On the 26th October 1944 a V2 bomb landed in Illford, Essex. Now you may not find this surprising as bombs fell all over London during the war. No it interests me as my ancestors were living in Seven Kings near Illford.
A bit of background first. My Great Grandparents George and Elizabeth Weeds were residents of St Albans Road in Seven Kings during WW2. They lived there throughout the war. They already knew the dangers of war. George was a solider during WW1 and was injured on the Somme. He also lost 2 of his brothers and 2 cousins during the first conflict. Also their only child had been bombed out of his lodgings in Yorkshire in 1940.
Now throughout the war it is believed in the Illford area around 100 people died as a result of the bombings and around 450 were seriously injured. Indeed in the streets surrounding my Great Grandparents home 8 bombs fell according to www.bombsight.org which means they were living in danger all the time.
Can you imagine the terror them and the rest of London felt each night. Would they see the following day? Did they risk sleeping in their beds in the house or did they go to the shelter in the garden if they had one or to one of the large communal ones. Then there was the worry that if they went to the shelters what would have happened if the house was hit. Would you have been able to salvage anything from the wreckage? If you had a shelter in the garden at least you could keep your valuables in the shelter with you.
So what were the V rockets?
The V weapons as they were known were actually called Vergeltungswaffen or Vengeance Weapons. The V1 was also known as the doodlebug. They are sometimes regarded as the original cruise missiles. They were launch at Britain from 1943 to 1945 as well as much of Europe. The beauty of them was they were pointed in the right direction and launched. They was no need for planes and the potential for the loss of pilots and crews. From the Germans point of view they were the perfect weapon. What made these bombs worse for the residents of London was the fact that the V2 rockets were one of the worse as you couldn’t hear them coming.
But they came with a massive cost to human life. The sites were built by slave labourers. Prisoners of war were used on the construction. Many men were taken from the concentration camps to be part of the build. They worked 12 hours a day with little food and water. Death from exhaustion and malnourishment was common. If you didn’t work hard enough you were sent back to the concentration camps and your death.
If you find yourself in Northern France than you can visit the site of a V2 bunker at Blockhaus d'Éperlecques. I went in the 1990’s and I have to say it was a place I never want to go to again. The place has an eerie feel to it. It was a hot day when I went but it felt so cold. Once you are inside the bunker they briefly turn the lights off and I had the feeling of eye’s watching me and people all around me. They are sacks of cement that were to be used in the just left and they have become solid cement bag shaped lumps.
When I went to the Blockhaus I had no idea that the V2 had exploded near where my Great Grandparents lived. In truth I knew they were in London but little else. So to find out some 20-30 years later that for want of a few hundred metres the V2 could have landed on my ancestors. Just another way genealogy research and history can merge together and give an insight into your ancestor’s lives.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!