Canada's Missing V-2 Rocket

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Captain Mowat knew he was not responsible for all of the German equipment brought to Canada.  He had apparently arranged for a “14 tanks and self-propelled guns” including a “Royal” Tiger II a Panzer V Panther and a range of Panzer tanks from the Mk II upwards most in running condition.  In his list of items intended for transport, he had “23 special purpose vehicles ranging from an amphibious Volkswagen to a 15-ton armoured half-track personnel carrier.”  Artillery in the collection included 40 types of artillery pieces ranging in size from 2-cm to 21-cm, and embracing an airborne recoilless gun, a “squeeze barrel” anti-tank gun, infantry guns, anti-tank guns from 8.8-cm up to 12.8-cm, field guns, medium guns and heavy guns, all of which were in firing condition.  In his Progress Report to LCol Harrison, OC 1 Canadian Historical Section, HQ First Canadian Army on 10 July 1945, he noted that “Railroad guns up to 32-cm” were available but would “demand some time to move”.[3]

By 22 July 1945, the team had added a 63-ton Jagdtiger tank in operating condition to the collection as well as four 2-ton acoustic sea mines, four 24-inch acoustic torpedoes, a 45-foot long 12-ton V-2 rocket and 18 truckloads of various Wehrmacht equipment. [4]

The King (Royal) Tiger and Panther tanks were to be loaded on tank transporters and brought to the dock for loading on the SS Blommersdyke, but the American flatbed crews brought them to another site and they were subsequently transported to the USA.  One of the significant items he did manage to bring back was a V-2 rocket with a particularly interesting story attached to it.

Captain Mowat had spoken with the leader of the Dutch resistance in his area, Colonel Tyc Michaels, who informed him of the location of the Rheintochter Anti-Aircraft missile factory, which had been bombed out.  During the investigation of the contents of the factory, his team collected some documentation and a few missile parts that made it back to Canada.  He also learned of a trainload of ten V-2 rockets which were sitting on railway cars in a railway siding hidden in Germany.  “The missile was located off the right of way on the north south line running along the Weser River west of Nienburg, Germany.  It was the only one of about ten that had not been shot up or burnt by air attack.  As the V-2 at the time of ‘procurement’ was forbidden by 21 Army Group to Canadians this piece had an interesting several months hiding in woods and being disguised as everything from a privy to a submarine, to keep it from the prying eyes of the British High Command.”[5]

Just before the order forbidding the acquisition of any rocket material was sent down, Capt Mowat had dispatched Lieutenant R. Mike Donovan, a Canadian Intelligence Corps Officer, to see if he could acquire one of these V-2s from the British who occupied the sector.[6]  Lieutenant Donovan set out from the team’s home base at Meppen in the Netherlands and over a three day period drove to a railway siding “somewhere near Hamburg” where ran into a British detachment guarding a number of railway flatcars each carrying a V-2 rocket.  The British were not keen on parting with such important war material to “colonials” and wouldn’t let him get near the site.  After an initial recce of the scene, he noted through his binoculars that “an access roadway ran alongside the rail spur and that the last V-2 in the train was partly concealed in a pine woods through which the trail meandered to join a secondary road not far beyond.”  Lieutenant Donovan drove back to Ouderkerk and joined by Lieutenant Jim Hood set off again with a 12-ton 16-wheel Mack breakdown lorry with a tow-hook, made a brief detour to Bremerhaven where they liberated a German one-man mini-submarine trailer and then drove to a forest within two miles of the V-2 rail-car site, where Lieutenant Hood hid with the rig and himself.  They were also bearing a “30-litre demijohn of DeKuyper’s gin.”

Lieutenant Donovan drove on in a jeep and presented himself again at the guard post.  He offered to share his gin, and while pretending to get loaded himself, proceeded to get the British Infantry guard group drunk.  Just before dusk, he told his drinking partners he had to relieve himself, and went back to his jeep where he used a small Number 38 radio set to tell Lieutenant Hood the coast was clear.  Lieutenant Hood and his work crew quietly as possible eased the Mack and its trailer up close to the railcar with the chosen rocket.  There in the dark, the Canadian soldiers stealthily managed to break the chains and “rolled it off the flatcar and down a bunch of timber skids on the trailer”.[7]  (This could not have been an easy task in the dark, as the rocket is the size of a modern day SCUD missile similar to those the author examined near Policharki, in Afghanistan).

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