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They found my V2! Pensioner who told police when he saw Hitler's rocket drop into the sea is vindicated as warhead is found intact in mudfield

By // News | They found my V2! Pensioner who told police when he saw Hitler's rocket drop into the sea is vindicated as warhead is found intact in mudfield
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  • A six-man team of Royal Navy bomb disposal experts are working urgently to make sure the rusting weapon's one-ton warhead won’t detonate

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 13:13 EST, 29 March 2012 | UPDATED: 22:58 EST, 29 March 2012

Great-grandfather Ruben Dace warned police of the V2 missile after watching falling just off the coast of East Anglia

Great-grandfather Ruben Dace warned police of the V2 missile after watching falling just off the coast of East Anglia

They killed thousands in the final months of the Second World War, fired from occupied Europe at the cities and ports of the south-east.

So when great-grandfather Reuben Day, 82, saw one of Hitler's terrifying V-2 rockets falling just off the coast of East Anglia he informed the police straight away.

But despite Mr Day, then a teenage fishermen, showing police the unexploded rocket lying in the mud - it remained there largely undisturbed for 68 years.

Over the years the deadly missile has only been approached by the occasional sailor using the 2ft of metal which protruded from the mudflats at low tide to moor their boats.

And only now has it been decided that the rocket, one of nearly 1,500 fired at Britain, should be made safe. 

Mr Day said: 'I have always maintained that it was just the propellant that must have exploded. 

'If it had been the warhead, the whole thing would have blown to smithereens and there would have been nothing left.'

A six-man team of Royal Navy bomb disposal experts are working urgently to make sure the rusting weapon’s one-ton warhead won’t detonate.

It is the first time that a V-2, which flew at speeds of over a mile a second, has been found in such good condition in the UK.

The missile is thought to have been fired at the port of Harwich in Essex, in October 1944.

But instead of hitting its target, the 46ft-long rocket plopped nose down into mudflats about 600ft off the shore.

Mr Day's faded notes include 'it was a german rocket,' and 'fell over in mud.' 'But although the police knew about it at the time, I heard nothing more about it and it has stayed there ever since,' he said

Mr Day's faded notes include 'it was a german rocket,' and 'fell over in mud.' 'But although the police knew about it at the time, I heard nothing more about it and it has stayed there ever since,' he said

Deadly: For 68 years the missile has remained largely undisturbed, but today a Navy Bomb disposal squad examined the remains of a World War 2 V2 German rocket found in the sea off Harwich, Essex

Deadly: For 68 years the missile has remained largely undisturbed, but today a Navy Bomb disposal squad examined the remains of a World War 2 V2 German rocket found in the sea off Harwich, Essex

It left only 2ft of its tail visible at low tide. The Navy’s bomb squad was called in following a chance conversation at the nearby Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing Club.

Mr Day had been working as a young fisherman and had gone to pick up some fish when he heard a 'terrific explosion' overhead.

When he thought there was no longer a risk of flying shrapnel, he went outside and saw two clouds of black and white smoke and a white vapour trail coming out of the sky.

Father-of-seven Mr Day added: 'I then heard a whooshing sound like a tube train and found out this rocket had landed. A fisherman who was in a boat was nearly swamped by it.

'I took a policeman out in a boat to investigate the next day, but he fell backwards into the mud and I had to drag him out and recover his boots.

Hidden: The missile is thought to have been fired at the port of Harwich in Essex, in October 1944. But instead of hitting its target, the 46ft-long rocket plopped nose down into mudflats about 600ft off the shore

Hidden: The missile is thought to have been fired at the port of Harwich in Essex, in October 1944. But instead of hitting its target, the 46ft-long rocket plopped nose down into mudflats about 600ft off the shore

Operation: Only now has it been decided that the rocket, one of nearly 1,500 fired at Britain, should be made safe

Operation: Only now has it been decided that the rocket, one of nearly 1,500 fired at Britain, should be made safe

Timing: A six-man team of Royal Navy bomb disposal experts are working urgently to make sure the rusting weapon's one-ton warhead won¿t detonate

Timing: A six-man team of Royal Navy bomb disposal experts are working urgently to make sure the rusting weapon's one-ton warhead won't detonate

'Later I took his notebook and pencil and went out on my own to sketch it. I could see the tube of the rocket and three brass dials inside. I also drew a copy for myself.

'But although the police knew about it at the time, I heard nothing more about it and it has stayed there ever since.'

The position of the missile was last night marked by a large yellow buoy put in place by the Royal Navy, close to the Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing Club which was established in 1927

Club members have been happily negotiating their dinghies around the missile on the way to their yachts moored in the river, ever since the war.

Powerful weapon: A V2 rocket in process of elevation to the vertical firing position. Weighing almost 14 tons, the missile was launched vertically and could travel at over 3,500mph to strike targets 200 miles away

Powerful weapon: A V2 rocket in process of elevation to the vertical firing position. Weighing almost 14 tons, the missile was launched vertically and could travel at over 3,500mph to strike targets 200 miles away

Destructive: The V-2 attacks resulted in the deaths of around 7,250 British military personnel and civilians

Destructive: The V-2 attacks resulted in the deaths of around 7,250 British military personnel and civilians

Desperate attack: The onslaught of 1,400 V-2 rockets - and 10,000 V-1 flying bombs - against London between June 1944 and March 1945 was seen as Hitler¿s last throw of the dice

Desperate attack: The onslaught of 1,400 V-2 rockets - and 10,000 V-1 flying bombs - against London between June 1944 and March 1945 was seen as Hitler's last throw of the dice

Mr Day's son Robert, the commodore for six years, said: 'It has been common knowledge that it has been there for years. It is a bit like an ornament in the garden.

'People have never really worried about it. Over the years some people might have bumped their boats into it. I just thought that it was an obstruction in the river which needed to be dealt with.

'We don't know if it has any explosive in it. The warhead could have broken away and might be buried elsewhere.'

Local sailors have known about the rocket’s location for decades but when it was mentioned at a meeting of harbour users on Tuesday evening, local police decided something had to be done.

Lieutenant Dan Herridge, the commander of the Navy’s Southern Diving Unit 2, based in Portsmouth, said his team was trying to assess the danger.

However, they can only work for about a two hours at low tide. So far a few more feet of the rocket have been exposed but it is unclear if the warhead is still live.

They have been joined by experts from 33 Regiment Royal Engineers who may have to use excavation equipment to get the V-2 out of the mud.

Wreckage: People gather around to help those trapped in the splintered wreckage of the Smithfield Fish Market in London, after a V-bomb strike killing 115 people

Wreckage: People gather around to help those trapped in the splintered wreckage of the Smithfield Fish Market in London, after a V-bomb strike killing 115 people

If it is still thought to be volatile, the bomb disposal team will carry out a controlled explosion at sea.

Lieutenant Herridge, 30, said: ‘It is unique. I don’t think a V-2 has been discovered since the end of the Second World War, certainly not in such good condition.

‘Our guys have never seen anything like this before and probably never will again. It’s a very unusual beast indeed.’

‘Even though it has been rusting under the tides for more than 65 years, we don’t know what explosive content it has so we must deal with it cautiously and with respect.’

A Royal Navy spokesman said: ‘At first we were sceptical that it was a V-2 because these missiles came down at three times the speed of sound and normally there’s nothing left of them. It is an extraordinary find.’

Essex Police said it was too early to decide whether thousands of people in Harwich would need to be evacuated from their homes.

One yachtsman, who did not want to be named, said: ‘We have been sailing our boats around that stretch of water for years and not had any problems. But if it is still live, then the whole town will have to evacuated which will cause chaos.'

The onslaught of 1,400 V-2 rockets - and 10,000 V-1 flying bombs - against London between June 1944 and March 1945 was seen as Hitler’s last throw of the dice.

The V-2 attacks resulted in the deaths of around 7,250 British military personnel and civilians.

A scientific reconstruction carried out in 2010 demonstrated that the V-2 created a crater 60-ft wide and 16-ft deep, throwing up around 3,000 tonnes of rubble into the air.

V-2 ROCKET: THE WORLD'S FIRST LONG-RANGE COMBAT-BALLISTIC MISSLE

 The V-2 was an extremely advanced piece of technology, and the scientists and engineers responsible for it went on to play key roles in the post-war space programmes of the United States and Soviet Union.

However, the V-2 was enormously expensive to produce at a time when the German Army desperately needed cheap and effective weapons that could be manufactured en masse.

Enlarge   Graphic showing the inside of a V2 rocket

However it was faster, and capable of much greater distances.

It also did not need a specialist ramp for launch other than a solid surface.

The liquid-propelled V-2 rocket was developed by German scientists as an effective way of hitting Allied targets from long distance. It was the world’s first long-range combat-ballistic missile.

Weighing almost 14 tons, the missile was launched vertically and could travel at over 3,500mph to strike targets 200 miles away.

Source: Imperial War Museum

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