Canada's Missing V-2 Rocket

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While Lieutenant Hood was crawling cautiously away with the black-painted V-2 rocket prize, Lieutenant Donovan was leading the British guards in a singing session.  When he felt the coast was clear, Mike disengaged himself, but left the still well-filled demijohn with his British choir.  He caught up with his crew on the highway and sped ahead of them, stopping at each checkpoint along the way to warn the barrier guards that a bomb disposal crew was coming through with unexploded ordnance, and as a result  and he and his crew barrelled back the way they came and delivered the rocket to Ouderkerk in Holland.”

On discovering the V-2 outside his window the next morning Captain Mowat had the rocket moved into a large storage hangar.  In order to keep the collected war prize concealed, Captain Mowat had carpenters build a small wooden conning tower, which they installed on top of the rocket, boarded over the fins and installed a wooden propeller.  Once the mock tower and propeller were in place, the team proceeded to paint the complete V-2 rocket in navy blue.  Curious inquirers were told that the device was an experimental submarine.  In this form, the V-2 was kept hidden until it could be loaded on the Liberty Transport Ship SS Blommersdyke which eventually left port carrying over 700 tons of collected German war prizes and steamed across the Atlantic to Montreal.[8]

On arrival, Captain Mowat spoke with the Chief of General Staff (GGS), Major-General Howard Graham, an officer he had served with in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, to explain in detail what they had imported.  Shortly afterwards, a Lieutenant-Colonel arrived from the Canadian Armament Research and Development Establishment (CARDE) based at Valcartier, Québec, along with a work crew which hauled the V-2, trailer and all, back to Valcartier.  There, the V-2 was dismantled.  As the science team was examining the rocket they made the interesting, if somewhat disconcerting discovery that the warhead was still filled with its high explosive material.  The liquid explosive compound inside the rocket’s warhead had hardened and had to be removed by the scientists by carefully drilling a hole in the nose cone and inserting a hose to wash it out.

The V-2 was blueprinted and then disappeared from the story for a few years.  In 1950 it was placed on display on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.  After this, it seems to have disappeared again.  It may have gone to the USA (there is one on display in Aberdeen, New Jersey, another in the National Museum of the USAF, and one in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., for example).  It is possible that it was buried on the grounds of what is present day Canadian Forces Base Downsview, Toronto, Ontario or, it may have been scrapped.  None of these possibilities has been confirmed.[9]  (The author would be very interested in hearing from any reader who may have information that could lead to the discovery of where this V-2 is presently located).

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[1] Author conversation with Captain (Retired) Farley Mowat, 29 June 2006.

[2] Farley M. Mowat, My Father’s Son: Memories of War and Peace, (Houghton Mifflin, the University of Michigan, 1992), p. 296.

[3] Farley M. Mowat, My Father’s Son: Memories of War and Peace, (Houghton Mifflin, the University of Michigan, 1992), p. 297.

[4] As an aside, Captain Mowat mentioned that claims for damages from a number of Dutch towns were “probably perfectly valid” due to the “results of putting an Infantry Captain behind the steering bars of a Royal Tiger.”  Farley M. Mowat, My Father’s Son, p. 299.

[5] Catalogue of Canadian War Museum Equipment Collection, p. 121.

[6] Lt R.M. Donovan and Capt F.M. Mowat are mentioned by Major S.R. Elliot in Scarlet to Green, A History of Intelligence in the Canadian Army, 1903-1963 (Canadian Intelligence and Security Association, Hunter Rose Company, Toronto, 1981), p. 341.

[7] Ibid, p. 301.

[8] Ibid, p. 302.

[9] The author spoke with Dr Charles Rhéaume, PhD, DHH 2-7, who found evidence that the V-2 was displayed at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in 1950.  The date of display was documented through Audrey Borges from the CNE Archives.  The V-2 was made available through the auspices of the Department of National Defence for the 1950 display.

22 Nov 2014, V-2 Update by Andrew King.  TheTimeWinders@gmail.com

A retired Air Canada pilot, David Savage, who lived in Picton, Ontario, in the 1960s, provides some clues as to the rocket’s potential resting place.

On the outskirts of the small town, there are the remains of a once-sprawling Forces base full of assorted military equipment and buildings from its role as a Second World War RCAF training facility.

In the 1960s, the base was used for storing surplus aircraft and artillery training. Surplus P-51 Mustangs, B-25 Mitchell bombers and other aircraft were stowed to be sold off for scrap or to collectors. In his recent book Camp Picton, author Ian Robertson mentions the V2 rocket in great detail, and he spoke with Savage, who managed to photograph a few things around the airbase in 1961.

One of Savage’s photos shows what appears to be the lost V2 rocket sitting on its side, apparently on the same trailer used to transport it at the 1950 CNE, weathered and missing its nose cone. The unmistakable shape and size is clearly that of a V2 rocket. It seems logical that it was brought to the Picton airbase for storage with all the other unwanted old DND equipment.

Savage left Picton in 1962, never knowing what happened to the rocket he captured on camera. The base closed in 1969, and the whereabouts of the V2 are unknown with no further information about what happened to the stored rocket available.

Locals in Picton who grew up during the 1960s recall the V2 and other old equipment being bulldozed into the base landfill site. If this is the case, a very significant piece of world history lies under the surface, waiting to be discovered, perhaps preserved and exhibited in a museum along with the fascinating story of how it got there.

The airport property, including the landfill area, is owned by Loch-Sloy Holdings Ltd., which has reported that the landfill area that may contain the remnants of the rocket is a “contaminated” zone, hindering further investigation.

With the possibility that Canada’s lost Nazi rocket sits buried beneath a layer of dirt in Picton, one wonders if it remains there, or perhaps sits in pieces at some forgotten scrapyard. With only 20 remaining examples out of the original 6,000 rockets made, it might be worthwhile to find out, once and for all, whether Mowat’s captured rocket is really there, waiting to become a new part of our collection of great Canadian war stories.  Andrew King.  TheTimeWinders@gmail.com

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