Defence against the V weapons
‘Operation Crossbow’ was the name given to Britain’s defence against the V weapons. It took a number of different approaches both public and secret. Ways to stop the flying bombs included anti-aircraft guns arranged to form defence lines. Barrage balloons were also deployed to float high in the sky. Tethered to the ground by strong steel cables they would stop any flying vehicle which hit them. Interception by fighter aircraft was another approach.
Defence against the V2 rocket was limited. The only practical way to stop them was before they were launched. Aside from bombing possible factories and rail links finding rockets on their mobile launch pads was near impossible.
There were not many aircraft fast enough to catch the V1 flying bomb. Those that could included the Hawker Tempest and Typhoon, the P-51 Mustang, the Mark XIV Spitfire and the De Havilland Mosquito. The first RAF jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, also briefly saw service against the V1. Some of the intercepting aircraft were flown by pilots who came from Enfield. One famous pilot, born in Enfield, was Wing Commander Roland Beamont. He intercepted over thirty flying bombs. He described the dangerous task…
“It was certainly impressive to fly straight through the middle of a 2,000lb bomb explosion, but not many pilots were hurt doing it. You couldn’t avoid flying through the fireball. As a V-1 exploded it went from 400mph to zero in a fraction of a second. It stopped. You didn’t. You were doing 400mph behind it, so in a fraction of a second you went through the fireball. There was no way of avoiding it, and a number of aircraft were damaged and one or two pilots were brought down and killed.”
More than 2000 flying bombs were intercepted by aircraft but over 70 pilots were killed. One such pilot was Flight Sergeant Arthur Hack. Aged 21 he was a Hawker Typhoon pilot who lived on Primrose Avenue, Enfield. He was on flying bomb patrol on 27th July 1944 when his aircraft collided with his wingman as they flew through clouds. Both aircraft crashed and both pilots were killed.
The DH Mosquito
The De-Havilland Mosquito aircraft was fast enough to intercept flying bombs. Nick-named the ‘wooden wonder’ because of its innovative timber construction the twin engine fighter-bomber was built and tested at Salisbury Hall and manufactured in Hatfield – both only a few miles from Enfield. The Mosquito aircraft intercepted over six hundred flying bombs.
People from Enfield worked at De Havilland as well as manufacturing Mosquito parts in Enfield, New Southgate, and Edmonton. Pilots from Enfield also flew Mosquitos in combat. One such pilot was Flight Lieutenant Richard W. Clancey. Sadly, at the age of 26 he was killed on a night training mission in November 1944. His grave is at Lavender Hill Cemetery.
Images: Top. Students from Enfield Chace Community school inspect the Dh Mosquito at the local De Havilland Museum (Image: ‘Terror from the Sky’ Project). Below: Outlines of aircraft that defended against the flying bomb Clockwise from top left – V1 Flying bomb, DeHavilland Mosquito, Gloster Meteor, Spitfire, P51 Mustang, Hawker Tempest / Typhoon. Shown to scale (Image: J.Robinson).