The Germans called it
“Vergeltungswaffe” which means retaliation weapon, is was soon shortened
The V1 was easy to build and
did not use up too many scarce resources, like aluminum and aviation
fuel. It did not need a pilot, the Germans being very short of all
The V1 factory at Peeumunde on
the Baltic was damaged by the RAF. This Caused the production of the V1
to be delayed by six months (until June 1944) and by this time the
Americans had liberated Normandy.
The V1 flying bomb was a small
pilotless aircraft, powered by a pulse-jet engine.
Due to shortages of aluminum,
a good majority of the craft was made from steel, and later the wings
were even made from wood.
The V1 was not manufactured
to aircraft tolerances so the performance varied considerably between
The engine would be started
and then the craft was catapulted up to flying speed from the ramp, as
would a fighter on an aircraft carrier.
A pre-set compass guided the
craft and a crude automatic pilot kept it on course. The range, a
maximum of 250 kms was decided by a device that counted the revolutions
of a small propeller fixed in the nose, when the set number of
revolutions was reached the fuel was cut off and the flying bomb
stalled, and an impact fuse exploded the 850 kg warhead.
Early in the trials the bomb
could not be made to fly in a straight line, and so a craft was built
with rudimentary controls and a woman test pilot volunteered to fly the
bomb to see what was going wrong. The fault lay in the compass guidance
system and was soon rectified.
The V1 was designed to bomb
England without the loss of aircraft, as at this time the RAF had
mastery of the skies and German losses were high.
The Germans also thought the
V1 would be an instrument of terror and the first bombs were launched
against London on June 13th 1944. Of the 10,000 launched some 7,500
crossed the channel and 3,957 were shot down before reaching their
targets, 2,419 reached London, 30 dropped on Southampton and Portsmouth,
one even reached Manchester.
Over 6,000 people lost their
lives due to the V1 and over 18,000 were injured.
Over 12,000 were launched
against targets in Europe, mainly against the city of Antwerp.