Rediscovering the V1
The Ski Sites
In the previous section I looked at the arrival of the missile on site. Here I am going to review the structures used to complete the preparation of the V1.
What took place here was perhaps mundane but still of extreme importance for the firing crews.
This is another of the fairly easily recognised buildings due to its double doored work area. You might also be lucky to find the rails still in place.
The V1 was unable to launch itself into flight and required a catapult to push it up the ramp. The force required to do so was created by a steam generator using two chemicals which, when mixed together, creates a violent reaction.
The two chemicals were designated as Z-stoff (potassium permanganate) and T-stoff (hydrogen peroxide). The resulting manganese dioxide had the annoying habit of gumming up the nozzles of the generator which therefore needed fastidious cleaning before the next launch.
The generator was transported on a small trolley which was wheeled into the workshop. On the outbound journey it was filled with pressurised air and the two tanks were (very) carefully filled with their chemicals, brought from separate bunkers. The crew at this location all wore heavy protective clothing.
When it came back from the launch ramp it was completely washed down with power hoses. The chemical tanks were thoroughly rinsed and the nozzles cleaned out of anything that might cause a blockage during the following launch.
To achieve a proper cleaning it was important to ensure that the generator did not get cold. This posed a problem because the water in much of the north of France is pretty hard and the last thing the team needed was for limescale to form on the insides. For that reason distilled water was used whenever possible.
You may well find one of these next to the machine house. If it hasn’t been raining you should be able to make out its form of an upside-down pyramid. It would contain about 200 cubic metres of water which was used for washing down the concrete surfaces of the machine house or, in the case of an emergency, for putting out fires.
What it wasn’t used for, as explained above, was for cleaning the equipment.
Stocking the chemicals
As it was extremely important that the two chemicals for the launch system did not come into contact they were kept in separate bunkers. These needed to be cool, out of sunlight and ventilated. The cannisters were placed on duckboards over a drainage pit. As the bunkers only had the one entrance a ventilation shaft was necessary.
Sometimes found above ground more often than not they were sunk into the ground.
Distilled water tanks
Although built in slightly different forms the general shape of a T and doorway easily identifies this building as the pumping house for the distilled water needed to clean the steam generator after each launch.
Distilled water (or at the very least, as soft as possible) was vital for the proper functioning of the equipment and to this end the Todt organisation (in overall charge of the construction works) would seek out a local water source. This would be done by either digging a well or if necessary diverting water from a nearby river.
There were two tanks within the building the first would contain water from the source and the other for the treated water. Pipes would take the water away to the workshop as well as the launch site and chemical stores.
If you are very lucky you might see one of the tubular air vents above the building which served as pressure valves as the main tank was refilled with water.
Posted : 13 May 2022