L'itinéraire de randonnée historique et de mémoire : histoire et patrimoine V1 en vallées de l'Yères et de la Bresle

Some historical reminders

The Vergeltungswaffen, or V1 : the first cruise missile in history

Literally "weapon of retaliation" in German, the Vergeltungswaffen, or V1, are used by Germany from the 13 th June 1944 until the end of March 1945. The appearance of this unprecedented weapon into history is the result of a long process of research started at the beginning of the war. It is led by scientists from the Peenemünde center, a Luftwaffe and Heer research base (the Reich's Air Force and Land Force) located on the coastal island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea waters, in the north-east of Germany.

The first tests of the V1 take place at the very end of the year 1942 and continue during the year 1943. As the tests get better, the Luftwaffe is training its men in the handling of this new weapon. The V1 responds to a strategic goal : with this flying bomb provided of a pulse jet engine, the German headquarter hopes to offset its weakness in long-range heavy bombers compared with the Allies.

In the summer 1943, the first constructions of launching sites in France start, all located on the north of the territory, from the Channel to the Pas-de-Calais. At the same time, the Allied intelligence services are conducting an intense campaign of aerial photography on the Peenemünde site and on some launching bases under construction. The British headquarter doubts first of the existence of the V1 then its effectiveness but finally, at the turn of the years 1943 and 1944, Operation Crossbow is started :  the first aerial bombings on the launching sites begin. Produced quickly and cheaply, the V1 must allow the Reich to shell tirelessly the south of Britain. More than the material damage, the impact of the V1 is primarily psychological, the permanent threat posed by this weapon must weaken the morale and determination of the population.

In front of the advance of the Allied Armed Forces, the Germans must retreat and abandon their launching bases progressively going up towards the Nord, the Pas-de-Calais and the Belgian Flanders. From September 1944, the launch of V1 towards England ceases, the last sites on the French territory have all been abandoned. Other bases emerge in Germany and the Netherlands. Due to the progress of enemy troops, the Germans are forced to change their target and are now targeting the port city of Antwerp, Liege and Brussels, cities taker over by the Allies. From autumn 1944 to March 1945, nearly 12,000 V1 were fired against the main Belgian agglomerations.

From January 1945, the Germans embarked on a final attempt to bomb the south of England with a V1 longer range. The operation ended in failure, less than fifteen bombs reached its goal.

The last V1 in history is fired on the 30 th March 1945, at 8 am.



This presentation is based on the figures, dates and elements contained in the book "V1 – arme du désespoir" by Mr. Yannick Delefosse, published by Lela Press Publishing in 2011.

The V1 in the valleys of Bresle and Yères and their surroundings

Between Yères and Bresle, the German armed forces have deployed more than twenty V1 launching sites, some have been operational, others not, some of them could not be completed in time because of the advance of the Allies. Most of these installations were focused on London, cities in southern England such as Southampton could also be targeted. On the night of 12 th to 13 th June 1944, on the launching sites of Poteau de Montauban near Guerville and Mont Gournoy close to Aubermesnil-aux-Érables and Rétonval, were fired the first V1 flying bombs of Seine-Maritime. All of these bases were regularly shelled by British, American and even French air raids. Some of them were neutralized as a result of these intense bombings.

After the war, some of these launching sites were dismantled (several bases were almost intact despite the bombings), the building materials used were recovered to allow the reconstruction of the surrounding villages. Thereafter, the vegetation has slowly hidden these vestiges.