V2 memorial Speeches

Full text of all the speeches from the unveiling ceremony

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Large crowd attends unveiling of V2 memorial

Commemorating the Chiswick V2

Who was who in Strand on the Green

Street Names of Chiswick

The Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society

Then & Now Chiswick

Gillian Clegg's - Chiswick Past

The organisers are now working on a large information panel, which will include much of the information from the leaflet and more, and will be placed on the fence beside the memorial in the next couple of months.

Books about Chiswick

The golden age of theatre and cinema in Chiswick

Chiswick High Road 21 years on

Cherry Blossom memories


Please contact James Wisdom, the Chairman of the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society at 25 Hartington Road, London W4 3TL if you can help with information, memories or photographs.

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Speech by James Wisdom for V2 unveiling ceremony

Mr Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am James Wisdom, Chair of the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society

This road was laid out at the end of the 19th century on the Duke of Devonshire' s land and named after a village in Derbyshire near to his home at Chatsworth. In the early 1920s it was planted with the newly-imported Japanese flowering cherry and in the spring it is one of the most beautiful roads in West London. The houses arrived in the late 1920s, along with the School.

Looking around, you would not think this was the scene of such devastation in 1944. For years the only clue to the position and size of the crater was the age of cherry trees. Now we have a fitting memorial to those who died.

This has been a joint project between the Local History Society and the Battlefields Trust. It is mainly the result of the hard work put in by Scott Mackinlay, a local resident and member of the Trust and Val Bott from the Local History Society. I would like to thank them for their work.

Also I would like to thank Ian Marchant, the Chief Executive of Scottish and Southern Energy plc, who agreed without hesitation to the use of their land for the memorial. They have been very supportive. We have also been supported by a grant from the special Lottery Fund called Home Front Recall.

I also wish to thank Christopher Jolly for his donation to the landscaping works and to local residents for their donations. John Reynolds from the London Borough of Hounslow has made much of this happen on the ground; support of this kind makes me pleased to be a rate payer to the London Borough of Hounslow! This has been a real community effort.

This project has grown since it started. The rocket was fired from a suburb of the Hague, Wassenaar, and we welcome here today Jos Borsboom, from the Foundation V2 platform in the Netherlands. The Town Council at Wassenaar has today unveiled its own commemoration of this dreadful event.

We will be assembling materials and memories to donate to local schools and to make into commemorative albums for Wassenaar and Peenemunde, and for the Local Collection at Chiswick Library. Many people have come forward with their memories, and we thank them. We will be making them into an information panel to place beside this memorial later. If anyone wishes to contribute to this, please let us know.

I would now like to introduce Frank Baldwin, Chairman of the London and South East Chapter of the Battlefields Trust.

Speech by Frank Baldwin of the Battlefields Trust

Mr Mayor, ladies and Gentlemen.

The Battlefields Trust is an organisation whose aim is to preserve, interpret and educate people about our battlefields heritage. James has asked me to explain the historic context of the V2 impact on Staveley Road.

This is part of an epic story, and I'd like to pick out three aspects of this story which have a particular modern relevance.

By the middle of the Second World War, it was clear to Hitler that the war wasn't going well. The Germans would be unlikely to win a conventional war. He commissioned his scientists to develop secret weapons which would pulverise London, and terrorise the British into submission. If he could do this, then there would be no cross channel attack, no D Day and no liberation of Europe.

The V2 rocket which landed here very nearly 60 years ago was a truly terrifying weapon. It travelled three times the speed of sound. You could not hear it coming. There were no defences which could stop it once it had been launched. The impact and explosion could devastate a suburban street, killing and injuring people. It was a true terror weapon. What is more, the V2 which landed here was just the first of 1,020 which landed in London until the end of the war, inflicting about 8,000 casualties. This is more than all of the casualties inflicted by Al Quaida during and their terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and subsequently. Sure, the V2 casualties were suffered during a war. However, it does not diminish the scale of the terror offensive on London and the endurance of its people.

The second aspect of this story is the connection between Chiswick and the wider battle against Hitler' s secret weapons. This is an international story and it is very appropriate that we have representatives from the Wassenaar and from the V2 Research society here. This battle took place for the second half of the Second World War. It hasn't had the same prominence as the D Day story and deserves to be better known.

As soon as the British became aware of the existence of Hitler's secret weapons the allies mounted a campaign to find out more about them and to destroy the places where they were designed, built and launched from. This battle involved the British secret services, the resistance movements in occupied Europe and thousands of allied airmen. These people fought with great courage and determination. For example, Bomber Command airmen were ordered to attack the rocket research centre at Peenemunde at dangerously low altitudes. In their briefing they were told that if they did not destroy the target in one attack, they would return every night until it was destroyed. Their attack cost 40 aircraft and the lives of about 240 airmen. As an indication of the scale of this battle, consider the fact that more allied airmen died attacking the secret weapon sites than allied soldiers died on Omaha beach on D Day.

There was a tragic human aspect to this battle. The citizens of Wassenaar did not choose to launch V2 rockets, but suffered many casualties from allied bombing and German firing accidents. Furthermore, it's not generally known that V2 weapons were built by slave labour. 20,000 concentration camp inmates, a football stadium's worth of people, were killed in brutal circumstances manufacturing these weapons. It is part of the holocaust. So the V2 at Chiswick is a focal point which links to some of the most heroic and darkest aspects of the Second World War. It is a story which really should be better known, and we hope that the oral history project will enable us to do so.

Thirdly, the V2 impact was a milestone in technology. This was the first surface to surface ballistic missile. The V2 was an enormous technical achievement. It has given us the technology to put a man on the moon. It also gave us the delivery means that allow countries to wage nuclear war. When we think of weapons of mass destruction, we think of rockets like the V2. The existence of nuclear missiles fundamentally changed the way in which we think about our security. Since 8 th of September 1944 the world has never been the same.

So these are the three aspects of the V2 which I think are particularly significant. I have deliberately used modern terms such as terror weapons and weapons of mass destruction. This is because so many aspects of the Chiswick V2 story have a modern relevance. The purpose of history is not merely to preserve the past, but it's also to interpret the past so we can learn the lessons for the future.

It has been a great privilege for those of us in the Battlefields Trust to work with the Brentford and Chiswick Historical society. We look forwards to developing this project further and working on other battlefield sites within the Borough of Hounslow.

Speech by Cllr. Dalbir Cheema, Mayor of Hounslow

Ladies and Gentlemen

The bombing campaigns against Great Britain in the Second World War were the most severe test of skill and endurance the people who worked for the local authorities have ever had to face.

In this area, at that time, the burdens fell on the Borough of Brentford and Chiswick.

That Borough is now part of the London Borough of Hounslow.

It is fitting that we should remember all the citizens who died in that war, and on this occasion in particular the three who were killed by this new and terrible weapon.

As Mayor of Hounslow it gives me great pleasure to unveil this memorial in their memory.

Speech by Cllr. Paul Lynch

As the representative of both the Chiswick Area Committee and Hounslow Council, it gives me great pleasure to formally accept this wonderful memorial. So many people have worked hard to ensure that it happened, and to organise this wonderful occasion, and I know you would like me to thank them all on your behalf:

The Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society, in particular James Wisdom and Val Bott, the Battlefields Trust and Scott Mackinlay, a Chiswick resident, Home Front Recall for the small lottery grant

Ian Marchant, Chief Executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, for the site for the memorial, Christopher Jolly for his contribution towards the landscaping, Chiswick residents for their donations, their interest and support, and especially to those whose memories bring this all to life for us and for future generations.

When I was growing up, in the years after the war, war reminiscences were very rare, people wounds were still tender, and fearful memories were very fresh. I could see bomb sites, was forbidden to play on them, and most Dads had gardening shirts with marks where badges had been removed. Despite my curiosity it was not for many years that I found out that my father had landed an aeroplane at Heston, where he was stationed at about the time the rocket landed. He could not have done much, even if he had seen it, and known what it was, his aircraft was far too slow. As events become more distant in time people' s recollections are valued more, and I think we are astonished to find how many people live among us that remember those events. David Stanners was allowed home because it was safe. Mrs Harrison, who died in the blast, is remembered at Crowe's newsagents where she worked.

I would like us to think of another group of people who suffered terribly, the slave workers in the bomb proof factories. Even under the terrible system that forced them to do such work you might think that they would be treated in a way that would keep them productive and efficient. Not at all, they endured the same systematic brutality that characterised the Nazi regime. The bunkers were full of fumes from paint and other chemicals, there was no drinking water, and licking condensation off the walls was punished. Many died, and when a request was put in for replacements the dead were described as 'schrecken,' all used up, a word you might use to describe your supply of coal, or soap. Even so information was smuggled out of these places, which enabled the Allies to combat the menace.

Those of us in politics, and I see many around here today, are all committed to ensuring that we remain free of the conditions where people, human beings, can be considered disposable, and destroyed. We must never forget the fate of those poor anonymous souls herded into hells, to work at destruction and be destroyed.

Speech on the occasion of the unveiling of the V2 monument, Johannahuis by the Mayor of Waasenaar

(The Waasenarr ceremony was held simultaneously with the one in Chiswick

Your excellency, ladies and gentlemen. Exactly sixty years ago half an hour from now, something happened that some people believed was the end of the world. Many citizens became innocent victims and apart from that this event meant the arrival of a new era.

This horrible feat took place on September 8, 1944. At two locations here in the vicinity, the whole neighbourhood hours beforehand blocked and shut off from curious eyes, at around 4:00 p.m., two strange cylinder like objects, each about 42 ft high, with a pointed nose cone and metal fin like tail wings had arrived on special clearly tailor made trailers.

The first of the two cigar shaped objects was deposited at the crossing of Koekoekslaan/ Konijnenlaan / Koekoekslaan / Lijsterlaan,, the second at the crossing Koekoekslaan / Schouwweg / Rust en Vreugdlaan.
At 6:35 p.m. sharp, a thundering deafening roaring sound, combined with a fearful high howling noise broke out. An almost unimaginable din that could be heard for many miles in the surrounding area. It seemed as though the bellowing racket had an echo of about one second of the same deafening intensity. A few moments later dozens of people saw two cigar like projectiles rise above the crowns of the trees, driven by a huge yellow flame and accompanied by an unimaginable din, ever faster shooting up high into the sky. The launching of the first V2's to London was a fact.

The rockets had been launched almost simultaneously, with an interval of no more than one second; each of them loaded with destructive explosives, used as a last resort to turn the tide as yet for the Germans.
'Vergeltungswaffe zwei' they were called, these rockets, originally christened as 'Aggregat 4' , developed by distinguished German chemistry and physics experts, led by Werner von Braun.

The first of the two murderous weapons that cleft the atmosphere with several times the speed of sound, brought death and destruction to Chiswick, a London area suburb. Three people killed and seventeen wounded was the sad toll. Only after the explosion of its deathly cargo the howling approach of the rocket became heard; one of the macabre effects of its speed faster than sound.

Tonight we commemorate this fact. In Chiswick too it is remembered tonight that three citizens were killed that evening and seventeen civilians were wounded, a number of buildings were destroyed and several trees were uprooted. A fact that today still fills us with horror and impotence. Horror because of the misery and death eventually wreaked among thousands, mostly innocent people. Impotence, because we were unable to stop and prevent these outrages perpetrated by the occupying enemy.

Yet I wish to name one very special person, a fellow citizen deceased many years ago. Albeit that he too was unable to prevent these first and all other launchings, nonetheless through his efforts the allied forces could dispose of all essential and scientifically relevant data of the V2. I' m referring to the late Prof. Dr. J.W.H. Uytenbogaart. Risking his own life, often play-acting with Stoic calm, playing the role of the innocent passer by, happening to be there by chance, he managed to collect information and material at launching pads. He analysed and tested these data by comparing it with his impressive collection of previously gathered knowledge in his secret study up in the attic of his home. Through the so called Packard espionage network, his reports and his minute drawings were sent on to London.

Tonight we commemorate the start of a nightmare that went on for months and brought death and destruction. Not only in England, France and Belgium, but also in Wassenaar, The Hague and the province of Zeeland. After all, didn' t a launching often went wrong, whereby the rocket caused casualties near or at the launching pad and isn' t the unfortunate bombing of Bezuidenhout on March 3, 1945, due to the presence of V2 launching sites nearby? Let us remember all victims tonight, directly and indirectly caused by this abominable weapon, staked by order of a paranoid lunatic who hoped to change the fate of an already long lost war as yet to his advantage.

Some of you might say 'Through this we also commemorate the start of a new era, the beginning of real space travel.' Yes, it' s true that the V2 was not only model to the comic strip of Tintin' s journey to the moon, but has also been tried time and again with changing success and eventually led to the construction of the Apollo space rocket in the United States and likewise was built and remodelled in the erstwhile Soviet Union and has ultimately led to the development of the present space rockets; but I wish to remind these abstract thinkers of the fact that, as practically always, the power of science can be used for better or for worse. In the case of the V2 it has clearly been used in the latter sense, with all its consequences.

Unfortunately we can not change this; the harm has long been done. What we can do is remember and let our thoughts for an instant dwell on the fate of all those who became the victims of these deadly weapons and we can show our sympathy to the bereaved. Therefore I would like to request to observe one minute of silence.

October 3, 2004