The remains of a V2 rocket fired by Nazi Germany at London during World War II have been unearthed in a field in South East England, where it crashed and exploded before reaching its target.
This is the sixth major excavation of a V2 site carried out by conflict archaeologists and brothers Colin and Sean Welch, who have spent more than 10 years investigating the sites of Nazi “vengeance weapons” launched at the British capital, they said.
They’ve also excavated the impact sites of dozens of V1 flying bombs, a precursor to modern cruise missiles that were launched mostly from catapults in Nazi-occupied France in 1944 and 1945.
In the latest V2 excavation near Platt, a village near Maidstone, the researchers — called Crater Locators — recovered more than 1,760 pounds (800 kilograms) of metal debris, including large fragments of the rocket’s combustion chamber, from when the rocket exploded at around midnight on Feb. 14, 1945.
The site is now open farmland, but it was an orchard when the rocket struck. The impact was far enough from any houses that no one was hurt, but one elderly woman said later that the noise of the blast damaged her hearing, Sean Welch
The team spent four days at the end of September using a mechanical digger and shovels to excavate the bomb crater, which had been filled in with earth although its location was known. They will now spend up to 18 months conserving the objects before writing up an archaeological report for the county’s official historical archives.
The team used metal detectors to locate the deepest remnants of the blast, which were more than 14 feet (4.3 meters) underground, Colin Welch said.
“[Although] the rocket is traveling at up to three and a half times the speed of sound, the detonation is not supersonic,” he said. “The rocket gets at least 5 feet [1.5 m] into the ground before it starts to detonate properly.”