Peenemunde V Rockets
The Peenemünde Military Test Site was one of the most modern technological facilities in the world in the years between 1936 and 1945. The first launch of a missile into space took place here in October 1942. In the nearby air force testing area, rocket engineers tested numerous flight objects equipped with revolutionary technology. From the start this research was directed toward one goal only: achieving military superiority through advanced technology.
Slave laborers, concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war provided the work that enabled the construction of the test sites and the later serial production of the rockets, which the Nazi propaganda referred to as “Vergeltungswaffe 2″ (or “Vengeance Weapon 2″), in so short a period of time. Both the inhumane labour conditions and the attacks on Belgian, British and French cities using the supposed “wonder weapon” claimed thousands of lives.
The ambivalent nature of technological progress is uniquely reflected in the story of Peenemünde. The collision of science and technology exemplified by the complex, together with an account of the historical development of rocketry are the main focus of the exhibition of the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum. It is housed in the power station of the former Army Testing Site – the largest technical monument in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
The “secret” test centre became a high priority target for the RAF with inevitable results… Operation Hydra: 596 aircraft – 324 Lancasters, 218 Halifaxes, 54 Stirlings on the 18th August 1943 saw the opening round of Operation Crossbow.
This was a special raid, and was carried out in moonlight to increase the chances of success. There were several novel features. It was the only occasion in the second half of the war when the whole of Bomber Command attempted a precision raid by night on such a small target. For the first time, there was a Master Bomber controlling a full-scale Bomber Command raid; Group Captain J. H. Searby, of 83 Squadron, 8 Group, carried out this task. There were three aiming points – the scientists and workers living quarters, the rocket factory and the experimental station – and the Pathfinders employed a special plan with crews designated as shifters, who attempted to move the marking from one part of the target to another as the raid progressed. Crews of 5 Group, bombing in the last wave of the attack, had practised the time-and-distance bombing method as an alternative method for their part in the raid.
The Pathfinders found Peenemunde without difficulty in the moonlight and the Master Bomber controlled the raid successfully throughout. A Mosquito diversion to Berlin drew off most of the German night-fighters for the first 2 of the raid’s 3 phases. Unfortunately, the initial marking and bombing fell on a labour camp for forced workers which was situated 1.5 miles south of the first aiming point, but the Master Bomber and the Pathfinders quickly brought the bombing back to the main targets, which were all bombed successfully. 560 aircraft dropped nearly 1,800 tons of bombs; 85 per cent of this tonnage was high-explosive. The estimate has appeared in many sources that this raid set back the V-2 experimental programme by at least 2 months and reduced the scale of the eventual rocket attack. Approximately 180 Germans were killed at Peenemunde, nearly all in the workers housing estate, and 500-600 foreigners, mostly Polish, were killed in the workers camp, where there were only flimsy wooden barracks and no proper air-raid shelters.
Bomber Command’s losses were 40 aircraft – 23 Lancasters, 15 Halifaxes and 2 Stirlings. This represents 6.7 per cent of the force dispatched but was judged an acceptable cost for the successful attack on this important target on a moonlit night. Most of the casualties were suffered by the aircraft of the last wave when the German night fighters arrived in force; the groups involved in this were 5 Group, which lost 17 of its 109 aircraft on the raid (14.5 per cent) and the Canadian 6 Group which lost 12 out of 57 aircraft (19.7 per cent). This was the first night on which the Germans used their new schrage Musik weapons; these were twin upward-firing cannons fitted in the cockpit of Me 110s. Two schrage Musik aircraft found the bomber stream flying home from Peenemunde and are believed to have shot down 6 of the bombers lost on the raid.
The other main attraction of this little often explored corner of Germany lies the Nazi Holiday development called Prora. Prora is a beach resort on the island of Rügen, Germany, known especially for its colossal Nazi-planned tourist structures. The massive building complex was built between 1936 and 1939 as a Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude or KdF) project. The eight buildings are identical, and although they were planned as a holiday resort, they were never used for this purpose. The complex has a formal heritage listing as a particularly striking example of Third Reich architecture and well worth visiting before it undergoes it’s transformation to a hotel and shopping complex!
All Peenemunde V Rocket Trips are £449 per guest, plus £40 a night single room supplement, where applicable.
Next Trip Dates:
June 13-15 2013, from £449, places available.
On Day One guests are met by Nick J, either at the Arrivals Lounge of Berlin Schoenefeld Airport or slightly later at Berlin’s central Hauptbahnhof train station (train transfer to Berlin included) for breakfast. From here Nick takes guests by train up to the old Hanseatic City of Stralsund on the Baltic coast, famous for it’s breweries (we affectionately call this the “beer & bombs” tour, which takes around 3.5 hours and sees us arriving around 15:00 (travel included). After checking in to our hotel we go on a little walking tour of this quaint old city before perhaps sampling a few beers from a local brewery and a talk about what lies ahead at Peenemunde.
Day Two see us travel by train (included) from Stralsund to Peenemunde arriving at around 10:30. We visit the park where there are various pieces of hardware on display, including a doodlebug launch sling and the original train for staff. We then look around the wonderful musem they have established before visiting the factory. We have a picnic lunch that we bring with us from the hotel and we cycle around the penninsula seeing the airport and V1 launcg site, the concentration camp site. the freight station, the heating system from the factory to the settlement, the assembly plant and train ramp, the main security entrance site, the settlment houses which survived Operation Crossbow, the DAF Camp, bunkers and dyke and the liquid oxygen plant factory. Finally, guests will have an option to either visit the Soviet nuclear submarine and or have a beer. We then return to Stralsund where we have dinner and in the famous Störtebecker brewery.
Day Three we head from Stralsund to Prora on the Isle of Rugen, arriving around 10:00. Here we explore the KDF building, visit and exhibition and watch a film, see the main entrance hall to complex and have a look at the huge landing dock for the would be guests and their cruiseships. We take a walk on this beautiful beach and have a picnic lunch and maybe a beer and contemplate what ‘could have been’ before catching the 14:00 train to Straslsund. There we collect our bags and catch the train to Berlin which arrives at around 18:00 ready for us to make it to the airport in plenty of time for our evening flight sback to the UK.
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