Friday, 22 November 2013

The Vengeance Weapon

Yesterday, I drove a couple of miles to a local spot that is quite significant in world history. Now, I know what you're thinking, Noble Readers: you only have to poke a pointed stick into the ground in London to have the the black gold of history come spurting out. But my short trip was not of the kind that results in the discovery of some lost medieval king under a car park.  No, it was a sad and poignant little visit to a very ordinary suburban street that for a brief moment within living memory was turned into a living hell.

At about a quarter before seven in the evening of the 8th of September, 1944, an explosion in Chiswick, West London, killed three people. One was 63 year-old Ada Harrison, another was a Royal Engineer called Bernard Browning who was on leave and hoping to see his girlfriend, and the third was a three year-old called Rosemary Clarke. Twenty-two other people were injured.

The explosion made a crater forty feet across and thirty feet deep, and demolished a dozen houses in Staveley Road. More had to be torn down because of the damage they sustained. The authorities said a gas explosion was to blame, but they knew very well that this blast was nothing of the sort. They knew, because they had been told by their military ntelligence people to expect it, that this was caused by a warhead.

Winston Churchill was informed that a rocket had been launched from the Hague in Nazi-occupied Holland, had traveled up to the very fringes of Outer Space, and had then dropped supersonically to earth, completing what was the world's first ballistic missile attack.

In all, more than three thousand V2s were launched on London and, later, Antwerp, killing and maiming thousands of victims. A very sad tale could be told about every one of them. There is a small, recently-placed memorial to the tragedy that took place outside No. 5 Staveley Road. If you wait there long enough, the sight of it will bring a tear to your eye.

You might like to see this video on YouTube


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