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V2 rocket explosion site in Cliffe Woods near Strood excavated by archaeologists


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Archaeologists exploring the site where a wartime V2 rocket exploded hope 3D imaging produced by their dig will reveal more secrets.

Excavations in Cliffe Woods near Strood were carried out last month and the surveys produced will provide "groundbreaking" new research about the Second World War weapon.

The team working on the dig. From left: Alice Leader, Andy Wall and Andy Kay of JC White Geomatics, Dan Tuson, Colin Welch of Research Resource, Colin Dimmock and Sean Welch of Research Resource
The team working on the dig. From left: Alice Leader, Andy Wall and Andy Kay of JC White Geomatics, Dan Tuson, Colin Welch of Research Resource, Colin Dimmock and Sean Welch of Research Resource

Colin Welch and his team of experts carried out the two-day dig which also included live streaming to future archaeologists in Australia via Zoom.

They will now spend the next year writing up a report for the historic environment officer at Kent County Council based on the evidence found about the rocket's impact.

Mr Welch, who runs Research Resource which investigates the science behind the German weapons, said the 3D image will document all the major finds from the dig providing details about how the missile landed and give more information about their construction and how they worked.

The Cliffe Woods site sparked interest for the team because of the more shallow and narrower nature of the crater caused compared to many other V2 sites.

On average, the V2 rockets created holes about 35ft wide and 10ft deep which were recorded at the time of impact.

Archaeologists dig up a V2 rocket explosion site in Cliffe Woods near Strood in the hope of finding out more about the Second World War weapon
Archaeologists dig up a V2 rocket explosion site in Cliffe Woods near Strood in the hope of finding out more about the Second World War weapon

But the site at Cliffe Woods caused a crater just 27ft wide and only 5ft deep.

The rocket impacted on November 11, 1944 at about 3.40pm – one of thousands to fall on south east England and London in the second half of the war.

According to reports, it did not cause any loss of life but "destroyed trees for a radius of 55ft".

Early theories from the dig suggest the crater was smaller because detonation of the rocket happened when it impacted the trees rather than the ground causing fewer finds than normal, Mr Welch said.

He said: "The most important factor about this excavation is the involvement of the digital surveying team, who will produce a 3-dimensional ‘photographic’ image in which the major finds positions relative to each other will be indicated. This will be ground-breaking and I am looking forward to seeing it.

"There was substantial degradation of the finds. Having said that, they were still identifiable, and I believe that conservation work will reveal a good story.

Colin Welch has been involved in several digs investigating V2 rocket technology including an excavation in Lynsted near Sittingbourne in 2018. Picture: John Westhrop
Colin Welch has been involved in several digs investigating V2 rocket technology including an excavation in Lynsted near Sittingbourne in 2018. Picture: John Westhrop

"All of the major finds positions were recorded and will be manually added to the digital 3D programme.

"The total finds weighed half a tonne and months of conservation will follow. The processing of the data by the surveying team will take a couple of weeks."

The team secured permissions from Natural England and landowners before carrying out the work.

A V2 rocket launched in the summer of 1943. Picture: German Federal Archive/Wikipedia
A V2 rocket launched in the summer of 1943. Picture: German Federal Archive/Wikipedia

The V2 - the successor to the infamous V1 rockets known as Doodlebugs because of the humming noise before their deathly descent – were far larger and had a longer range than the V1s.

They were the world's first guided ballistic missiles and were used extensively by the German military against civilian targets in Britain and against troops following D-Day and the liberation of Europe.

Many of the scientists who worked on the projects for Adolf Hitler's regime were captured by American and Russian troops to gather intelligence on rocket technology which fuelled the space race between the two countries during the Cold War.

An estimated 9,000 civilians were killed by V2 attacks and 12,000 labourers and concentration camp prisoners died as a result of being forced to help with production of the weapons.

Mr Welch and his team have also excavated a V2 which landed in Lynsted near Sittingbourne .

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