On Oct 6th 1944 three German airmen in one-man dinghies were picked up 50 miles of the Norfolk Coast and landed at Harwich. They were the pilot, bomb mechanic and gunner of a He 111 of 8/KG III and had come to grief while on a flying bomb sortie. The interrogation of the crew provided some useful information on the method used to deploy air-launched flying bombs.
The aircraft used was a standard He 111 without any structural modifications, although the internal bomb stowage and the main fuselage tank hand been removed to reduce weight. With the remaining wing fuel tanks, which carried 3460 litres of fuel, the aircraft had an endurance of 5 ½ hours.
The flying bomb was carried under the starboard wing between the fuselage and the engine. The carrier consisted of two lugs which held a T piece on the flying bomb. The flying bomb caused no difficulties in take-off, which was accomplished in 800 to 900 metres. The drag caused by the flying bomb was corrected by trimming the rudder to the extent of 1°. The speed of the aircraft at a height of 100 to 500 metres with a flying bomb was stated to be 260/270 kph, only 20 kph slower than the unladen speed.
The operational procedure was governed by secrecy – the crew being given the absolute minimum information required for them to complete their sortie. The course taken by the aircraft, and the time and direction of release of the flying bomb, was determined solely by the navigational data supplied to the observer at the briefing and calculated by him during the flight.
According to the pilot, the course taken on their last sortie (Oct 5th) consisted of three legs over land, each turning point being marked by a low-powered visual beacon. These beacons were constantly shifted. The aircraft flew to the north of Arnhem and crossed the Zuider Zee. After leaving the coast, three more legs were to be flown, each at a deviation of 30° of the preceding leg. The aircraft flew at a height of 100 metres above the sea, virtually by the barometric altimeter, the radio FuGe altimeter only sparingly used to check the accuracy of the barometric altimeter. The crew were under strict instructions to keep wireless traffic to an absolute minimum. This particular sortie came to an end on the second leg when the pilot noted that the oil pressure on the starboard engine had dropped to zero and the pilot was forced to ditch the aircraft.
The point of release of the bomb was governed by an instrument embodying a tachometer and known as the “Zahlwerk”. Two were provided, one placed in front and above the observer and pilot and one for the bomb mechanic. The bomb mechanic’s instrument was also provided with a black button (known as “Anstellknopf” and for starting up the flying bomb’s propulsion unit) and a red button (known as “Abstellknopf” and for stopping the propulsion unit if necessary) and a lever for the release of the bomb.
At the beginning of the flight, the instrument was set to a given number, and when a certain point was reached on the flight (indicated by a radio transmitter on the Dutch coast at Den Helder), a switch on the left of the instrument was moved and the preset number began to run down in single digits. When the number 100 was reached, the observer gave a warning over the intercom to be ready and when 25 was reached the bomb mechanic pressed the black button. If all went well, the noise of the flying bomb’s propulsion unit could be heard and the vibrations felt and when zero was reached the flying bomb was released.
Above: Left - the V1 flying bomb was carried under the starboard wing of a He 111. Right - the moment of release of a flying bomb.
The minimum safety height for the release of the flying bomb was given as 500 metres. As noted above, the aircraft flew at a height of about 100 metres over the sea, and shortly before release climbed to a height of 500 metres, or more usually to 100 metres higher than the minimum laid down. After the climb, the original speed of the aircraft was regained. After release of the flying bomb, the aircraft rose steeply and the flying bomb fell about 100 metres before going on its appointed course.
Training for the He 111 crews comprised of a 10 day course of instruction given by the Erprobungskommando Karlshagen at Peenemunde. At first the pilot only took part and no flying bomb was carried. The bomb mechanic received about half an hour’s training in the flying bomb release gear. A second flight was completed with the full crew and instructor, carrying a flying bomb without a warhead and the starting and release procedure of the flying bomb was practised. The third and final training flight was made with the crew alone and the procedure of the second flight repeated.
AA Command papers, TNA