History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951 - Vol. 4

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

9
THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR

June 6 1944 was ‘D-Day’. The long-postponed second front was opened at last as British and American troops landed in northern France.

A few days later, people living in the south east were suddenly faced with a new kind of terror weapon: the ‘flying bomb’, officially called the V-I. Between 100 and 150 of them landed every 24 hours. Most of the previous bombing raids had been at night. But the ‘buzz-bomb’ or ‘doodle-bug’, as it was called, came at any time of day or night. The drone of its engine would grow louder and louder until it suddenly cut out; at that moment it would begin to fall. As it hit the ground, there would be a massive explosion. The bombs were not aimed at particular targets; they fell at random, mostly in south London. Within three weeks, 2,700 people had been killed and 8,000 injured. And, because the raids were not confined to night-time, they caused considerable disruption at work. Most factories used ‘roof-spotters’ who gave warning to take cover whenever a buzz-bomb was getting close. Evacuation of schoolchildren and mothers with babies was hurriedly organised. Altogether, 1.5 million people, many of whom had drifted back during the months of relative calm, left London once more.

The need for those not engaged in essential work to leave London was urgent for another reason. A far more powerful weapon, a long-range rocket bomb containing a much higher explosive power than the buzz-bomb was expected at any time. Ted Bramley, the Communist Party’s London District Secretary, claimed on 11 August that far too little attention had been paid to the warning given by Churchill that London would be the primary target for what was to become known as the ‘V-2’.1

The first V-2 fell on 8 September; in the next few months, some 1,000 were launched, of which over 500 reached London. Nothing was said about them in the press until 10 November when Churchill divulged what had been happening. The news blackout was intended

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