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Archaeologists to dig on site of Nazi V2 rocket in St Mary's Platt

A team of expert archaeologists hope to further our knowledge about the the Germans' use of V2 terror rockets during the Second World War by excavating the detonation site of a rocket near St Mary's Platt.

Colin and Sean Welch, who run Research Resource Archaeology, will begin digging on the site tomorrow.

Colin and Sean Welch of Research Resource Archaeology
Colin and Sean Welch of Research Resource Archaeology

They know from archive records that the field was where a V2 rocket landed and detonated on February 14, 1945.

Colin Welch said: "When the V1 and V2 rockets first landed, the authorities examined every crash site very thoroughly in order to learn as much as possible about these new weapons. But by February 1945, they were less of a novelty, and received less attention."

That leads the brothers to hope that there will be important remnants of the rocket still to be recovered.

Research Resource Archaeology have been excavating similar crash sites for the past 10 years, and has already unearthed V2 finds at Marden, at Lynsted, at Cliffe Woods, at Ham Street, and at Horton Kirby.

Colin Welch described the current excavation as the perfect site - in a field away from buildings. Importantly it was also a "clean" strike - with no injuries or deaths resulting from the explosion.

A V2 on its mobile launch trailer
A V2 on its mobile launch trailer

Mr Welch said: "It means we can dig unfettered by any unpleasant thoughts - these were after all terror weapons that brought with them a lot of misery."

But the site remains of interest to wartime archaeologists because the dimensions of the impact crater recorded at the time - 38ft wide, 32ft long and 14 ft deep, are larger than usual.

Mr Welch said that ideally the site would yield components with a manufacturer's code that would reveal where it had been made.

Research Resource Archaeology is developing a theory that not all of Hitler's rockets were produced in the tunnels at Nordhausen, as was previously widely believed, but instead made at factories across the Reich.

Although he warned: "Of course, there is always the potential for there to be nothing there."

A previous excavation at Cliffe Woods
A previous excavation at Cliffe Woods

The team have found on previous sites that there is sometimes a second crater, below the first, which has not always been excavated.

Mr Welch explained it like this: "Having studied a V2 impact site at Lynsted with a major excavation defining the original crater profile, we could not understand how the four tons of rocket had basically disappeared on impact with little evidence.

"This led us to decide to excavate a second time (taking out all of the previous 20 metres x 6 metres deep excavation), and to travel deeper - then we discovered that there were finds situated as low as 9.5 metres below the recorded crater.

"We also discovered that the chalk (in that case) had become liquified by the pressure of the supersonic impact, meaning that the lower finds were completely hidden from view by the solidified ‘toothpaste’."

He said: "We then began to realise that the detonation ‘train’ of the one tonne of explosive at the tip of the rocket, while described as being ‘instantaneous’, was not supersonic - it could not keep up with the missile travelling at 3.5 times the speed of sound, so the detonation only happened after the V2 had entered the ground some distance. That distance depends on soil type: in soft ground the rocket travels further before detonating."

Colin Welch, supervising an earlier excavation at Lynsted
Colin Welch, supervising an earlier excavation at Lynsted

Mr Welch "When the missiles hit a target building, this factor did not come into play, since the main body of explosive was still above ground when it went off."

The dig, which is expected to last three days, is being sponsored by Pearson TQ and by HE Services Ltd.

The team will be making a live broadcast, three times a day, to three interested primary schools to help with the children's history projects.

They are Platt Primary School, Borough Green Primary and Balgowan Primary School in Beckenham.

The team will also be Tweeting about the progress of their dig on www.twitter.com/craterlocators

A V2 rocket central turbine spline shaft recovered from the dig at Marden
A V2 rocket central turbine spline shaft recovered from the dig at Marden

Research Resource Archaeology won the 2018 award for Outstanding Archaeological Endeavour from the Council for Kentish Archaeology, for their work on the V2 impact site at Lynsted, near Sittingbourne,

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