Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A rare kamikaze-style rocket capable of launching a direct hit on Buckingham Palace will go on display in Britain almost 70 years after Hitler had it made in the hope it would help destroy London.This manned version of the fearsome V1 was developed because the aim of the 5,000 original rockets was so poor.
Fitted with small cockpits, 150 were built so they could be flown accurately into targets.
However, none of the rockets ever flew in anger, largely because flying them was effectively a suicide mission with pilots expected to parachute out into an airspeed of 550mph moments before a target was hit.
The Fieseler Fi103R Reichenberg rocket, one of only six left today, was found by the Allies at the end of the second world war.
Initially, it formed part of an enemy aircraft exhibition at Farnborough in 1945, before it was decided the V1 should be classed as munition rather than an aircraft and was given to the British army’s bomb disposal unit.
It was in 1970 that a Kent museum acquired the plane and began to have it restored as part of a £40,000 project.
Specialists in Munich painstakingly sourced missing period instruments in full working condition and gradually restored the rocket to its 1945 condition.
The modified V1s were favoured by Hiter because they could be steered by pilots in the direction of a target.
Trevor Matthews, of the Lashenden Museum near Maidstone, which has now owned the plane for more than 40 years, said: “With a pilot you could aim it at a strategic target, like Buckingham Palace, until the last moment when they were meant to bail out. It was totally kamikaze.
“The Germans dropped the idea in the end, largely because airmen realised it was a suicide mission. Also at the time they were being tested the Allies were overrunning their launch sites.”
The original V1 rockets – known as Hiter’s vengeance bombs – were launched by Germans from France and Holland to bomb London. The 5,000 that were built killed thousands of people and could carry enough explosives to destroy several buildings.
The other five kamikaze-style doodlebugs are in museums in France, Holland, Germany, the US and Canada.
Mr Matthews said the museum’s doodlebug, which is 28ft long, has a wingspan of 22ft and is fitted with an Argus 109-014 pulse jet engine, was “now in full working order”.
“Although you would never get permission to fly it,” he added.
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