V-2 and "Third Bridge".

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v2

Captain
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Nov 9, 2005
Cracow
In 1944, British still did not know what capability the Hitler's most secret weapon rockets V-1 and later V-2 might had and what to expect from its use against Britain. After the German primary rocket base and test firing range at Peenemunde on the Baltic coast was bombed, the Nazis established a launching site at Blizna, Poland, from where they continued to test V-2. Poles set up a chain post of small units responsible for beating the Germans to the sites of impacts of the tested rockets. One of those V-2 had landed in a marsh close to the bank of the River Bug near village of Sarnaki, some 80 miles east of Warsaw. Members of the Polish Resistance found it before Germans did, and since it was sticking out, pushed it deep into water making it invisible. Later they recovered it and a team of Polish engineers, under Jerzy Chmielewski, dismantled most vital parts.

Then the "secret cargo" of all those parts of V2 rocket were transported out of Poland by plane. Kazimierz Szrajer was a second pilot on that special plane. Here are his reminiscences:
"(...) These events took place in July 1944, toward the end of my operational tour on Halifaxes. I was with the 1586 Flight stationed at Brindisi, Italy. I was called by our squadron leader who informed me that I was assigned to the British crew of a Dakota for an assignment to Poland. We were to land there for a pickup. He advised me to be physically and morally prepared for this flight. I felt deeply honored and for a next few days I was excited, impatiently waiting for my assignment.
Finally, in a morning of July 25th, I was informed that the flight would take place that night. The plane was to land at Brindisi to pick me up. I suddenly realized that I never flew that type of aircraft, and started be a little apprehensive. My commander assured me that I'll do just fine and that the British pilot would brief me about plane's systems and a take-off procedure. That exactly what happened. I took F/Lt Culliford, a New Zealander, about five minutes to introduce me to Dakota. After referring me to instruments, fuel and undercarriage system, he made a fully qualified co-pilot. Our plane had two extra tanks installed in the fuselage, what extended its range significantly and allowed us to stay airborne for at least 13 hours. Our crew consisted of: F/Lt S.C. Culliford (pilot), F/O K. Szrajer (co-pilot and translator), F/O J.P. Williams (navigator) and F/Sgt J. Appleby (wireless operator). It was to be my twentieth flight to the occupied Poland.
We took off from Brindisi at 7:30 p.m. escorted by a Polish Liberator. It was mostly for our psychical comfort, since both planes were easy target for German fighters. On board we had some equipment and four passengers. Not only the common sense but also strict regulations prohibited us from knowing who they were. After the war I learned from different sources that our passengers were: Kazimierz Bilski, Jan Nowak, Leszek Starzynski and Boguslaw Wolniak. During crossing of the Yugoslavian coast nightfall came. Until that moment I had a radio contact with our escort, which took its own course. Ours led through Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Over Hungary we saw AA in action, but far from us and apparently stimulated by somebody else. Our orientation point for landing was the outlet of the River Dunajec to the River Vistula. We reached it according to plan, right on time. Down there they waited for us, and after signals exchange, the lights appeared on four corners of the landing strip. Pilot made two attempts before putting down the plane. Right after we stopped I opened the door to established contact with the receiving party. I was welcomed by por. Wlodzimierz Gedymin who commanded on the ground. Our passengers left, the equipment was unloaded and took five new passengers. They were: T. Arciszewski, J. Retinger, J. Chmielewski, T. Chciuk and C. Micinski. Jerzy Chmielewski was in possession of the V-2 parts and written report on them. He was responsible for the watch on Blizna.
After only several minutes on the ground we got ready to take off. It turned out that the field was oozy.
Our Dakota was stuck in the mud. I immediately realized my situation: I was on a Polish soil and I could join the Polish Resistance and in few days meet my family and friends. The Polish officer was asking me a lot of questions about certain people, Polish units, etc. while there was no time to waste. We franticly tried to free the aircraft, all in vain. We were running out of time and we discussed burning the plane. Finally, after an hour and five minutes on a ground, we succeeded and took off for home.
We still had a big problem on our hands. In our desperation to budge the aircraft we severed their hydraulic hoses to eliminate the possibility of the wheels' locked breaks. This prevented us from lifting up the undercarriage. Flying with the wheels down created a drag what threatened with running out of fuel before reaching our base. We filled the hydraulic tank with whatever fluid we could get: water, thermos tea, whatever. By the time we passed the Tatra Mountains, we had the wheels up. Then I went to see to our passengers and instruct them about parachute harness in case of need. Back in the cockpit I took over the controls. It was a beautiful, starry and calm night and we all calmed down, calculating that after three hours of flight we'll back home and relatively safe. I reflected on the group of people we left in behind us, who already for five years fought with the hated occupant, and who put a lot of effort into the "Third Bridge".
Our successful flight back to Allied territory with the parts of V-2 was their triumph(...)".

By pure luck, this mission was almost scrapped by the last minute, when unexpectedly, a day before the operation, the Germans set up an outpost with two FW190s fighters on the very strip designated for
Dakota to land. Fortunately, they left the same day and Resistance was able to prepare everything on time.
Jerzy Chmielewski who brought V-2 parts with him to England could speak no English and categorically refused to give them away until he had an order from only two Polish officers on British soil he knew able to issue it. The Pole set on his treasure and threatened with a knife anybody who made an attempt to have a look on it. The stalemate lasted for several hours before he obtained the authority to relinquish his collection. Undoubtedly, it was yet another vital contribution of the Polish nation to the Allies war effort.

Sources of information: Web Sites: Janusz Zurakowski, The DC-3 Hangar
 

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Good post v2. Really interesting read. The Polish resistance really helped the allied war effort by capturing an intact enigma machine early in the war and working out how it work and this action you have described amoung others. They were did a great job for the allied war effort and helped a great deal in the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.
 
Jerzy Chmielewski who brought V-2 parts with him to England could speak no English and categorically refused to give them away until he had an order from only two Polish officers on British soil he knew able to issue it. The Pole set on his treasure and threatened with a knife anybody who made an attempt to have a look on it.

What a jackass he was though.

But a brave jackass. Very helpful. Good post.
 
More informations about V2 in Poland:

By May 1943, after years of skepticism, the British intelligence was finally convinced in the existence of the German long-range ballistic missile program. Urgent steps to counteract the new Nazi weapon were required. On August 17, 1943, the massive allied air raid targeted German secret rocket development and test center in Peenemunde. In the aftermath of the attack, the Germans decided to back up operations in Peenemunde, with a new training and testing range for the A-4 missile in a remote southeastern region of Poland.

a4_poland_map_1.jpg


A new launch facility was built within the territory of the artillery range and the SS training grounds in the village of Blizna northeast of the town of Debica. Primary missile impact points were located further northeast, along the shores of the Bug River.

a4_blizna_map_1.jpg


The first A-4 launch from the Blizna test range took place on November 5, 1943. At the peak of test activities in early summer 1944, as many as 10 missiles per day were fired from Blizna. Wernher von Braun, the head of the A-4 development, personally visited the impact areas to troubleshoot the problems discovered during trials.
Despite all measures by the SS to maintain secrecy around the site, the British intelligence was receiving regular information about the tests from the Polish resistance. A Polish-British team even retrieved remnants of an actual missile from one of the impact sites. (Concurrently, the British were able to recover another missile, which landed in Sweden.)

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On July 13, 1944, the British Prime-Minister Winston Churchill sent a letter to Joseph Stalin, which reportedly for the first time informed the Soviet leader about German rocket weapon being tested in Poland. In his letter, Churchill asked Stalin to instruct his troops, then some 50 kilometers from Debica, to preserve any hardware found at the site after it is captured by the advancing Soviet Army. He also asked Stalin to permit British experts to visit Debica. Stalin eventually granted all Churchill's requests, while concurrently ordering his army intelligence and Minister Shakhurin to get ready for the evaluation of the German rocket trophies. Shakhurin had an order to have his experts in Debica before the British. Golovanov even cites a handwritten note by Stalin given by Shakhurin to Fedorov and urging him to investigate the matter as soon as possible.

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The Soviet troops entered Blizna around August 6, or some ten days after Germans abandoned the test range with last pieces of the secret hardware. Several Russian sources agree that first remnants of A-4 missiles were recovered in Poland by troops of the 60th army led by General P. A. Kurochkin.
 
Monument in missile impact point- Sarnaki

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Sarnaki - Monument commemorating the capture during WWII by the soldiers of the underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa) of the prototype of the German V-2 rocket (which was then dismantled and sent in pieces to England). The insciption reads - "They saved London".
 
My Grandfather was killed by a V2 hit in London, so this had some real interest to me.

Thanks for this post. I learned something new. I never thought the nazi's tested their V2's outside of the baltic.
 
More pics....

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V2 rocket being recovered from the Bug river by the Home Army.

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Parts of the V-2 rocket recovered from the Bug river by the Home Army

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Members of the Operation Most III (Third Bridge ), during which the parts of the captured V-2, as well as the analisis and sketches were transfered from occupied Poland to UK

V-2_Leaflet_testsitearea.jpg

German leaflet warning of V-2 rockets, distributed among the population of the area of Blizna test site
The text reads: Attention! It's not a bomb! Report immediately to the nearest police station or airport! Warning! Liquid fuel! Very Important!
 

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