Operation Pinguin


'Pinguin' was the German V-2 ballistic missile operational launch programme in accordance with Adolf Hitler’s order of 29 August 1944 (8 September 1944/27 March 1945).

On 8 September the Lehr- und Versuchs-Batterie Nr 444 launched a single missile guided by a radio beam at Paris, and this caused modest damage near the Porte d’Italie. The Lehr- und Versuchs-Batterie Nr 485 at Den Haag launched two missiles against London at 18.43 on the same day: the first landed at Chiswick and killed one woman, one child and one soldier at home in leave.

The Germans themselves finally announced the V-2 on 8 November, and over the next few months the number of V-2 missiles fired was at least 3,172 in the form of 1,664 missiles against targets in Belgium (Antwerp 1,610, Liége 27, Hasselt 13, Tournai 9, Mons 3 and Diest 2), 1,402 missiles against targets in the UK (London 1,358, Norwich 43 and Ipswich 1), 76 against targets in France (Lille 25, Paris 22, Tourcoing 19, Arras 6 and Cambrai 4), 19 against a target in the Netherlands (Maastricht 19), and 11 at a target in Germany (Remagen 11).

The last two of the missiles exploded on or near their targets on 27 March 1945. About 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks, and another 6,523 were injured.

At first many of the missiles were poorly directed and exploded harmlessly, but the accuracy of the weapons increased greatly over the course of the 'Pinguin' campaign, especially by launcher batteries equipped with the Leitstrahl guide beam apparatus, the missiles fired by such batteries sometimes landing within metres of their targets. Accurately targeted missiles were often devastating, causing large numbers of deaths (about 160 in one explosion in a Woolworth’s department store in New Cross in south-eastern London, and 567 in a cinema in Antwerp) and significant damage in the critically important Antwerp docks.