‘seconded’ into the US Space race programme utilising their V2 rocket skills and knowledge. I was always intrigued too by the stories of Spitfire and Meteor pilots ‘tipping’ the V1 ‘Doodlebugs’ off their gyro’s so saving some poor unsuspecting families a sad end like in the story above.

    Like you I’m way behind visiting all my wonderful contacts streams – playing catch up is never easy so I might make it by this time next year!

    Thank you for all your kind and witty comments this last year – much fun and I wish you and yours a wonderful New Year 🙂

  26. SolarScot. says:

    Happy New Year and all the Best for 2013

  27. salfordlad1 says:

    Brilliant, what a fantastic documentary..

  28. John Southerst says:

    I remember – our house was occasion well – our house was close by and the roof was blown off…..It was said that had the missile been a few feet off course it would have hit a tree…


  29. sindsley says:

    My Dad remembered going to look at the site while on Post deliveries in Worsley (he was 15 and still at school, many postmen had joined up so the shortages were filled by school boys). My Mum’s father was in the Home Guard in Worsley and on duty that night, Grandma’s comment as she put his breakfast down was according to family legend- “fat lot of good that tin hat would have been if you’d been nearer!”.
    Earlier in the War, Dad & his best friend hated going into the Anderson shelter and so used to lie on the grass bank in front of Burtons clothing factory on the East Lancs Road watching the planes heading for Trafford Park.
    All of these family stories were passed down to me during the power cuts in the 1970s

    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks for adding these stories from your family’s experience.

      Loads of people used to watch air raids I think, rather than head for the shelters. For that reason the government referred to it in public info films like this one.

      “You must not stand staring up at the sky. That’s the most dangerous thing to do” says the presenter. But I would probably have done what your dad did, at least some of the time.

      A great many people reckoned on the pointlessness of Anderson shelters because they would not stand a direct hit, that it was worth sitting it out in their homes; a direct hit on either would mean the end. A bit like your grandma’s comment about the tin hat!

      Public shelters were even worse, often vandalised and damp and filled with drunks or courting couples, they were not popular and once the initial shock of the air war had past, were not used much at all.

  30. Henry says:

    I currently live at number 16

    Crazy to read about this and imagining what it was like back then, when we first built our house I remember seeing the door to a bomb shelter in the back garden, it’s now covered over by soil but cannot remember it being filled in

    Very happy I got to read this piece

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Henry, thank you for visiting and commenting, glad you found this page.

      Did you know anything of the history when you built the house?

      It’s a shame I couldn’t get a better photo when I visited, not easy to get a photo when the site is in someone’s back garden and underneath an extension!

      • David Chadwick says:

        I grew up in Monton . As a kid in the early/ 1950s we used to play at “the bombed house”
        I recall it was just beyond the fork in the track cutting across the golf course
        We used to ride our bikes there and I recall lists of big holes that we used to whizz down and up the other side
        One of the kids had an old tandem which made things really exciting especially if you were on the back seat
        One of the many trees had a large swastika carved in it and the story amongst the kids was that it had been carved by a German pilot who had landed there by parachute after bombing the house
        Needless to say we all believed it!
        David Chadwick

  31. Harry Powell says:

    1. I remember a night as a little boy living in Cholmondeley Road in Salford 6 during the war. That would be about 3 miles from Worsley. I was sitting on my father’s knee, facing an electric fire. It was dead of night. The following I remember clearly: My father said something like “just a few more minutes”, obviously I should have been fast asleep in bed, I would be from 2 to 4 years old. Mother was sitting a few feet to our left, and I heard her say, in an anxious voice, “What was that?” My brain had not registered any sound or flash. We were facing a window but the curtains would have been drawn I assume.

    2. Years later (probably in my teens) I told Mum about this, and she thought it might have been the night when “Worsley Court House was hit by a doodlebug”.

    3. So I grew up, and in 1986 came to America. In 1992 I got my first IBM PC as they were still called back then. In 1995 I got Internet access for the first time. At that time there were a few search engines but it took another 5 years or so for things a powerful as Google to appear, but ever since 1998, as ideas for things to look for popped into my head, I went fishing.

    4. One day, I decided to Google “Worsley Court house” realizing that was specific enough to get a hit and thinking “you never know your luck”. Well, Bingo! Grubbing around I discovered there was indeed a doodlebug hit near Worsley Court house but it didn’t actually damage the Courthouse. I learned a bit about Worsley Court house, including that it was turned into a hotel and is a grade 2 listed building. To point of all this is that there was now a DATE. So if this is the event that happened late one night I would have been about 3 and a half. My little brother would have been about 6 months (so he was born at least, he wasn’t downstairs with us).

    5. More recently I discovered other references, including the one I am commenting on now.

    6. However it appears that whatever caused Mother to say “What was that?” couldn’t have been the doodlebug hit, or even flying over, or even another doodlebug in the same raid, since at the time I remember it was still dark, and it would be daylight by the time any of these doodlebugs reached the Manchester area.

    At this point I have only one living relative who was adult in 1944, so next time I see her I will ask where she was on Christmas Eve 1944. What I would be interested to know was how much my parents might have known about what was going on. Would the Air Raid Warnings have sounded? While it was still dark? Was that why Mum and Dad brought me downstairs?

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Harry,

      Thank you for your comment and apologies for the late reply.

      Being in Salford, there would have been many air raids, but these mostly in 1940 and 1941 but after that, they thinned out as the Luftwaffe bombers were pulled into attacking Soviet targets.

      This raid on Manchester was launched at between 0500 and 0600 and it took about 30 minutes for the missiles to reach the Manchester area. At say 0630 on Christmas Eve morning, it would still be dark, so you may be right in recalling that?

      And the air raid siren did sound across the area as the missiles came over; by that stage in the war, the air raid sounding would have been a very unusual event. But also people knew the sound of V1s from having seen film of them attacking London in the newsreels at the cinema.

      This page has an overview of the V1 attack aimed at Manchester;



  32. John Southerst says:


    That bomb hit a house at the top of Woodstock Drive near Roy Statham’s house …..One small child did not survive….

    John S.

  33. Mum always told me it was a parachute land mine that hit Woodstock…rightly or wrongly a very sad event

    • Chris Nuttall says:

      Hi Howard.
      The parachute bomb landed in Barton Road behind Granary Lane. It killed two doctors and their children December 1940.

  34. Lee Clare says:

    I thought i saw a flying bomb fly over eccles

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