V1 "Doodlebug" - Gregson Lane

 24th December 1944

Last updated: 23.01.2007

Fieseler Fi 103/V1 flying bomb - "Doodlebug".

 

Type Unit Base Crew
Fieseler Fi 103 / V1 flying bomb   KG53 Netherlands (Various) None 

Another example of an incident that I have known about for some time, but never really got around to investigating properly is the impact site of this V1 at Gregson Lane near Bamber Bridge. This was one of 45 such weapon air-launched from over the North Sea by specially adapted Heinkel III H-22s of I./KG53 early in the morning of the 24th December 1944 and aimed at Manchester.

The Gregson Lane missile was the first of this attack to arrive and exploded at 5.28am in a field behind two cottages near Hewn Gate Farm on Gregson Lane near Bamber Bridge. It is reputed to have scored a direct hit on a hen cabin containing some 30 hens - the detonation totally obliterating the wooden cabin and no trace of the hens could be found other than a few feathers. Two cottages close by were literally lifted from their foundations, inside the upper floor collapsing and trapping the occupants - all of whom escaped without serious injury, but the cottages had to later be demolished. The bomb left a huge crater in the field some 40 feet across. The present owner of the farm recalls that all the windows facing the blast were blown in and the internal doors to those rooms were torn off their hinges. Also the roof was badly damaged and several out-building had their roofs blown off. Another resident recalled that there was a signal box at the nearby railway crossing and at the instant the V1 exploded, the occupant had popped around the back to answer a call of nature. - Had he been at his post, as the glass front was blown in, the consequences would have been horrific. Many other buildings in the area reported varying degrees of damage to roofs and windows, one mill losing 500 separate panes of glass.

The area today is little changed from 1944 - the farm was repaired and the new roofs have weathered to match the old. The signal box is gone and the cottages were never rebuilt - an agricultural store stands on their site today, though traces of the original gardens can be just made out.

My son standing in the crater - The agricultural building behind stands on site of the demolished cottages.

Large shallow crater is still discernable, centre - The roofs were ripped from the farm buildings in the distance

A quick visual survey of the field reveals a large shallow hollow behind the site of the cottages and examining this it quickly becomes apparent that this was the crater, which was largely filled with rubble and rubbish. Further back in the field is a larger hollow with a stream running through it which has been reported as the crater in the past, but examining older maps of the area reveals that this is in fact the remains of a small stone quarry. We searched around the perimeter of "our crater" and the area immediately behind the cottages, but it was slow going as the field was full of ferrous contamination - Horseshoes, nails, cast iron scraps etc. and of course the V1 was steel so we had to dig every signal. But we did find a fragment of aluminium alloy, which appeared to have been subjected to great force and shattered from its original component. Then my 10-year-old son got a large ferrous signal - so large we almost didn't bother to dig it up, but he insisted! This proved to be a 2.5 x 1 foot section of heavy gauge steel sheet, badly crumpled as if it had been impacted into the ground and lying in natural clay, so not part of any in-fill. Not 100% certain it is V1 but it certainly looks promising!


Acknowledgements: 

Mr A. Wilmer, Peter Smith (Flying Bombs over the Pennines, 1988), George Birtill (The War and After, Guardian Press, 1976).

 

Send Email Back to Home Page

This page Copyright Nick Wotherspoon 2007