Digging up V2 Rocket

At H. E. Services (Plant Hire) Ltd, we have helped dig up remains of a V2 terror rocket at St Mary’s Platt. We are extremely pleased that we had the opportunity to work with Research Resource Archaeology by lending our Komatsu PC138 for this project.

Award winning archaeologist from Research Resource Archaeology, Colin & Sean Welch began digging on Monday at St Mary’s Platt. They uncovered the first remains on Tuesday.

Who are Research Resource  Archaeology?

In 2010, the Welch brothers established ‘Research Resource Archaeology’ very soon concentrating exclusively on the study of ‘conflict’ archaeology. In particular the ‘V’ weapon offensive of 1944-1945. They have carried out many major excavations and surveys of V-1 ‘Flying-bombs’, V-2 rockets and the licensed excavation of Hawker Tempest EJ532. Issuing formal reports into their findings believing in an ethic of accountability and public dissemination.

Background history to the V2 Rocket:

The V2 rocket at Platt was fired from The Hague (Holland) at around 12.25am, arriving 5 minutes later on 14 February 1945. Having achieved up to 5 times the speed of sound in the first minute of launch. The engine was switched off automatically, the missile went into Space (around 55 miles high), before falling in the field at Platt at 3.5 x the speed of sound. Luckily, causing no injuries, and only ‘superficial’ damage to the crater that ‘Research Resource Archaeology’ excavated last week. It was aimed at London, but went off course.

What was this excavation about?

This excavation was for a V2 rocket that was fired by Nazi Germany on 14th February 1945 which crashed and detonated in a field near Platt, Sevenoaks, Kent. It was on these grounds that the Welch brothers won an award in 2018 for ‘Outstanding Archaeological Endeavour’ from the Council for Kentish Archaeology.

It is important to realise that if the missile achieved its target (of London), it would usually strike a building before the ground. With the result of major devastation and unfortunately loss of life. In this case, as the others that we look at, there were no casualties.

We asked the Archaeologist why this particular excavation was important to them, 

Colin Welch said: “This has been a very important project for us because in archaeological terms, the site was pristine (unadulterated: no previous study, no domestic refuse in the crater) which gave us a real chance to understand what happens when 4 tonnes of V2 rocket hits the ground”. Colin also added-

“The other major factor is the dissemination of our work. We believe that it is critically important to share our work and discoveries – our V2 excavations always attract great interest from the community (which we welcome and encourage) as a way of making this history our community history.”

What was found and what will happen to the findings?

The team managed to dig up a combustion chamber burner cups from 6 metres depth which is a major find!

The finds will be subject to a preliminary recording (in their context finds trays). They will then be water-washed to remove excess dirt, photographed again at this point with the other finds from the relevant tray (for future cross-reference). The next stage is the true conservation. This involved acids of various strengths and careful manual work to remove surface oxidation degradation whilst maintaining the surface information and patina of the finds. At this point, it will be clear if the soil condition has allowed the preservation of the dispersed German factory secret codes that identify where the components were made before being sent to ‘Nordhausen’ (an underground factory built into the Hartz mountains) for final assembly. Each find will receive a coating of removable museum-grade wax to prevent further oxidation. Each find will be photographed with a reference control and given its MDA (museum acquisition) coding.

R&RA aim is to build an online digital museum where the finds from all their excavations can be viewed in separate ‘rooms’. However they can be linked by cross-referencing tools to finds from other sites and archive resources. The museum will also include 3-dimensional imagery of the most important finds. For this project, However they do need substantial financial backing, and they are at the point of making a National Lottery bid for a grant.  R&RA think the museum will be the ultimate public dissemination tool.

Thank you!

Colin welch also said, “To the Chairman, Malcolm Gough, Fatima Parpia, Carol Harris and all at H. E. Services, we would like to say a profound thank you. A vast amount of people derived a great deal of interest, excitement and education from this experience, that we sincerely hope can be replicated.

The real premium of your contribution is that this (we think incredibly interesting and relevant) story has been directly beamed to around 300 9-11 year old students across the region, which has obviously made a great impression on them.

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All information correct as of: 6th October 2021. 

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