The last V2, and the end of enemy action on British soil

Ruined flats in Limehouse, East London. Hughes Mansions, Vallance Road, following the explosion of the last German V2 rocket to fall on London, 27 March 1945.

Ruined flats in Limehouse, East London. Hughes Mansions, Vallance Road, following the explosion of the last German V2 rocket to fall on London, 27 March 1945.

The last V2 to cause a fatality had landed in Orpington in Kent on the 27th March, there is an account on BBC People’s War. Ivy Millichamp became the last civilian to become a fatal casualty of enemy action on British soil during the war, the last of 67,100 civilian deaths during the war. She was the only fatality of the Orpington explosion, although earlier in the day 134 people had been killed in the second worst V2 incident of the whole war at Stepney in East London. The disparity in casualty figures merely reflects the randomness of the V2 attacks.

Ivy Millichamp who died aged 34 when a V2 rocket hit her home in Kynaston Road, Orpington.

Ivy Millichamp who died aged 34 when a V2 rocket hit her home in Kynaston Road, Orpington.

Of course nobody knew for certain that this was the last V2 action and there was no public commemoration of the event, then or later. The British government was doing its best to keep the lid on news of the attacks.

The devastation at Kynaston Road, Orpington where housewife Ivy Millington was killed in her kitchen by Hitler's last V2 rocket.

The devastation at Kynaston Road, Orpington where housewife Ivy Millington was killed in her kitchen by Hitler’s last V2 rocket.

The last enemy action of any kind on British soil had occurred on 29 March 1945, when a V-1 struck Datchworth in Hertfordshire. It exploded harmlessly in fields. Since the German V1 launch sites were well out of range of Britain by now, it must be presumed to have been an air launched rocket.

On 23rd March 1945 a V2 rocket had landed on Uppingham Avenue in Stanmore, North London. Civilian defence worker George Beardmore reflected on the aftermath of the incident and the impact it had had on local people, in his diary a week later:

30 March

Another rocket, and worst of the lot, landed at the top of Uppingham Avenue. I remember some time ago cycling down Weston Drive into Uppingham and thinking that if a rocket landed there it would make a right mess. And it had, if only because the damned thing had landed plumb on all three mains — water, gas, electricity. Water and gas had become mixed with the result that far down the hill in Kenton householders were being warned by loud-hailers from police-vans not to make use of any of the services.

I don’t have anything to do with the service engineers but, my word, they had arrived first according to report, and were still busy repairing and making up when I left. The rocket had landed at 3.40 in the morning, killing nine people among whom was a 9-year-old boy who had been flung out of bed, through the rafters, and into a back garden ten houses away – at first, nobody had been able to find him.

As I watched the mass funeral (Union ]ack, Bishop of Willesden, Civil Defence, WVS, and the Controllers’ cars lined up for three hundred yards) tears came to my eyes not with the grief and distress caused to survivors but with the incalculable trouble to which they will be put, months and years of it, before they can resume any sort of normal life and the incident becomes only a tale to tell to the grand-children.

Even obtaining an everyday thing like soap has its problems, let alone the replacement of identity-cards, ration-books, personal papers, with which I can give some help. In fact, I suggested to the WVS that they leave some bars of soap in my office for dispensation; it duly arrived, and within a day it had all gone.

Also here for the first time I had an official from Public Assistance sitting at my side, giving away money — not loaning, giving.

This incident was also made memorable by the office I had set up suddenly catching fire, provisionally put down to a short in the electricity supply creating a spark that set alight a small gas-leak. Luckily only seven or eight of us were inside the house, and we managed to get out in a mad scramble without casualty.

A moment later, in the street and watching the blaze, which had started at the back, I remembered the infinite pains with which the WVS had gathered and collated information about the inhabitants of the affected houses before and after. Without thinking twice about it I threw myself inside, swept the papers up in my left arm and while shielding my face with my right arm bolted outside again.

The only damage resulted from the right side of my head catching fire. At least, there was a strong smell of burning and I found the hair singed off. No medals for rescuing papers. Now if they had been a baby instead…

Last week the famous crossing of the Rhine at Remagen. According to the press one might think that we had had little opposition (Frankfurt taken, General Patton eighty- five miles into Westphalia) but my guess is that such optimism is on a par with the paucity of news about rockets.

Here at Harrow we hear some of the bangs and occasionally get the things ourselves but according to Jean’s aunt at Blackheath (not wholly reliable, I shouldn’t think) they hear and sometimes get four every hour. Group reports come through daily as 48 dead or 19 dead or 22 dead.

Only as far away as Buckinghamshire the peasantry knows nothing of rockets, and in Manchester all they learn is from one line of news in the paper: ‘In south England there was some enemy activity. Casualties and damage are reported.’ As I said before, it’s like trying to conceal news of an earthquake.

See George Beardmore: Civilians at War: Journals, 1938-46

A scene of devastation following a V2 rocket attack, somewhere in the south of England. In the foreground, a casualty is being carried away on a stretcher, whilst in the background, Civil Defence workers continue to search through debris and rubble, checking for any other survivors. The remains of a building can also be seen. According to the original caption, the rocket fell here "about two hours ago".

A scene of devastation following a V2 rocket attack, somewhere in the south of England. In the foreground, a casualty is being carried away on a stretcher, whilst in the background, Civil Defence workers continue to search through debris and rubble, checking for any other survivors. The remains of a building can also be seen. According to the original caption, the rocket fell here “about two hours ago”.

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