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Date: October 1945
Place: Cuxhaven, Niedersachsen, Germany
At Cuxhaven, British gunners of the Royal Artillery examined a V2 missile during a lecture on the V2 system as part of the "Operation Backfire". The V2 was a large weapon, measuring 46 feet (14 meters) in length and 11 feet 8 inches (3.5 meters) across the fins. The movable fin sections were symple vane type rudders, which steered the missile in flight once it was traveling fast enough for air flow to work against the rudder sections. For initial control at launch, there were guide vanes which sat in the exhaust stream of the rocket motor and provided pitch and roll control at low speeds during liftoff. Note that this V2 has been fitted with dollies for transport, using the narrow gauge tracks formerly used to handle ammunition for the naval weapon test center. The British chose a black and white test scheme, instead of operational camouflage. There were several color schemes applied to operational V2s. Most missiles actually used were painted in the "Gezackt" (ragged) pattern using Signal White, Earth Gray, and Olive Green. Late war missiles were painted overall Olive Green. At the end of World War II, the victorious Allies searched across Germany for technical information on German weapons, especially the advanced jet aircraft and rockets of the late war period. Virtually all completed V2 missiles had been expended or destroyed. The U.S. Army occupied the Mittelwerke underground V2 assembly plant in Nordhausen, removing enough materiel to build some 200 V2 missiles in the United States. The British managed to find enough parts to build eight complete V2s, but lacked key components and support equipment to use the V2s as intended. After searching Europe for several months, the British managed to gather the equipment needed to fire several V2 missiles. The British V2 test program was called "Operation Backfire", and was conducted in October 1945 at Altenwalde, near Cuxhaven in the British occupation zone, on the site of a naval gunnery test range. Some of the 8000 German POWs taken from missile units and the Peenemünde test facility were detailed to re-enact the preparation and firing of V2 missiles for the British Army. As the Germans wore their wartime uniforms, the photos and movies taken during "Operation Backfire" appear to be wartime German footage. Due to the secret nature of the V2 program, most of those who worked on the project knew only a small part of the whole thing. "Operation Backfire" was a learning experience for all concerned.
"Allied-Axis magazine" edition no.01