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V1 launching site at Yvrench, France

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V1 launching site at Yvrench, France

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Date Posted:August 17th, 2008
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Description: A few weeks after the Peenemunde raid, on November 9th 1943, a "suspicious erection" was noticed on a set of reconnaissance photos at Bois Carr, near Yvrench in France. This was the first V1 launching site to be analysed. It shows the long, low building of heavy concrete (christened a "ski site") which was used for the storage of flying bomb components. Within a few weeks, similar constructions were identified on photographs between Dieppe and Calais. The sites were ordered to be destroyed without knowing their purpose. Thousands of pictures of north-west France were taken and examined. By the end of November 1943, Flight Officer Constance Babington Smith had spotted a tiny cruciform shape at the lower end of inclined rails. She had made the first British sighting of a flying bomb. The cross-channel threat was established beyond doubt as the Flying Bomb. It was estimated that the each of the 100 "ski sites" could house 20 missiles, so some 2,000 bombs could be launched a day!

Attempts to destroy the "ski sites" by Allied bombing were paltry. By the end of December 1943 only 7 sites had been destroyed and the Germans were completing new sites faster than the Allies could destroy them; the loss of Allied aircraft and crews was appalling. The bombing was wildly inaccurate.

The Germans' favourite site was a small wood (of 5 to 10 acres) close to a hard road, where trees in both summer and winter gave them perfect cover. They built hundreds of such sites and supply depots. But they also chose more domestic sites.

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