V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East London

In the early years of the Second World War, bombing raids tended to use traditional bombs and incendiary devices. These were used to great effect in sustained attacks during the Blitz, for example. However, later in the war, the Germans developed new technologies and created the V1 and V2 rockets or flying bombs.

These were long-range artillery weapons that could be launched on Britain from Germany.

V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in the East End

These rockets caused significant damage to London as a whole, and were greatly feared by Londoners. The V1, often nicknamed the “Doodlebug” or “Buzz Bomb”, had a design flaw that cut its engines before it hit its target. This meant that people could hear it coming and then know that it was about to strike close by when its engines went silent. Apparently, you had a few seconds of silence before the massive explosion. V2s were even more frightening in a way as they had no such design flaw with the result that nobody could tell when one was about to strike.  V2s were also virtually impossible to defend against or to shoot down.

The first sets of V1s launched in June 1944; V2s were first used later that year. They caused significant damage all over the capital and across Britain.

Like most of London, the East End saw its fair share of V1 and V2 attacks. Stepney, Poplar and West Ham were particularly hard hit. West Ham had around 27 V2 attacks – this is a relatively high figure as these rockets were not used for long, and other areas of London did not get into double-digit figures with V2s.

The East End had two hits of note. One of the first V1s launched on the city caused the first civilian casualties from a V1 in Bethnal Green. A damaging V2 strike on Stepney was one of the last V2 attacks of the war, causing considerable damage and many civilian deaths and casualties.

The V1 Rocket Attack at Bethnal Green

The Germans launched a range of V1s for the first time on June 13th, 1944. Only four of these actually reached Britain. The one with the worst impact on that day, and the only casualties, landed at Bethnal Green in the East End of London.

This V1 attack killed six people and seriously injured another 30 when it landed in Grove Road in Bethnal Green in the early hours of the morning. This was the first of only nine V1s that landed in the Bethnal Green area during the war. The rocket hit the railway bridge on the road and destroyed it. It also caused so much surrounding damage that it is thought that it left around 200 locals homeless.

If you are visiting Bethnal Green, you can see a blue plaque on a building in Grove Road that marks the spot where the V1 fell. This is officially the first site to have been hit by one of these rockets in London.

The V2 Rocket Attack in Stepney

Vallance Road in Stepney is thought to have been the scene of the second largest V2 tragedy in the Second World War. Sadly, the rocket that hit this road was one of the last V2s to be launched on London. It hit the area on the last day that V2s were used during the conflict and fell just seven weeks before the war officially ended.

The rocket made a direct hit on a set of three tenement blocks. Known as Hughes Mansions, these tenements housed hundreds of people in individual flats. The V2 killed 134 people immediately and seriously injured around another 50 people. It decimated the local Jewish community and killed many local families and children. The V2 fell at just after 7am, when many of the residents were still at home, and left a massive crater that measured 30ft by 10ft. Rescue efforts involved five cranes and various emergency personnel from all over the area.

Most people are thought to have died instantly as the rocket hit – it completely razed two of the three five-story blocks of flats that made up the building to the ground, reducing them to piles of rubble. Others are thought to have died more slowly from asphyxiation – when these rockets hit and exploded, they created an air vacuum, which left victims unable to breathe.

You can see a plaque in Vallance Road that marks the site of the Hughes Mansions’ bombing, although the buildings themselves were never replaced after the strike. You can locate the building by finding the children’s playground in the road — this was built on the site of the Mansions’ original courtyard. This road is also well known in East End history for other reasons. The infamous East End gangsters, the Kray twins, lived in Vallance Road with their parents.

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40 thoughts on “V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East London”

  1. My Nan was killed by a V2 that dropped in Prince Regent Lane, Custom House, at the top of Churchill Rd. l can remember when l grew up that there were 2 small flat-roofed shops at the junction, Hammonds butchers and grocers. l was told that a man on the other side of the road was unharmed when the rocket fell. The only thing l’m grateful for is that apparently, the people never knew the V2s were about to drop, unlike the terrible warning noise and then silence of the V1, so my Nan wouldn’t have known anything was about to happen. Sadly, l never knew her.

  2. Hello,
    I believe the Grove Road plaque is on the bridge, not on a building. Unless there is another marker I haven’t yet seen. John

  3. hello
    does anyone know of the bomb/s that exploded in Sturge Avenue, Walthamstow please? My grandparents lived at no 71 and it exploded opposite them. My mum was not at home but her brothers and sisters and mother were and they had minor injuries from window glass. I’ve been to ‘Bomb Sight’ and they show it exploded between October 1940 and June 1941 so my mum was only 13.

    Congratulations on the really interesting stories on this site.

  4. Terence Roy Harris

    Hi Chris

    I was seven in June 1944 living in Fern St Bow E3.A V1 hit the back of a house that backed on to Knapp Rd school. It killed a woman and her two young sons and severely damaged the school. The blast knocked the house I was in backwards a lot of debris fell onto the Anderson blocking my sister and I in. We were dug out by the heavy rescue squad a little later. I was dumped into the middle of the street in my pyjamas and bare feet unable to move because of all the broken glass.
    I have tried to research the Fern St V1 but cannot find any reference to it.

    1. hi terry

      lets keep in touch on this.

      i think the people killed were the family of ‘chick’ clark.

      best.

      chris.

  5. July 3rd 1944
    30 Twickenham Road, Isleworth.

    Does anyone have any information about the bomb that destroyed my Aunt`s house.
    Her name was Evelyn May Bamber and she was killed.
    Many thanks,
    Dave Bamber.

  6. I grew up in Hanworth, Mddx. I saw several V1’s and on one occasion, when I was standing outside, talking to my neighbours, a V1 came towards us, the engine cut and it started to dive. We were all rooted to the ground when suddenly the engine restarted and it veered off to starboard and finally exploded several miles away. I only recently discovered that this most likely due to a shortage of the small guillotines, which were supposed to cut through fuel/air pipes.

    I was under a table and watched another V1 flying over our house and diving. It exploded on an air raid shelter in The Close, Hanworth, about 1/2 mile away, killing many who were just leaving. I remember going to see the damage and the houses were just like large doll’s houses, with the fronts completely open. My brothers and my father, who was a chief A.R.P. warden helped to recover the bodies.

    On another occasion, I was cycling to Hounslow with my parents when there was a VERY loud explosion to our left, about a mile away. Apparently, a V2 rocket had crashed on the marshalling yards at Feltham.

    My Cousin Joe Olive lived in Forest Road, Walthamstow, with his mother and sister. Joe was going out to the back, outside toilet and saw a V1 approaching. He called out to his mother and sister to get into the Morrison Shelter when the V1 exploded on their house. Rescue workers dug out his mother (my aunt) and his sister who had suffered fractured ribs and took them to Whips Cross Hospital. My Aunt asked where was her son Joe? Rescue workers went back to check and found Joe under a door which was leaning against a wall, with rubble on top. He also had cracked ribs so was being taken to Whips Cross Hospital by ambulance, when another V1 crashed nearby and the ambulance was blown over by the force of the blast. Another ambulance had to be called.

    I worked in America for several years as an Aero/Space engineer. Some of my fellow engineers who were of Polish origins, were some of the forced labour who designed and built the V1’s and V2’s. After I transferred to the G.E. Space Division, Hubert Humphrey, the American Vice President came to visit with Werner von Braun!!! I was VERY tempted to shout out just what I thought of him!

  7. Burrard Rd Custom House London E16. I was born May 1941 I have a strong memory of standing next to my mother at the back yard door. Lots of ladies voices using words my mum said I must never repeat were being shouted across those back yards. In the sky were big fish on ropes (Barrage balloons) suddenly,in the air a black thing with smoke behind it. Mum picked me up and run indoors. we sat under the dining room table which evidently had a carpet over it. There was screaming noises (Air raid warnings I was later told) and lots of noise. I enjoyed these times, My mum would sing and play with me under that table. lots of broken glass and dust was everywhere when we came out. Mum would pick me up and run to the top of the road. She told me in later years, it was to see if any shops had been hit. We had a small bomb shelter in the back yard called a Anderson shelter. but I remember it always being flooded. Please forgive my bad grammar.

    1. Thank you for sharing these memories with everyone here. Really is great to hear your recollections of a time that seems so long ago now. I remember my grandmother being frightened by thunder as she said it reminded her of the bombs.

      1. This now feels like a confessional. The only other plain memory of those times was occasionally being with the big boys after raids. They would quickly enter the bombed out shops, factories and houses with hammers and what may have been chisels and screwdrivers. With open gas pipes at the side of them (my imagination may be taking over here, but I seem to remember flames coming out of them, im not sure) They broke open the gas meters for the coins, Our job as little kids was to watch out and warn them if the old bill or wardens appeared. (anyone in a uniform). I never told Mum, you were lectured every day not to go in bombed out buildings. I wonder if anyone remembers the pub at the top of my street, The Peacock. Freemasons Rd?

        1. I know of The Peacock, my grandma worked there. My grandma lived in Burrard Road, it’s where my Mum was mainly brought up. They lived in Burrard Road before the war started and my grandma did not leave there until, I think, they demolished and rebuilt 1970’s?. She then moved to Freemasons Road, then South Moulten (sp) as she got older. I don’t come from the area as my mum was evacuated to rural Essex met my dad and stayed here, but her heart was always in the East End.

  8. I am trying to verify a close call with a V” that my father-in-law had at the back end of 1944 or the beginning of 1945. He was building shuttering moulds for the Mulberry Harbours. He was either at Tilbury or one of the two London Docks used for this purpose. They were East India or South Dock close to the river Thames.

    He said he saw a vapour trail in the sky, and the weather was clear and sunny. Someone shout “Get down”! So he hit the dirt quickly and escaped unhurt. He said there were casualties but I am unsure of this fact. Sadly he is dead now, so I can’t trace the facts any other way but by this method.

    The closest information I have is this below??

    December 4, 1944. Weather conditions? December – Cold and dry with near normal sunshine.
    Mean Temperature 3.6°C
    Monthly Highest 12.5°C Total Rain 30 mm
    Monthly Lowest -4.9°C Total Sun 41 hrs

    The month began with mild, changeable weather, and on the 3rd the maximum temperature rose above 12°C. At the end of the second week a quieter spell of weather developed with some dense fogs occurring. However, a short unsettled interlude on the 17th produced nearly 12mm of rain. On the 20th, the fog was very dense, and over the Christmas period there was freezing fog. On both the 26th and 29th the maximum temperatures were only minus 0.8°C. Tilbury

  9. I remember the V1 that landed in Grove Road. I was on night-duty in the old Hackney Hospital and saw what looked like a small plane, on fire, being chased by a Spitfire? Or
    Hurricane? Then came the bang.

    1. Dennis "John" Cater

      Hi Pat, I lived in Antill Road and my Dad went down to this incident as he was a Fireman.

      I got all the what was secret papers out of this crash when I visited Kew Records office some years ago.

      Quite interested in the “V” weapons.

      I visited the street where the first V2 launched on the UK in Holland.

      Also went to a Memorial Sevice in Poland for Operation Wildhorn 3 the RAF DC3 that brought back bits of a V2 to England.

      Seems a long time ago now.

  10. Looking for further information on a V2 bomb that fell in Poplar on 24th November 1944. Took out several buildings in Beale Road and Runwell Street killing 14 and injuring 50.

  11. my family lived at 86 wren rd on the corner of porter ave barking Essex. we were hit with a V2 at about 0600 I do not remember the day.We were lucky we survived but the house took the full blast.We were billeted out to another council house. I cannot find a record of the hit but there was several in our area.

  12. I was in Broadway Market with my mother who was in a shop getting groceries when I heard the pulsating noise of a V2. I looked into the shop and saw that everyone was lying flat on the floor – no noise – then the explosion came and pandemonium broke out. I was outside the shop at the time, unhurt and wondering what all the fuss was about. At six years of age, you don’t know fear. I can still run this event through my mind with great clarity.

      1. Not that I know of, but my name is not that common and my family has lived in the East End for two hundred years, possibly we are related in some way.

        1. Hi Alan,
          Thank you for your reply. It was my husband who e-mailed you as he is a member of the website. My name is Jacqueline, my gran Adelaide Croucher lived in Ackbar House, Cahir Street, my mum was one of seven children, they were Ethel, Alice, Adelaide, Alfred, Billy, Rose (My mum) and for the life of me can’t remember the last sibling. I ask my husband to email you as the Crouchers would have been quite a big family at the time you mentioned in your post on the website. I know one of my Uncle’s also lived in Arethusa house in Cahir Street. Does any of this mean anything to you, would be lovely if it did.
          Jacqueline

  13. I lived in Shore Place Hackney.on December 23 1944 a V2 exploded above our house and a large part of it including the fuel tank came through the roof hit the water tank then came through my sisters bed then down into the dining room.It finished up hanging over the table in the mattress.it turned out to be the fuel tank full now Phosphorus.Luckily the water from the tank stopped it from bursting into flame.we had a few family visiting that night but luckily no one was badly hurt apart from some burns from the phosphorus.

  14. My Mum & dad with 10 children lived in Burnside street near the Bridge in Drove rd where the V1 came down, we all left London in 1940 evacuated to Swindon.
    There are 2 of us left out of 10 children. Both in our late 80″s.

    1. Hi Joseph,

      I am looking for people to talk about living through the war (especially people living in the East End) for a TV documentary. Would you be able to tell your memories on camera?

      1. Hi Holly,

        Are you still looking for people to talk about living in London through the war? My mother might be able to help you.

  15. Alfred Gardner.

    Cording Street, Poplar was bombed on the 19 March 1941.

    9 Cording Street residents were killed by the bombs.

  16. My father’s family lived in Ashwell Rd, Bethnal Green. The street, and others around it were wiped out in 1944/5 by either a V1 or V2. He thinks it was a V2, but can’t be certain. Does anybody have any info about this please? The area was never built on, and became what it now Wennington Park next to the canal.

  17. Interesting to read of the V1 rocket that landed on Grove Rd. I was two years old at the time and lived with my family (Dad was an ARP Warden)in Lessada Street. Our house was wiped out, with others, my paternal Grandad was killed by this rocket. We were then moved to Bonner Road where I grew up.

    1. Hi David My family were Bombed out of Lessada Street on the 23rd November 1944, My Uncle was 14 and Killed, he was in the street and my father was 9 and hospitalised for six weeks. the house took a big hit and fortunately the rest of the family were out except my nan who survived the blast. I cant find anything relating to this bombing except a list of casualties i found on a website somewhere

      236 22/11/1944 EILEEN PATRICIA BRYAN 14 DAUGHTER OF MRS. BRYAN, OF 28 PALM STREET, ROMAN ROAD, AND OF THE LATE THOMAS EDWARD BRYAN. DIED AT 46 LESSADA STREET.
      236 22/11/1944 CLARA DARBY 52 OF 14 LESSADA STREET, ROMAN ROAD. WIFE OF WILLIAM DARBY. DIED AT 14 LESSADA STREET.
      236 22/11/1944 CLARA ROSETTA DARBY 25 OF 14 LESSADA STREET, ROMAN ROAD. DAUGHTER OF WILLIAM AND CLARA DARBY. DIED AT 14 LESSADA STREET.
      236 22/11/1944 DORIS DARBY 19 OF 14 LESSADA STREET, ROMAN ROAD. DAUGHTER OF WILLIAM AND CLARA DARBY. DIED AT 14 LESSADA STREET.
      236 22/11/1944 WILLIAM DARBY 54 OF 14 LESSADA STREET, ROMAN ROAD. HUSBAND OF CLARA DARBY. DIED AT 14 LESSADA STREET.
      236 23/11/1944 RONALD SIDNEY FITZGERALD 14 OF 47 LESSADA STREET, BETHNAL GREEN. SON OF PERCY ROBERT AND MAUD FITZGERALD. INJURED 22 NOVEMBER 1944, AT 46 LESSADA STREET; DIED AT LONDON HOSPITAL.

      Reading the list i would guess that My Uncle Ronald Fitzgerald was with Eileen Bryan outside 46 Lessada Street

      1. Hi Tony, you might be interested to know that my cousin, Roy Rodd, aged 9 years old, was with the Darby family at 14 Lessada Street when the V2 fell. I believe they were babysitting for his parents while they were out that evening. Unfortunately Roy was killed along with the Darbys. Apparently it took 2 days to find his body and it was American soldiers who recovered him.

        1. Tony Fitzgerald

          Hi Diane thank you very much for that piece of information, i think that i was told by my aunt that American soldiers got my Dad out as well, she also told me that my uncle was apparently sitting on a windowsill when it hit, would really like to find out some more info, a newspaper report or something, i have been looking but cant find anything

          1. Hi Tony,

            I’ve looked on the British Newspaper Archive and sadly I can’t find anything on there. I guess there was too many to report!

            I looked at this website, https://alondoninheritance.com/thebombedcity/bethnal-greens-ordeal-and-the-underground-shelter-disaster/ and there is a small mention of Lessada Street and a detailed map of the sites of bombs in the area.

            I’m sure you know that all the people you mentioned are on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, select civilian dead, and they are all in the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour at Westminster Abbey. You can download a commemorative certificate of the CWGC website which is nice.

            Good luck with your search

            Diane

  18. George Hampshire

    I lived in Thorngrove Road, Upton Park during the war, a few landed in our street.
    My parents are both buried in the City Of London Cemetery, and on a visit some years ago, I saw a gravestone with the inscription “Launched into eternity by a V2”. Always wondered who decided on such an inscription, obviously not the deceased, but seems a bit insensitive for a relative.

      1. SHEILA WOODWARD

        Most of my mother’s family were bombed out in Poplar. My brother claims it was at the beginning of the war, but I remember my mother taking me to visit her mother in Cording Street, Poplar. As I was born in 1939 I think the bombing must have occurred later for me to remember this. Thanks for your input.

    1. We lived at Cave Rd Plaistow. In July 1944 . My parents decided to have a weeks holiday, at my elder sisters home at Cambridge. Neighbours made the usual comments ,obout running away.We left about 10-30am.The V1. Hit our house at approx. 12noon.Many of the neighbours were killed.I am now 88 years of age.Sad though.

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