The V1 was one of Hitler’s secret weapons that he had told his generals that Nazi Germany possessed which would turn the way World War Two was going in 1944. The V1 was first launched against Britain in June 1944, just one week after D-Day. The V1 is difficult to classify as a weapon as it was not a true rocket in that it did not leave the atmosphere, but it was also clearly not a plane. Perhaps it could best be described as a winged but pilot-less fuel propelled flying bomb.
The V1 was so-called because Hitler saw it as a reprisal weapon – a Vergeltungswaffen. Intelligence had already concluded that the Germans had developed something radical as early as late 1943 when spy reports and reconnaissance photos showed the existence of launch ramps that were clearly directed at London.
The Germans created a special unit to handle the flying bombs - the 155th Flakregiment commanded by Colonel Wachtel. The V1 - officially for the Germans the FZG-76 - was also known as the 'doodle bug', 'buzz-bomb' and 'cherry stone'. It was 25 feet long and had a wing span of 16 feet. Loaded with fuel, it weighed 2 tons and it had a warhead of 2,000 lbs of explosives. The most common way of launching the V1 was by ramp. It could also be launched by a modified Heinkel III. Originally, the V1 had a maximum range of 150 miles but this was improved to 250 miles to allow for it to be launched from Holland. About 10,500 were launched at Britain from June 1944 on, 8,800 by ramp and the rest by plane. The first one was first on June 13th 1944.
Though the V1's had no impact on the success or otherwise of D-Day, they did present a serious threat to London and south-east England. The defence of London rested with fighter planes, anti-aircraft fire around the coast and the use of barrage balloons. Any destruction or interception of the V1's had to be done outside of London as any that were destroyed over London itself, may well have exploded on contact with the ground - thus doing what the V1 was intended to do regardless.