The Beighton Doodlebug - Xmas Eve 1944

"The Angel of Death is abroad in land only if you can't hear the flutter of his wings."

Winston Churchill - Cabinet meeting 15th January 1945

Until  just recently I was totally ignorant of the fact that one of Hitler's so called "Vergeltungswaffe Eins" (Revenge Weapon Number One) had actually landed and exploded in Sheffield or more precisely Beighton.  The Nazi V1 campaign against Britain began on the night of the 12th-13th June 1944, one week after the Normandy landings. The campaign is extensively covered both in books and on-line and so I am not going to go into the history of the campaign.

I had always assumed that Sheffield was beyond the range of the V1 rocket. The information that was available indicated that the "Doodlebug" had a maximum range of 150 miles and at that range it was neither accurate or reliable. In order to extend the range, the bomb was carried by a modified HE-111 Heinkel bomber.

The idea was for the aircraft to carry the V-1 at extreme low level to avoid detection from British radar, then as they approached the British coast they would sharply increase their altitude to about 1,500ft (450m) before releasing the V-1, then generally using cloud cover or low level flying to make good their escape back to their bases. The aircraft chosen to carry out this task was the He 111H. A number of these including the He 111H-6, the He 111H-16, the He 111H-21 and the He 111H-22, were modified to carry the new projectile which actually was a Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb, but known as the V-1. All these aircraft, after modification became the He 111H-22. They were delivered to III/KG3 that was based in the Netherlands. Initially the campaign was successful - the modified He 111H-22 carried and launched over 300 V-1 rockets against London, 100 against Portsmouth and Southampton and 20-30 against Bristol. The use of the He 111H-22 and the V-1 rocket was such a success, that over 100 He 111H aircraft were modified to He 111H-22 standards and delivered to KG53 for the sole purpose of launching the V-1 at British targets. But the success was short-lived - in the next six months, only 20% of 1,200 V-1 rockets reached their intended targets, many of then falling and exploding in empty fields or remote suburbs, and some eighty He 111H-22 aircraft were destroyed either by the RAF or by AA gunfire. The loss of aircraft were to force the Germans to use specially constructed launch pads.   

On Christmas Eve 1944, a formation of these specially modified HE-111 Heinkel bombers (I/KG53 squadron) flying over the North Sea launched 45 V1 Flying Bombs (Doodlebugs) from off the Lincolnshire coast at Mablethorpe. The target was Manchester. The raid was winessed by fisherman in the North sea who reported that some of the rockets had failed to ignite and had just fallen harmlessly into the sea Unfortunately the majority of the rockets did ignite. The RAF coastal radar station at Lowestoft had picked the raid up in its infancy and alerted the coastal defences along the coast. The Humber AA defences opened up but failed to destroy any of the incoming rockets. In total, thirty-one of the bombs reached the target area with fifteen falling on Manchester itself. The remaining bombs fell over a wide area of north west and north England.

The bombs took on average thirty minutes before they reached their target - the first one landing at Chorley at 5.30 in the morning, obliterating a hen coup with thirty birds in it. However the true destructive nature of the V1 bomb was revealed when one exploded in in Abbey Hills Road, in Oldham, landing on a row of cottages, killing 27 people and seriously injuring 49. A further six people died when the V1 rocket landed on Chapel Street, in Tottington, near Bury, Greater Manchester - it destroyed a row of cottages and was one of 15 bombs to fall near Manchester - a memorial garden was built where the bomb landed.

In total, forty-two people where killed and over one hundred seriously injured. Many homes suffered damage but no military and industrial areas were damaged. In military terms the raid was a failure, but it was a sharp reminder of the dangers that still existed for those who had endured over five years of war.

One of the V1's did land in Beighton and destroyed a hedge. I have made a few preliminary enquiries and someone seems to think that it exploded in the region of of what is now Rother Valley Country Park but cannot be certain. The crater would have been very approximately forty feet across and four feet deep. For a couple of years I did not know the exact location but in June 2008 I received the following information

"(my father) John Cramp and my mother Anny Cramp saw the bomb explode in Cow Lane halfway between Holbrook and Beighton. ..... They were living in Killamarsh at the time"

Since then the area has been extensively redeveloped and so it is not possible to find the exact location of the explosion.

In June 2007 I received this information from a reader of this article

"Just had a quick look at your excellent site about the Beighton Doodlebug. I was 4 and a half years old in 1944 (Christmas) I know the memory can play tricks, but I can remember quite clearly my mother pointing to the sky at this very low flying object and telling me to look at the flying bomb. We were living on Manvers Road Beighton at the time, there was no panic at the time about getting me and my elder sister into the air air raid shelter, I think most of the bombing had stopped by the end of 1944 anyway, so perhaps she was a little more relaxed by this stage about the dangers.
I never heard it land or explode, I did hear some time after that it may even have gone on to Halifax, but nothing confirmed. I did though hear about the bomb that landed down Bedgreave (Now Rother Valley Country Park). The story at the time was that this was a large Land Mine that was dropped by the Germans from a bomber via a Parachute, it was said that they were aiming for the Railway lines or Coke ovens between Beighton and Swallownest. There is or was a huge crater down Bedgreave as a result of the bomb, we used to play in the area as kids after the war.
I might add that I am now 66, born and bred Beightonite (Or as the old ones called us "The Beighton Bucket Bangers") I believe the name lives on still with older Beighton residents. (I now live in Kiveton Park,) but will never forget being brought up in Beighton during the 1950's, It was a fantastic place for kids then."

And a few months later this short observation

" I have a memory although vague because I would be 5 years old at the time. Regarding the Beighton doodle-bug I was stood with my parents at the front door and looking towards Beighton approx 3 miles away there was a bang and a bright flash and I think a sort of whosh of air passed us....."

In May 2011 a reader of this article referred me to two books on the subject by Peter J C Smith which I was unaware of.

Peter J.C. Smith "Flying Bombs Over The Pennines: The Story of the V-1 Attack Aimed at Manchester December 24th 1944". Unity Web, 1988. - Chapter 9 page 41:

At 5.40 a bomb impacted at Beighton, six miles to the south-east of Sheffield, the crater, 3ft 6ins deep and 14 feet across, being in grassland. Some damage was done to 
Field Farm just to the north of it, and windows were broken in some 150 buildings in Killamarsh and district, but no casualties were caused".

Peter J.C. Smith  "Air-launched Doodlebugs: The Forgotten Campaign". Pen and Sword Aviation, 2006. - Page 172 
"Beighton: 6 miles south-east of Sheffield, at 05.40 hours. A robot impacted on grassland at Field Farm. There were no casualties but damage was done to the farm and to 
150 buildings in Killamarsh and district."
This information confirms the observations made by John and Anny Cramp at the time
In March 2013 I received this information that came from a reader of this article
"Field farm where the V1 exploded was on Cow Lane this was a bridle lane that connected Sheffield Road at Holbrook to School Road  Beighton. 
Now a tarmac road Called Rother Valley Way.  The farm was in the vicinity of Wooley Bros abattoir and  the Stagecoach bus depot."
In December 215 another reader of the site contacted me with this information
"(I) found an old O. S. map  the grid reference for field farm is as follows  SK444723.  381908.  Hope this throws some light on where the V1 landed."
Going back to March 2013, I received this information from a different source

"A friend who was searching for doodlebug information from Lancashire found your site and directed me to it, knowing that Beighton was my birthplace and of my interest in the village. I have nothing to add other than a personal reminiscence.

I was working away from Beighton at the time but was spending Christmas with an aunt and uncle who lived near the station. This house had a very small pantry, barely room for one person to stand upright and after the sirens had sounded my aunt and I took refuge in the pantry. She was eight months pregnant at the time and we moved everything from the floor to accommodate a small stool so that she could sit down. I sat on a cushion on the stone slab at the back, crouching forward because of the slope of the stairs. It was a very uncomfortable time.

Some years later, late seventies, I was out walking the banks of the Rother from Bedgreave Mill towards Brookhouse with a local history group, endeavouring to find the Castlestead fields associated with Beighton Castle when we came upon the barest outlines of a crater. One member of the party became very excited over what he thought might be an unknown Bronze Age burial mound, it was a shame to disillusion him ! I do believe that two land mines dropped in that area in the very early days of the war and that there were two earlier craters but I have no definite information - only hearsay. "

In July 2013 I received an e-mail from a lady who still lives in Maltby who said

"In Maltby at app; 1 mile from the colliery 1944 at the age of 11 my friend and I witnessed as we sat on the garden wall this glow in the sky heading west -------at the time thought it some aircraft ,living near RAF Station later a more knowledgeable man informed us it was a Doodlebug. My future husband talking about this always denied my beliefs saying they never passed over Maltby , He apologised back in the 60 s about when evidence came to along to back up my remarks ".

In May 2014 I received this e-mail from someone who came across this article

"I remember lying in my Mum and Dads bed opening Christmas presents when we heard the doodlebug. The sound stopped which we knew meant it was coming down. I always thought it landed at a place called Bacon - but obviously it was Beighton. Also I also thought it was on Christmas Day morning. Otherwise why would we be opening Christmas presents?"

I can only assume that the opening of the presents was a family tradition or similar - the attack certainly took place on Xmas Eve.

A further witness who is now living in Australia contacted me four months later in September 2014

"I remember the bomb at Cow Lane and saw the crater, and my older brother rode me on the back of his  cycle from Killamarsh to Cow Lane Beighton. I remember we found several pieces of shrapnel at the site, from memory it was not a large crater. I was living at grandparents home Nethergreen cottage, now   part of Rother Valley Park. Would have been about ten years old"

In March 2015 another correspondent kindly let me publish his recollections of the event

"(I) found your excellent site today as I looked for info on the Beighton V1. I lived in Swallownest just  north on the Derbyshire border. On 24/12/44 my mother woke me and my brother. She had heard a strange noise and saw a flying object with flames coming from it and assumed that it was one of our planes in trouble. Then the noise stopped, followed by a loud bang and she was upset by the thought that the crew had perished. Swallownest was sheltered from damage by the slag heap at Brookhouse colliery.

I was recently on holiday in the Lake District and met a couple from Oswaldtwistle who were surprised to hear that it had received  V1. I confirmed by sending them a copy of a small section from Doodlebugs and Rockets by Bob Ogley entitled "Eee they'd a doodle bug in Oswaldtwistle".....

In October 2016 I received this information from another witness to the event, and also a map that showed where the V1 exploded.

If anyone can provide me with any further information on please contact me  

There is an excellent article about the V1's on The German V1 Rocket Leaflet Campaign

Notes:

In 1960, one of the gyroscope assemblies from a V1 was ploughed up in a field at Meadow Farm in Ringinglow which is situated to the west of Sheffield near the Derbyshire border. There were no eye witnesses to any incident involving a V1 and there is no official record. One explanation for the find is that this V1exploded in mid-air as a result of damage sustained by the coastal defences or due to a technical fault. When it fragmented, any parts not buried on impact were not recognised as pieces of a V1 by the police or ARP hence the lack of an official record.

In April 2010  a reader of this article passed on to me the following information

"I have identified the gyro found at Ringinglow in 1960 as being from a German WW2 torpedo. I enclose a photo of the one found at Ringinglow which was posted on Flickr by the "Wreckhunters", to compare with the other ones. 

Further information

"Thanks for your reply, the V1 had three giros, I have attached photos. There was a master giro and two secondary giros, none of which resemble the one found at Ringinglow. Also, the Ringinglow giro has the additional torpedo capability of a zig-zagging course as used against the convoys. The V1s did not have this capability, as they flew straight and level. As R.V. Jones, the WW2 scientific military intelligence expert once remarked,"If the Germans had put a device in the V1 to vary the flight path, the defence against them would have been far more difficult". The Ringinglow example was made largely of corrosion resistant bronze, in keeping with marine equipment, as opposed to the V1s.

There is a section about the Ringinglow find in Pat Cunningham's book, Peakland Air Crashes The North, published by Landmark Publishing in 2006, page 169.
So, I can positively identify what it is, but cannot say how it got there !. I saw one of these torpedo giros in the 1970's, and it had been brought back from Germany just after the war by a National Seviceman as a souvenir. Apparently these devices could be found in German Naval Training Colleges, amongst other places, for some years after the war.

This website shows the V1 in great detail "

Another correspondent pointed out - I saw your site's comments on my gyro picture, and thought my new picture . showing the second side of the unit might interest you.

"You can see it doesn't match the pictures from the axis history board....Went to see the Ringinglow gyro. This side doesn't match the pictures I have seen of the appropriate side of the torpedo gyro previously discussed. The valve on this side is plugged and there are these additional cams and gearing. The chassis certainly seem to be that of the torpedo gyro, but it seems to have been modified

This gyroscope was from a German WW2 G7 torpedo (LUT-gerat)"

In July 2013 I received information about a wartime  incident at the Rofft Wood near Foel y Crio in 1944.

"You may find this article, published by Elvet Pierce in April 2007 of interest.


Sources

Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks 2 - Ron Collier

Peter J.C. Smith "Flying Bombs Over The Pennines: The Story of the V-1 Attack Aimed at Manchester December 24th 1944

Peter J.C. Smith  "Air-launched Doodlebugs: The Forgotton Campaign". Pen and Sword Aviation, 2006

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This page was last updated on 24/10/16 15:47