Flying Bomb – Buzz bomb, Kirschkern (Cherry Stone), Maikäfer (Maybug), Flakzielgerät 76, Vergeltungswaffe Einz (Vengeance Weapon One), Flying Bomb, Höllenhund (Hellhound), Eifel Fright or Doodlebug. If one World War Two weapon has so many nicknamed it must have made an huge impression.
On 13 June 1944 an new weapon was launched again Britain. The V1 Flying Bomb was a fact and fright for the English civilians. The Germans created the world’s first ever cruise missile.
The V1 was designated as a Vengeance Weapon, like the V2 Rocket, V3 Cannon and V4 Rocket. It was made by the Fieseler company, fully named: “Gerhard Fieseler Werke Gmbh” in Kassel Germany. Fi 103 was its factory designation, Hollenhund (Hell Hound) or in earlier days the FZG 76 (Flakzielgerät 76) but it changed to the more popular name Vergeltungswaffe in later days.
The first idea of a flying bomb, back then powered with a piston engine, were presented to the Reichs Air Ministry in 1934, and were rejected. A pilot-less bomb run would save effort, lives, training and pilots who would be needed to defend Germany again allied aircraft. In 1942 the project saw new light and the development of the V1 missile was moved to the Peenemünde Army Research Centre. The first report from use of a new weapon was on 12 August in 1944.
Vengeance weapon deployment
The V1 is mostly known as vengeance weapon used on London but most V1’s were fired at Brussels in Belgium. 2,419 V1 missiles reached London but 2,448 V1’s reached Brussels. Strangely Brussels is hardly known as target during the War. Many V1 Flying bombs never reached its target, due to engine failures, automatic pilots errors, barrage balloons, anti-aircraft guns or wing-tipping Spitfires. V1 flying bombs launched at Brussels, Antwerp of Liege were fired from launch ramps in the German Eifel forest, these got the nickname Eifel Fright by allied forces in the Ardennes and around the German border due to many early crashes.
V1 in Numbers
The Fieseler Fi 103 had a starting mass of 2160 kg and was 7.74 meters long and 5.3 meters of wingspan. It flew with a maximum speed of 640 km/h and had a range of 257 to 286 kilometers with an hit accuracy in a radius of 12 km. After D-Day and the Allied advance into Belgium it became harder and harder for the Germans to launch the V1 effectively at the United Kingdom and they had to find new launch sites and targets within striking distance. The V1 carried a warhead of 850 kilograms, comparable with the 1,000 kg of the V2 Rocket. Almost 30,000 V1 missiles were made, 10,000 fired at Britain, the others mostly on Belgium cities.
The V1 used an Argus AS 014 Pulsejet. A pulsejet differs from a rocket engine for it gives small explosions in a controlled sequence instead of a steady power release. It also gave a distinct sound to the V1.
A manned version of the V1 was built later in the war, the Fieseler Fi 103 Reichenberg. It was not used during the Second World War but was developed and tested nonetheless.
The Walter Catapult
The V1 could be fired from a inclined ramp using a steam powered launch piston which pushed the V1 over the ramp for extra launch speed. The steam powered catapult accelerated the V1 to 320 km/h where the Argus pulse jet took over and took the V1 to its target, a simple gyroscope helped it to stay on target. The Walter Catapult was 48 meter long and inclined to 6 meters high. There were two version of the ramp, a concrete ramp, the Wasserwerk and a lighter system, a field firing position.
The V1 could also be air launched mid air from under a Heinkel He 111 bomber.
The V1 flew a steady flight towards it target, but when the sound of the engine stopped you knew it reached its target and 850 kilograms of explosives came down upon you.