Book 'V2-VERGELTUNG' from The Hague
As said before, the V2 rocket formed a serious threat to Britain. The rockets were equipped with a high explosive warhead, which caused extensive damage but lacked accuracy and reliability. There was little chance of hitting military targets, as we have witnessed from the futile attempts to destroy the bridge over the Rhine at Remagen. The weapon was therefore used as a weapon of terror against the civilian population of London, or other large areas, such as the Port of Antwerp. The fitting of chemical or even atomic heads would have been a different matter. It was known that Germany had new war gasses at their disposal (i.e. Sarin), whilst German scientists were working feverishly on various atomic projects. Even if a 'real' atom bomb could not be developed, the option of a 'dirty bomb' remained open: with conventional explosive radio active material could be spread over a target area. The target would then be so badly contaminated that the area would be uninhabitable for thousands of years. Fortunately for the Allies, Adolf Hitler, for fear of reprisal, withheld using chemical or atomic loads. As the Allies did not know how far the Germans were advanced with the development of these weapons of mass destruction, and as the conventional V2 spread much death and destruction to the London population, top priority was given to combat the V-weapons.
The Polish, French, Belgian and Dutch resistance were enlisted in obtaining information. Bit by bit the British Intelligence Service were able to piece together information. Professor R.V. Jones and his team of scientists had the task of analysing the V-rocket problems and develop counter measures.
Den Haag. Intelligence information of the Dutch resistance.
Failed launches formed a good source of information: wreckage was stolen by the resistance from under the noses of the Germans.
The technical analysis of the wreckage obtained in the Netherlands, was carried out by Professor Dr. Ir. J.W.H. Uytenbogaart. Under the direction of Professor Jones, attention was drawn particularly to the navigational mechanism of the V2, especially with the view of possibly sending interference signals causing the rocket to be sent off course.
Johannes Wilhelmus Hubert Uytenbogaart was born on 5th February 1897 in Utrecht. In 1921 he received the title of Chemical Engineer, with distinction (cum laude), at the Technical University in Delft, and in 1929 he graduated as Doctor in Technical Sciences. Before the war he worked, among others, for the State Mining Company, the Dutch Fibres Company (Nederlandse Kunstzijdefabriek), and in Berlin by the Forschungs-Institut der Vereinigte Glanzstoff-fabrieken Teltow-Seehof. He was later employed by BPM as Chief Engineer. From 1940 till 1945 he was director of the Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and chairman-director of the Technical Department of the TNO. In both positions he played an important role in bringing together both chemical and mechanical engineers, preventing them from being sent to work in Germany. He was also involved in coordinating the development of new chemical products to replace products and materials, of which there were large shortages during the war. He was also an adviser to the commercial department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Industry and Shipping (Ministerie van Landbouw en Handel, Nijverheid en Scheepvaart). Uytenbogaart worked together with the resistance group ‘Packard’. J.M. Somer writes: ‘There was also a Delft professor in the (Packard)-group, who made an intensive study of the V-rockets…. This unassuming professor, who followed the terror of Wassenaar and district as a shadow, has by his unremitting and skilful work gained great respect from Britain. He managed to assemble a complete V2 rocket from wreckage which, directly after the liberation, was shown to British intelligence.7 In 1941 Uytenbogaart was appointed Professor Extraordinary of Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Delft. After the war, together with dr. Ir. J.M.J. Kooy, chairman of the Dutch Association for Space Travel (Nederlandse Vereniging voor de Ruimtevaart) he published the book “Ballistics of the Future”, using material he had accumulated during the war. He received the Bronzen Leeuw and Officer in the Orde van Oranje Nassau for his many achievements8.
The photographer W. Berssenbrugge9 worked during the war for the resistance at The Hague. In 1944 he became involved with the work of the Resistance Group ‘G’ under Ab Jansen, for whom he made micro-photos of espionage reports and documents for England. Later, he made, amongst others, photos of the German V2 activities. The back garden of his house on 27 Laan van Meerdervoort bordered on neutral territory of the Peace Palace (Vredespaleis) and offered a unique opportunity for the secret spying and photographing of the V2-launching site there. Through his craftsmanship, the British received an excellent picture of a V2-rocket taking off. From his house, Berssenbrugge also photographed a tanker with liquid oxygen which stood by the side of the road and which most probably had engine trouble10.
Equally important was the observation of vehicle movement and rocket storage places. This information was used for carrying out air raids. By operating from towns, the Germans used the inhabitants as living shields. Therefore it was inevitable that there were many civilian casualties from Allied air raids. This placed a heavy burden on the resistance on whose intelligence the actions followed.
A documented example of such a dilemma involved the Royal Yeast and Spirits Factory at Delft (Koninklijke Gist- en Spiritusfabriek in Delft). The methylated spirits were used as fuel for the V2-rockets. In the margin of a report from the resistance which deals with this, is bluntly written: ‘to be destroyed’. However, on the destruction of this factory, the only possible means of producing yeast in the Netherlands would be lost. Yeast was indispensable for baking bread and thereby the food supply for the hungry Dutch people. Ultimately, this weighed heavier and the advice was not followed. By carrying out precision air raids on railway viaducts the Royal Air Force hoped to sever the supply of V2s and liquid oxygen.
Friend and foe kept an eye on the V2-launching. In an NSB11 (collaborators) diary from 1944, but also in many resistance messages and diaries, the launching was often noted “V1”. This is because in the German propaganda a lot of attention was paid to the V1 and none, or almost none, to the V2. Also, nobody had ever seen a rocket before!
Garliński, J.: Deutschland’s letzte Waffen im 2. Weltkrieg. Der Untergrund-Krieg gegen die V1 und die V2. Stuttgart, 1981. ISBN 3-87943-749-1.
Jones, R.V. : Most secret war. Ware, 1998. ISBN 1-85326-699-X.
Woerkom, P.Th.L.M. van: Re-Engineering the Vengeance Weapons: a Memoir on Jan W.H. Uytenbogaart. 54-th International Astronautical Congress 29 September – 3 October 2003, Bremen, Germany. Publication of the International Astronautical Federation, Paris.
Woerkom, P.Th.L.M. Van: Deskundig, heldhaftig en vergeten. De V2 en het dubbelleven van prof. J.W.H. Uytenbogaart. In: Delft Integraal, 2004, No 2; p.26-31. See also http://www.delftintegraal.tudelft.nl
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First English edition, Almere – The Hague, August 2005
Translation: Dily Damhuis, Paul Fowlie, Sylvia en Johan van Oosten en Trees Teunissen.
Original Dutch version published, Almere – The Hague, September 2003 (2nd edition)