Gallery - Operation Crossbow - Experimental & Manufacturing Sites
In November 1939 the British Naval Attache in Norway received - from an anonymous German scientist who wished well - a report outlining the scope of German military scientific research. Although opinion differed within British intelligence whether the report was genuine, or a deliberate ploy by the Germans to mislead them, the Oslo Report did identify Peenemunde in northern Germany as an important research centre.
In 1936 Peenemunde had been a small fishing village on the remote peninsula of Usedom, on the Baltic Sea. In that year the decision was made by the Germans to establish a joint research facility for the Army and Air Force, where they could develop and test large rockets. By 1940 more than 18,000 scientists, engineers, technicians worked at Peenemunde - under the technical direction of Dr Wernher von Braun - and on 3 October 1942 they succeeded in firing a rocket 84 kilometers into space, and which landed only four kilometers from its predicted impact point. Whilst many of the rocket scientists were interested in the potential of this technology for space travel, the German High Command were far more interested in its military application, and the potential of this new revolutionary technology to change the course of the war.
The first Allied raid on the Peenemunde facility, was on the night of 17/18 August 1943 when RAF Bomber Command dropped 1,600 tons of high explosives and 250 tons of incendiary bombs. Although no important parts of the facility were hit, this and subsequent raids forced the Germans to relocate the facilities for the mass production of rockets to a factory that was built in a network of tunnels under the Kohnstein Mountain at Niedersachswerfen. Located near the town of Nordhausen, in central Germany, thousands of prisoners from the specially built Mittelbau-Dora labour camp were used to convert the tunnels and work in the factory. Rocket testing would also be largely relocated to south east Poland, close to the remote village of Blizna.