Mass grave uncovered that remained Nazi secret
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Thursday marked Remembrance Day, observed on November 11 every year since the end of World War 1. It is observed to recall the end of hostilities “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” some 103 years ago when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. During World War 2, many countries changed the name from ‘Armistice Day’.
Commonwealth member states adopted Remembrance Day, the US chose Veterans Day, while it remains ‘Armistice Day’ in France and Belgium.
The anniversary of the Armistice itself is not observed in Germany, but a national day of mourning is practiced on the Sunday that falls closest to November 16.
Archaeology continues to unravel all sorts of wartime secrets, from both world wars and earlier too, ranging from human remains to planes and other artefacts, both on land and at sea.
Brothers Colin and Sean Welch run Research Resource Archaeology, and they have excavated several wartime sites from World War 2.
While digging at St Mary’s Platt in Sevenoaks, Kent, earlier this year, they found a piece of a German V2 terror rocket which had detonated 76 years earlier.
V2’s were a part of Adolf Hitler’s terror weapons programme and were the world’s first ballistic missiles.
Thousands of them are believed to have been launched during World War 2, and they caused 9,000 deaths in the UK alone, according to The Sun.
They were fired from mobile sites across the Nazi-controlled areas of Europe and filled with explosives, designed to cause maximum damage.
The part of the rocket discovered in September is a combustion chamber, which would have contained a mixture of liquid oxygen and alcohol. The same technology was later used to help Americans reach the moon.
The rocket would have been travelling at more than 3,300 miles per hour, propelled by the alcohol and oxygen mixture, when it exploded at midnight on Valentine’s Day 1944.
It landed in the St Mary’s Platt, fortunately not killing anyone, but did leave a 14 feet (4.2 metres) deep and 38 feet (11.5 metres) wide crater.
Speaking to ITV Meridian at the site, Sean explained: “At the moment we’re walking the trajectory of the rocket.
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“And up beyond there are the flags marking out the seventy degree compass bearing that it came in on.
“Now, it’s very interesting that we are here in a field in Kent, because the target was London, so you can appreciate this rocket was a long way off course.”
Sean attributed the location of the rocket to whoever was firing it being forced to use an optical device to work out a compass bearing.
He told ITV: “We think that it was the fact it was a night-time launch that they haven’t been able to set the rocket up correctly.
“And when we look at the impacts in this part of Kent, the majority of them are actually night-time launches.”
Colin told KentOnline that they would usually expect to find the most remains “at the side of the crater furthest from the entry point”, but this time they found nothing.
Instead, they found that a bed of ragstone had prevented the rocket travelling any further underground.
Rebecca Blackburn, from the Royal Engineers Museum, told ITV: “Once the rocket was launched it couldn’t be stopped.
“So the British couldn’t intercept it with a plane or with any sort of weapon. And as it travels, it’s over 3,000 miles per hour. It couldn’t be heard coming either.
“So it travels at the speed of sound. Once you’ve heard it, it’s already landed.”
The restoration and cleaning process could take up to 18 months. Once this is done, it is hoped that some of the Nazis’ secret source codes will be discovered, stamped as three letters on different components of the rocket.
The different codes are thought to denote the factory in which the different parts of the V2 were made.
If they can secure grant funding, the Welch brothers hope to display their finds in an online museum.
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