Authie et Mi

Rediscovering the V1

The Ski Sites

Although these sites were all supposedly built to a general pattern with the same buildings in the same general order, what you will actually find on visiting the sites varies greatly.

Time and Allied bombing took their toll on the majority of the sites and since the end of the war farmers have either incorporated the buildings into their territory or had them demolished.

Quite often the buildings are unrecognisable, just a heap of bricks and concrete, but a few remain easily identifiable by their shape or proximity to the launch ramp.

Whilst I am going to try and describe a typical ski site it needs to be remembered that almost none of these ever saw action. The buildings though, tended to remain the same even at the most cut down sites.

The reception platform

The reception platform at Rimboval

The reception platform at Rimboval

You don’t always find one of these but its presence is a give away that you are at the entrance to a V1 site. The dimensions varied according to the ground available but they are generally about 25 m long by about 15 m wide. Constructed out of 4 m x 7 m slabs of prefabricated concrete, the platform served allowed the transporting trucks to pull in, unload their missile and then drive off without the need of complicated manoeuvres.

The reception platform at La Loge West

The one at La Loge West

Rather like a yard for shipping containers the vehicle transporting the V1 would pull in under a mobile gantry fitted with a winch and pulley system. An operator would hoist the missile off the vehicle and drop it onto a trolley on which it would remain until the very last stages of its preparation for flight.

Storage Block

This is basically a 30 m long garage with just the one entrance. The heavy door was made of wood which is why you would rarely see one these days. These buildings were not intended to be bomb proof, though they would provide shelter from blast damage.

The storage block at the entrance to Ligescourt

The building at the entrance to Ligescourt

The general form of construction was pretty much the same, a double wall of breeze blocks reinforced by having some of the blocks positioned crosswise linking the two walls together. The roof was made of shuttered concrete (reinforced concrete poured into a mould) and could take various forms, flat edged, rounded, or slightly triangular with the interior hollow padded with wood and earth.

The building was originally intended as a storage area for the trolleys and other bits and pieces. It was big enough however, to accommodate a couple of V1s on their trolleys if required.

It has a very similar construction to the ski buildings, without the tell-tale curve and extra access points for the personnel.

Preliminary assembly building

The preliminary assembly building at Val Ygot

The preliminary assembly building at Val Ygot

This is one of the fairly easily identified buildings. Usually about 22 m long and 8 m wide it was divided into two distinct sections along its length. The right hand side is a long corridor whilst the left is divided up into the workshops. The missile was wheeled in at one end, prepared and taken out at the other.

The preliminary assembly building at Vacquerie le Bouc

The building at Vacquerie le Boucq — the missile coming in from the far end

All the work was carried out on the left side of the missile so it is easy to work out which way the building is facing — the workshops are always on the left side as you enter the corridor.

The preliminary assembly building at La Loge

The one at La Loge, near Hesdin, is used by the municipal council

The workshops are divided into two sections. In the first, the team would open up the package, removing all the protection and metal restraints. This would release the wings and the container holding the parts for the cone. The nose protection would be unscrewed and the cone fixed into place with the same screws. The cone protected the very fragile propeller of the odometer (which controlled the distance travelled).

Spheres for the pressurized oxygen

Spheres for the pressurized oxygen

The trolley and other parts were now moved down the second part of the workshop where a second team set up the rear flaps and rudder, and all the necessary connecting rods. They would then pressurize the two spheres with air. This would be brought up to 170 bars (your car tyres are about 2.5 bars) and then slowly reduced to about 160 bars. The compressor used was situated in an adjoining building.

Above them was a winch and pulley system, fixed to the roof of the building. The missile would be pulled up in order to test that everything was working. If it was then the the missile was set at an angle of six degrees (the same as that of the launch ramp) and given a cold start to make sure that the fuel system was functioning.

Once all was ready and correct, the missile was lowered back onto its trolley and it would be moved to the next building.

The building when you look at it is normally divided into three sections. The first is composed of three rooms for the team that would unbox the missile on its arrival. These have doorways from both the exterior and towards the interior corridor. An interior door leads from the third room into the fourth which was used by the mounting and testing squad. The final two rooms of the building only have exterior doors and were used for storing equipment.

Posted : 13 May 2022

House, Coast