On the 13th June 1944 the first German attack on Britain using the V-1 flying bomb, otherwise known as the ‘doodlebug’, took place. The bomb was specifically designed for terror bombing civilians, since its launch and autopilot system was able to identify a general target area but not hit a specific point.
The V-1 was powered by the Argus As 014 pulsejet engine, the first mass-produced engine of its type, the noisy operation of which led to the bomb earning its nickname as a ‘buzz bomb’ or ‘doodlebug’. The engine was simple and cheap to build and, combined with a simple fuselage of welded steel sheets and wings made of plywood, this meant the V-1 could be produced and operated at a fraction of the cost of other bombing methods.
The very first V-1 exploded near a railway bridge in Mile End, London, killing 8 civilians. Each launch site on the French and Dutch coasts could launch up to 18 bombs a day, but that figure was rarely met. Furthermore due to mechanical problems, guidance system failures, and an effective system of air defences only an estimated 25% of all V-1s hit their intended target. In fact, within just a couple of months of the first launch more than half of all V-1s were intercepted. However, the V-1 was still a highly effective weapon that caused significant damage to Britain.
The successful Allied advance after D-Day succeeded in disabling the launch sites on the French coast by September. This removed the threat of further attacks on British civilians.