Archaeologists uncover remains of a Nazi rocket that exploded in Kent 76 years ago

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Derek Johnson


Archaeologists have dug up the remains of a Nazi rocket that exploded in a field near Sevenoaks 76 years ago.

Colin Welch and brother Sean run Research Research Archaeology and have excavated many wartime sites from World War Two.

They carried out a dig at Saint Mary's Platt where a V2 rocket landed in February 1945. The V2s - part of Hitler's terror weapons programme - were the world's first ballistic missiles. Fired from mobile sites in Nazi Europe and packed with explosives, they were designed to cause maximum damage and spread fear.

Going down into the crater with Sean Welch he said:

''What we are doing at the moment is walking the trajectory of the rocket And up beyond there are the flags marking out the seventy degree compass bearing that it came in on. It's interesting that we are here in Kent because the rocket was aimed at London so you can see how far off target it was.''

The rocket hit the ground at such high speed that there was no danger of any live explosives being found, unlike instances where wartime bombs are unearthed.

More than 5000 people were killed in V2 strikes on London and the South East in the final months of wartime.

Rebecca Blackburn is from the Royal Engineers Museum at Gillingham, which has an original V2 on display

''Once the rocket was launched it couldn't be stopped'' she said. ''So the British couldn't intercept it with a plane or with any sort of weapon. And as it travels, it's over three thousand 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.''

Patricia Malins from Kent was a 12 year old schoolgirl in London when she saw these rockets land.

She said: ''All of a sudden we had just had these explosions and nobody was aware of what was happening. No, I don't think the general public realized that there were rockets coming from the sky. Yeah. And that, you know, and it was a very frightening experience.''

Thankfully no one was harmed by this rocket. It was fired at night from Holland and whoever set its course had to use an optical device to work out a compass bearing.

Sean said: ''We think that it was the fact it was a nighttime 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, then the majority of them are actually nighttime launches.''

The Nazi's thwarted plan was to mass produce V2s at a site in Northern France and fire them at London around the clock.

Some of the recovered pieces include part of the combustion chamber. The same technology the Americans would later use to reach the Moon.

The team found this site where others had failed, using aerial maps, wartime records and radar scanning devices

''It's basically a crater below the crater'' said Colin.  ''The parts were traveling so fast   so in a substance such as chalk, they reduced the chalk to liquid.

"So you got a sort of a toothpaste effect where pieces just slip into the ground and you can't see them. So it's a leap of faith to find them.''

 As for what happens now the hole will be filled in.

A full account of the project will be written up and finds such as this will be cleaned and conserved.

Creating a definitive account of this small but fascinating part of our wartime history.