The single most devastating V-1 attack of the Second World War came early in the campaign, when on 18 June 1944 a V-1 hit the Guards’ Chapel in mid-service, killing 124 and wounding over 100. This book developed from a project to find out more about the victims of the attack, and focuses almost entirely on the attack itself, the rescue effort and the individuals who were killed and wounded.
The author deliberately decided not to include a detailed history of the V-1 itself, on the grounds that this has been covered in great detail elsewhere. We do get an account of the start of the V-1 campaign, including a brief look at the German plans to deploy the weapon and the Allied air campaign against the launching sites, then more detail on the campaign itself, from the first attacks on 13 June to the hit on the Guards Chapel. We also get a look at the impact of these early attacks, which made it clear that the V-1 was actually a serious threat and triggered a new wave of evacuations on a much larger scale than I’d realised.
Two chapters look at the immediate aftermath of the attack. The first looks at its wider impact – how Churchill responded, how the news spread and the rescue efforts, while the second looks at the way the rescue services were organised by 1944. This is the heart of the narrative, and although it focuses on a single event is a poignant reminder of the impact of each bombing raid of the war.
We then move onto the biographical chapters. Although the V-1 hit the Guards’ Chapel, the congregation was a mix of military and civilian. Indeed some seats in the chapel were reserved for nurses, including friends of the author’s mother (it was their fate that first triggered her interest in the topic). The civilian casualties really were a microcosm of society, ranging from a wages clerk who had attended with friends to members of high society. The military dead were also more varied than one might have expected, although Guardsmen do dominate.
This is an excellently researched examination of the human impact of this single V-1 attack, and a reminder of the terrible cost of all of the bombing raids of the Second World War.
1 - 'An Intensive Blue Flash'
2 - Doodlebug Summer
3 - The Aftermath
4 - The Rescue Process
5 - 'A Microcosm of Society': Biographies of the Civilian Victims
6 - 'Recently, on Active Service': Biographies of the Military Victims
7 - The Guards' Chapel and the Survivors
8 - Rebuilding the Chapel
Author: Jan Gore
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military