The Cippenham V1 Flying Bomb

In World War 2, Cippenham escaped relatively lightly from German bombing. At around 8:40 AM on 23 August 1944, however, a V1 flying bomb (doodlebug) fell from the sky and exploded near to the boundary of the village green.

V1 bomb

Cutaway illustration of a V1

The V1 was a revolutionary weapon. It was powered by a pulse-jet which gave it its distinctive sound which was likened to an unsilenced single-cylinder motorcycle. Its payload was 850 kg of explosive. The short-lived Nazi doodlebug campaign commenced 13 June 1944 and around 100 doodlebugs were launched daily targeting London. When in flight, the heading was controlled by a compass and the distance to the target was estimated from the revolutions of a small propeller driven by the airflow. As such, the weapon’s accuracy was limited by the predictability of the weather. It was rare, however, for a V1 to have travelled as far west as Cippenham. Although the doodlebug was fast, travelling up to 400 mph, the flight profile of a straight line at fixed altitude was a significant vulnerability and effective countermeasures were developed rapidly. By the time of the Cippenham V1 around 80% were being destroyed by barrage balloons, anti-aircraft artillery, and most successfully of all, by fighter interception. Little more than a month after the Cippenham V1 the threat from V1s ended altogether as advancing allied troops overran the launch sites on the French coast.

The place of impact of the Cippenham V1 was in farmer Gregory’s Orchard, north of the green. Fortunately, there were no fatalities although seven people were injured. The nearest two houses at 350 feet away received a moderate level of damage the details of which were not recorded. According to an eye-witness, the blast had propelled a hatch cover clean into the loft in one of the houses. An additional 150 houses suffered superficial glass, tile, and plaster damage – a surprisingly large number considering the sparseness of housing in Cippenham at the time. The crater left by the explosion was 18′ by 1′ deep.

Cippenham Doodlebug

BC4 for Cippenham V1

The above information came from the BC4 (Bomb Census 4) form which was completed by the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) organisation for every bombing incident. All BC4s are stored at The National Archives. Along with the description of the location of the point of impact, the BC4 also contains a map reference. Combining the information lets the point of impact to be tied down to a small area. The map reference MR114/387999 does not refer to the grid system used on standard Ordnance Survey maps. Instead, special secret issue maps were used in the war which had a different grid, sometimes called the ‘purple grid’ because it was originally overprinted on Ordnance Survey maps in purple ink.

WW2 Map 114

Map 114 reference 387999

In the image right, the red square represents the reference given on the wartime map number 114. It ties down the point of impact to an area 100 x 100 metres. The map is on a scale of 1/63360 which, as can be seen, is not very detailed. Neither the village green boundary nor Gregory’s orchard are marked on the map but some features are easily recognisable such as Elmshott Lane, Lower Cippenham Lane, and the millstream.

Doodlebug impact point

Estimated location of V1 explosion on 1938 OS map

To get a better sense of the impact location, the reference position has been approximated onto the 1932-1938 Ordnance Survey county series map which has a scale of 1/2500. Given that the point of impact was given as being 150 yards North of Cippenham Common Boundary, this must have been at the very top of the map reference and only just inside the orchard. The two clay-brick houses closest to the blast were most likely to be the semi-detached pair to the west of the map reference. The superimposed blue line subtends back a distance of 350 feet. The green circle is the best guess as to where the impact occurred given the information provided on the BC4. If the location were to be plotted onto a modern map of the area, the point of impact would probably be somewhere in the rear gardens between Bowyer Drive and Frenchum Gardens. Perhaps some interesting metal fragments still lurk beneath the lawns and the flower beds there.

See a 3D Model of the Cippenham V-1

Related items: The Mystery of the Cippenham Duck ; The Slough Bomb Mystery


9 Responses to The Cippenham V1 Flying Bomb

  1. Chris Yellop says:

    I lived in the bungalow on the corner of Stow road and Bowyer drive in the 80s and to get the mortgage approved I had to have a dip taken out of the roof ,I was told that the roof slates were damaged by a bomb and replaced by heavier tiles without extra support ?

    • Admin says:

      The damage could well have been from the V1, but could also have been from another bombing that occurred around Bower Way in October 1940.

  2. Dave Hill says:

    I suppose the “steel houses” in Bowyer Drive & Frenchum Gdns were not built in 1944, I was only 1 then and can’t remember them till I was about 7 I suppose. Didn’t another bomb fall on some OAP bungalows off Bower Way? My dad said chap used to flood adjacent bit of Green in winter so it froze and they skated on it, he went to school next to Tin Tabernacle, it was a pig farm when I was a kid!

  3. John Lincoln says:

    About ten years ago I had an internet ‘conversation’ with a man who was in one of the semi-detached houses which were closest to the explosion. He was however only five years old at the time. He said that early in the morning the bomb landed in the meadow to the north of the house and that the back walls of the house were blown in. No one was injured. The houses had been built by a local builder and were soon repaired. These houses are presumably the older houses now in Roxwell Close.

    Given the date it is almost certain that this V1 was launched from an aeroplane in the Thames estuary and aimed at London. Probably the ranging device failed and it flew on until it ran out of fuel.

    Strange Irony. It landed where Frenchum Gardens was later built. The BISF houses in Cippenham were built by German prisoners of war so presumably they had to fill in the crater.

    • Dreadnaught says:

      Thank you for your very interesting comments.

      I had previously come across the notion that the Cippenham V1 was air launched, based on it being seen to overfly Chalvey recreation ground and must therefore have originated from an easterly direction.

      I’ve just done a little digging on this. It seems our Cippenham V1 was part of a salvo launch as there are records of at least 5 others over the space of an hour.

      7:58 New Southgate, exploded
      7:59 Cippenham, exploded.
      8:20 Acrise (inland from Folkestone), shot down by AA
      8:20 Elham (inland from Folkestone/Dover), shot down by fighter
      8:32 Chiswick, exploded
      9:00 Lyminge (near Folkestone) shot down by AA

      If you draw a line from Cippenham through the middle of the three interceptions you end up at Pas de Calais. According to Peter J C Smith’s book “Air-launched Doodlebugs. The Forgotten Campaign” there were no V1 air-launches after 22 August until 29 August. During this period the Pas de Calais batteries were still in action. The last V1 fired from Pas de Calais was on 1 September.

  4. John Lincoln says:

    Correction. The house was actually the detached one still accessed from Lower Cippenham Lane. The house can be seen clearly on this Francis Frith photo of Millstream Lane.

    Also I should have said nobody was ‘seriously injured’. The man was actually hit by some flying debris and had to go and have his head bandaged up.

  5. Jane Le Froge says:

    dis lyk B4 or AFTA dey bilt da skatepark?

  6. Rick Hall says:

    You mean Stowe Road and Bower Way?

  7. Owen Hurley says:

    I lived in Warner Close when we were kids in the 80’s we used to play in Greg’s farm field – there was indeed a crater in the middle of it and it was known then as the V1 bomb crater.
    I addition there was all kinds of military junk left along the edge of the field, including amphibious vehicles, airplane parts, munitions boxes, rusting army trucks.
    There was also a building with a caved in roof, which legend had it was where a hurricane had crashed (wheels and parts still lay near by)


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