V1 (flying bomb) Vengance weapon site, Hazebrouck
on google earth, the site is 3.8Km south west (244.79 degrees)
of Hazebrouck on the D138 Route de Wallon-Cappel. 50 degrees 42 minutes
32.05N 2 degrees 29 minutes 17.35E.
An excellent new book by Wayne G Sayles, called First to Fall; The William Edward Cramsie Story, includes a chapter on Bois des Huit Rues. 2008 ISBN 978-1-879080-06-5
The descriptions and plans of buildings have been taken from the signs that guide the visitor around this remarkably well preserved site hidden in the woods.
Click Here to see map of the area
From 1942, the German Air Force, The Luftwaffe, developed an unmanned aircraft, a flying bomb known as the V1. This was one of two weapons being developed, the other being a stratospheric rocket. This was to be the V and Hitler hoped it would be used to destroy London, force the UK to surrender and enable him to concentrate his efforts on attacking the USSR.
In order to launch the V1, the Germans begin the construction in the spring of 1943 in France of four large bunkers and 96 bases. These were located from the Cotenin region to the Belgium border. The site at Bois des Huit-Rues was chosen for one of the bases. The construction sites employed German specialists, paid French and Belgium volunteers as well as slave labour on several sites. Prisoners were also used from the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Informed by the Resistance network about the creation of a new weapon, the British photograph suspect sites and then in November 1943 launch a vast bombing campaign, called Operation Crossbow, on the bunkers and 96 bases.
The Germans realize that these bases can be located to easily. They decide to abandon them and use them as a decoy to attract allied bombers; only a few of them were to be used in operation. Around a hundred new bases, comprising few permanent and easily camouflaged buildings, are built during the spring of 1944.
Delayed by the allied landings in Normandy, the flying bomb campaign against London begins on the 13th June 1944. the aircraft was christened V1 (Vergeltungswaffe eins, retaliation or vengeance weapon no 1) by the Nazi propaganda department. During the 80 days (June 13th to Sept 1st 1944) 8,892 V1s are catapulted from the North of France towards London 2,300 reach their target. The number of victims is high (6000 people killed), destruction is considerable and yet the British do not succumb to panic.
The liberation of Northern France by the allied forces at the beginning of September 1944 puts an end to the great V1 offensive against London.
Le Bois des Huit-Rues houses a group of buildings connected by concrete tracks. The Bois is one of the 96 first generation sites built by the Germans 1n 1943 to launch V1s against London. The peculiar shape of the three large storage buildings as seen from the air, led the British to christening them ski sites. Despite heavy bombing by the allies, the site remains in very good condition and most of the buildings survive.
The plan above shows the layout of the V1 launch site.
The list above relates to the plan of the site. Numbered boards are located at key points around the area and explain the different buildings and structures.
1. concrete platform at the begining of the concrete track that leads around the site.
3. Ski shaped storage building.
This large building was intended for the storage of a dozen V1's placed on transport carts without their wings attached. The curve of the entrance was to enable the reduction of the destructive blast effect of an explosion in the event of bombing.
As seen from the air, the construction of this building has the shape of a ski placed on its side. The British therefore nicknamed the first generation V1 launch bases "ski sites". Three buildings of this type existed at each launch complex and all three survive within the woods.
The picture below shows clearly the marks left as a result of an allied bombing raid.
4. shelter for personnel.
Each launch site included three or four half-buried shelters protected by a concrete slab, which would be used as barracks for the troops in charge of launch preperation and firing operations. Three completed shelters and one in the process of construction exist in the bois des huit-rues. Each shelter included two rooms capable of housing a command post, a dormitory, a canteen or an infirmary.
Soldiers in charge of the implementation of the V1's belonged to a special regiment of the Luftwaffe, the 155 anti-aircraft regiment.
5. building for preliminary assembly
A vast concrete platform enabled unloading of V1 trucks on arrival in the launch complex.
Provided with two wide doors at each end, this building contained workshops. It was intended for operations concerning the assembly of parts of the V1, with the exception of the wings that remained on the side of the transport cart. Once the assembly had been completed, the V1's were directed to the ski-shaped storage buldings (already seen at point 3)awaiting launch.
6. temporary storage before launch.
Whilst awaiting dispatch to different buildings in the launch site, this building enabled the temporary storage of either transport carts or V1's after having been unloaded from the trucks.
7. pumping station soft water tank.
This half-buried construction is a pumping station. Each V1 site was equipped with a soft-water tank to avoid scaling the the machinery used for rinsing the launch ramp after a V1 launch if hard water had been used. This water was used in the building that can be seen at point 11.
8. storage for detonators
two small half-buried constructions enabled the storage of the detonators for the V1's explosive charge.
10. non-magnetic building for the adjustment of V1's
These are the ruins of a vast square-shaped building, the Richthaus. The V1 came here from one of the storage buildings to undergo final adjustments before being launched: attaching the wings, fitting of detonators for the explosive charge, adjustment of the flight guidance system to a precise route. This final operation could not be carried out in the presence of magnetic disturbances. This is why the structure of the Richthaus contained no metal components. The door hinges were made of wood or non-ferrous metals.
The foundations of the building included part of the heating, part of the pipes are still visible. The Richthaus was established on precisely the same axis as the launch ramp.
11. workshop for rinsing the steam boiler
The floor of this building/workshop comprised an extremely sophisticated system to evacuate fluids. It included three rooms:
one- for washing the catapults steam boiler (the dampferzeuger) with large quantities of water, after each launch. The purpose of this was to eliminate all residuals of chemical products used in the operation(hydrogen potassium permanganate). The steam boiler, placed on a cart, was attached to the base of the ramp at the moment of launching.
one- housing a compressor for a high pressure water hose to clean the boiler and around the ramp.
one- used for pressurising the compressed air spheres loaded on the V1 and enabling functioning of its guidance instrument.
14. launch ramp
After its arrival in the launch complex, the V1 was placed on a cart. When it came out of the Richthaus, the V1 then had to be placed on the launch ramp. Made up of metal elements and 48m in length, this ramp was tilted to 6 degree from horizontal. The function of the breezeblock walls, still visible today, was to shield from debris; they are positioned in the direction of the centre of London.
In the ramp, a tube enabled the movement of a piston fixed by a hook to the body of the V1. The piston was projected along the tube with considerable acceleration due to extremely high-pressure steam obtained by chemical reaction between hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate.