Sunday, March 12, 2017

Military History and Warfare: Weapons: The V-3

In my last post I looked at the role played by the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket. This time I will be considering the less well-known V-3 weapons system and examining its role in the later stages of the Second World War.

Unlike the V-1, V-2 (and as we shall see in another post), the V-4, the V-3 was a more traditional weapon. The V-3 was an artillery piece designed to enable German forces in Calais to bombard central London with explosive shells. The intention appears to have been to re-create a modern version of the famous 'Paris gun' which had enabled German forces to shell Paris during the German offensives of 1918.

In essence, the V-3 was a piece of artillery with an extended barrel of 150 yards. Each shell fired received additional velocity from smaller explosions as it passed along the barrel, thus giving the V-3 an extended range. It was was code-named“Hochdruckpumpe” (High Pressure Pump). However, it was also know as the “Tausenfubler” (Millipede) or “Fleibiges Lieschen” (Busy Lizzie).

The V-3 was housed in a large complex outside of Calais with storerooms, magazines and a power-plant. There were crew rooms for staff of 1,000 linked by a network of underground tunnels and rails. Construction of the site began in August 1943 with a workforce of approximately 5,000 working underground. The V-3 itself consisted of 50 separate barrels (five 150-mm calibre barrels housed in ten battery shafts). Each barrel was buried into the ground at an angle to a depth of 120 metres. The intention was that each barrel would fire a shell every 12 minutes. If the weapon had become operational, it would have been an effective psychological weapon of terror. There were no defences to artillery shelling.

However, the V-3 never went into action against London. The V-3 site was bombed by the Allies in July 1944. At the end of August 1944 the base was overrun by Allied forces before it could become operational. A modified version of the V-3 was eventually brought into action during the Ardennes offensive of December 1944. Two of the gun barrels were brought up to the front and set up in bunkers. The weapon was eventually brought into use after 30 December 1944. The barrels were shorted to 50 metres and were fired at Luxembourg City. In total both barrels combined fired 183 projectiles before they were discontinued.

As the war drew to a close in 1945 the V-3 had had a negligible impact on ground operations. Like the V-1 and V-2, the V-3 was too inaccurate to be an effective weapon of war.

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