How did Britain respond to the threat of attack by missiles in 1943?
In 1939, Britain and her allies went to war with Germany and her allies. To begin with, Germany was very successful in defeating her enemies. In the first two years of the war, German bombers attacked British cities causing great damage and loss of life. Roughly 43,000 people were killed and two million made homeless by the bombing. However, by 1943 the tide of war was turning and Germany was on the defensive.
It was then that intelligence of a new threat to Britain's cities began to emerge - missiles and rockets. The V1 missile, once launched, flew without a pilot until it ran out of fuel and came crashing down, blowing up. The V2 rocket was a long distance weapon that could travel at the speed of sound. You will investigate how serious a threat these weapons were to Britain in 1943.
- Is Peenemunde part of the German rocket project? Should it be bombed? Give reasons for your answer.
- Is Wissant part of the German rocket project? Should it be bombed? Give reasons for your answer.
- Is Watten part of the German rocket project? Should it be bombed? Give reasons for your answer.
How good was the advice you gave?
1a. Yes: 10 points No: 0 points
Should we bomb Peenemunde?
There was clear evidence that the Germans were developing a long-range rocket there. This site was so dangerous that it had to be attacked as soon as possible.
1b. Yes: 1 point No: 9 points
Should we bomb Wissant?
While answering yes is not completely wrong, it was decided not to bomb the suspected launch sites at the time.
1c. Yes: 8 points No: 2 points
Should we bomb Watten?
This site turned out to be where the fuel was put into the rockets. So it was very dangerous and had to be attacked.
Score of 27
Excellent, you could not have given better advice. If the Germans were allowed to develop their missiles and rockets, then huge destruction could have been caused to British cities. You are going to be promoted.
Score of 15 or above
Well done, you have given good advice. If the Germans were allowed to develop their missiles and rockets, then huge destruction could have been caused to British cities.
Score of 14 or less
You have given poor advice. If the Germans were allowed to develop their missiles and rockets, then huge destruction could have been caused to British cities. You are in danger of being transferred to the Ministry of Food where your job will be to give advice on nothing more serious than how to make tasty meals using powdered eggs.
1. Read Sources 1 and 2. You must advise the War Cabinet on the threat level from three sites: Peenemunde, Wissant and Watten. These sites are believed to be part of the German rocket project. Read the documents and then answer the questions.
- Experimental station
- Factory workshops
- Power plant
- Unidentified machinery
- Experimental establishments
- Sleeping and living quarters
2. Look at Source 3. Plan the attack on Peenemunde.
You need to advise the bomber pilots on which parts of the site they should aim to destroy.
Study the aerial photograph of Peenemunde. Can you identify the areas listed in the table below? If you need more help finding them, have a look at the target map in Source 3a. Which of the following targets would you advise the bomber pilots to aim for? Give reasons for your choice of targets.
When you have finished you can read source 4 to see what happened.
- In this account of the air raid, 250 scientific workers died. What do you feel about the killing of scientists in the attack?
- Bomber Command losses in this operation were 41 Lancasters. How many RAF men were lost if this many Lancasters were shot down? (HINT : A Lancaster had a crew of 7 men).