Home   Malling   News   Article

Remains of Nazi V2 terror rocket dug up at St Mary's Platt


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

A team of expert archaeologists have successfully uncovered the remnants of a German V2 terror rocket 77 years after it detonated in a Kent field at speeds of up to 3,300 mph.

Colin and Sean Welch, who run Research Resource Archaeology, began digging on Monday at St Mary's Platt and uncovered the first remnants on Tuesday after excavating a 9.5m hole.

Colin Welch of Research Resource Archaeology explains the finds

This is the sixth V2 site the team have worked on, but Colin Welch explained that every dig was different.

He said: "The rockets would enter the earth at an angle, in this case about 45 degrees. We usually expect to find the most remains at the side of the crater furthest from the entry point, but when we dug there this time there was nothing."

Instead the team found that a bed of ragstone had stopped the rocket's travel underground, so that it was closer to the impact point.

On Tuesday afternoon, the excavator loaned to them by HE Services unearthed the first major find - part of the rocket's combustion chamber.

It was the powerhouse that mixed liquid oxygen with alcohol and produced enough power to send the rockets travelling at a speed of up to 3,300 miles per hour.

Brothers Sean and Colin Welch at the V2 dig at St Mary's Platt
Brothers Sean and Colin Welch at the V2 dig at St Mary's Platt

Sean Welch explained: "Their rockets were travelling so fast. If they hit you, would never have known anything about it."

All the remnants are covered with rust and grime, and it's only after the dig ends that the real work begins.

Each item will be meticulously cleaned and treated with rust solvent chemicals to restore it to as pristine condition as possible, a process that might take 18 months.

Eventually, if the brothers are successful in securing grant funding, the parts recovered from St Mary's Platt will be displayed in an online museum with 3-D photography along with those recovered from other V2 digs at Marden, Lynsted, Cliffe Woods, Ham Street and Horton Kirby.

In any case, a report on the findings will be prepared and filed with the county' historical records officer.

A V2 rocket burner from a previous dig after conservation
A V2 rocket burner from a previous dig after conservation
The first major find: part of the rocket's combustion chamber
The first major find: part of the rocket's combustion chamber
Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany had developed a rocket which could travel at more than 3,000 mph Credit: AP Photo
Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany had developed a rocket which could travel at more than 3,000 mph Credit: AP Photo

What they hope to discover is some of the Nazis' secret source codes, stamped as three letters on various components of the rocket.

Since the war, the meaning of the codes has been discovered, which will mean each item could be linked to the factory where it was made.

Sean Welch said that some parts of the V2 were manufactured in Czechoslovakia, but the rockets' turbo pumps were manufactured at a single factory in Austria.

Mr Welch said: "If only we had known that at the time, we could have bombed that factory and solved the threat of the V2s."

The St Mary's Platt V2 took just minutes to reach England from its launch site in Holland. It exploded at midnight on February 14, 1944.

Shrapnel from the site
Shrapnel from the site
The Research Resource Archaeology V2 dig site at St Mary's Platt
The Research Resource Archaeology V2 dig site at St Mary's Platt

Fortunately, it landed in an open field and there were no casualties.

However, it left a crater that the wartime authorities recorded as measuring around 38ft wide, 32ft long, and 14ft deep.

As in previous sites, the remnants recovered from St Mary's Platt were at a deeper level than the initial crater.

The excavation team has been making live broadcasts, three times a day, from the dig to children at three interested primary schools.

Sean Welch said: "They've been very successful. The children have been looking forward excitedly to each broadcast"

Sean Welch talking about the dig

He said: "Education is what we are all about."

The schools involved are Platt Primary School, Borough Green Primary and Balgowan Primary School in Beckenham.

Throughout the dig, the brothers are being helped by a team of ex-Royal Engineers now working for Pearson TQ, the construction skills training company based at Swanley.

So were the Nazi terror rockets - the V1 and V2 - a success for the Germans? A total of around 3,000 V2 rockets were launched, causing an estimated 9,000 fatalities in the UK.

But each rocket took 30 tonnes of potatoes to produce the alcohol needed for one launch, at a time when the country was suffering extreme food shortages, as well as requiring extensive engineering resources that had to be diverted from other war production.

This was the devastation caused when a V1 flying bomb fell at Smarden, near Ashford, in October 1944
This was the devastation caused when a V1 flying bomb fell at Smarden, near Ashford, in October 1944

Sean Welch said: "Their value was probably more psychological, giving the Germans hope after the tide of war had turned against them."

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.

Sign up to KentOnline's WhatsApp service and find out how else to get your news here.

Read more: All the latest news from Malling

Read more: All the latest news from Weald

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More