Gallery - Operation Crossbow - V1 Belhamelin Sites
In December 1943, the German Commander of the V Weapon sites in northern France decided to develop a new kind of V1 launch site. Following the devastating Allied air attacks on the Bois Carre sites, General Heinemann considered them too elaborate, and that however much they tried to camouflage the distinctive ski buildings they were too easily spotted on aerial photography.
On hearing that the supply of flying bombs would be delayed until May or June 1944, he decided that the intervening months should be spent constructing a new kind of launching site, which the RAF were to call the 'modified sites'. These consisted of a metal ramp which could be constructed off-site, and bolted onto concrete foundations, all of which could be deliberately concealed in a wood. None of the tell-tale ski building were to be built and only three or four camouflaged huts.
In late April 1944, the first modified site was spotted by the interpreters at Belhamelin, near Cherbourg, little more than a month before D-Day. The Belhamelins were fiendishly difficult to detect and meant that in the leadup to D-Day when most photographic reconnaissance effort was concentrating on targets essential to Operation Overlord, the Crossbow team had no option but to use old sorties to try and locate the new sites. Nevertheless, by the time the first flying bombs were launched on London, on 12 June 1944, 156 of the new types had been discovered. But since bombing attacks had to be concentrated on targets relating to the Allied landings in Normandy, they nevertheless represented a real danger to those living in the south of England.
Although the south of England was to suffer terribly from the flying bombs, or doodlebugs as they became nicknamed, and their impact on morale in the aftermath of the successful D-Day landings was considerable, it could have been so much worse. Since the Germans had been largely forced to abandon the original Bois Carre sites, from which were planned to be deployed 2,000 flying bombs per 24 hours, the Belhamelins were only capable of a maximum 300 flying bombs over the same period.