Echoes From London

By Keith Cowing
July 8, 2005
Filed under
Echoes From London

Editor’s note: Yesterday morning, as I listened, half asleep, to the names of the London Underground stations that were hit by the terrorist attack, I suddenly froze when they named one station in particular: Aldgate East. Two years ago, when I was in London, I got off at that station and wandered around the immediate neighborhood. I was trying to locate any remaining indications (alas, none found) of the site of a V-2 impact in spring 1945. You see, my father was billeted nearby when the rocket hit.

That night he had decided to stay where they were all being housed while his roommates went out. He was thrown out of his bed by the impact and shoved through some glass doors. Lots of nasty cuts, but otherwise he was OK. His roommates never came back.

As best I can tell (and I am still researching this) that V-2 was launched on 27 March 1945 from Den Haag, Netherlands and impacted in the area comprising Stepney, Whitechapel, and Hughes Mansions, killing 134 and injuring 49. Two city blocks were flattened. As was the case yesterday, this terror weapon also arrived without warning and killed innocent people.

A decade or so ago, during a visit by my parents to Washington, I showed my Dad the V-2 on display at the National Air and Space Museum. He was surprised at how small and harmless it seemed. The irony was not lost on him that his son worked on things – and knew people – who would fly on rockets of exploration that could trace a direct lineage to this weapon of terror – one that could have easily killed him.

I am at a loss, however, to see how today’s terrorist weapons – their swords – will ever be pounded into plowshares as was the V-2.

Editor’s update: The following was sent to me by a science correspondent (in response to my posting) who susbcribes to an email list which has contained condolences regarding the London bombings:

“The best reported quote was from a veteran of the Blitz: ‘I’ve been blown up by a better class of bastard than this.'”

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.