Did MI5 Make More Flying Bombs Land on Putney?

Directing attacks towards south London could have been deliberate

Flats damaged by rocket on 18 June 1944. Picture: Hugh Thompson


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In the flying bomb offensive of 1944-5, Wandsworth was hit by 160 V1s and 8 V2s of the 2500 which were fired at London.

Sixteen landed on Putney and one of Putney’s worst hits in the war was the V1 which landed on 18 June 1944 on the corner of Upper Richmond Road and Charlwood Roads and killed 36.

Nearby Croydon had 140 such visitors. The Germans were aiming at Central London so were these doodlebugs just part of the generally poor bomb aiming on both sides, or something else? Ben Macintyre in his biography Agent ZigZag about double agent Eddie Chapman suggests it was the latter.

Chapman and others were instructed by MI5 to radio their German “masters” that the bombs were falling to the north west of London thereby making them think they were over shooting and readjust their range making more rockets land on South London including Putney.

Ben Macintryre says, “If the double agents reports exaggerated the number of bombs to the north and west but minimised those in the south and east, the Germans would assume they were overshooting and reduce their range”.

This was politically sensitive and “MI5 was careful to destroy the traffic aware of the potential repercussions if the inhabitants of south London realised they were being sacrificed to protect the centre of the city.”

So Putney and other suburbs took the hit for the more heavily populated centre and, as Sir John Masterman the officer in charge of the double agent programme, later said, “The deception was very successful saving many thousands of lives”.

In Putney, other flying bombs landed on the High Street, Lytton Grove and Fawe Park, Carslake, Egremont and Portinscale Roads. The Pleasance had three flying bomb hits. Four landed on Putney Heath and two in Putney Vale Cemetery. Overall there were around 200 bomb hits on Putney mostly dropped from planes.

Hugh Thompson

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February 16, 2022

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