At 18:43, on 8th of September 1944 a gas main in Staveley Road, Chiswick exploded. The explosion destroyed 11 houses, killed three people and injured a further 27 people. Or at least that was what the news reported. In truth it was the first V-2 rocket to strike London. It had been fired by the 485th Rocket Battery from near the Hague in Holland. The Allies had since 1943 been conducting Operation Crossbow, an attempt to counter the V weapons programs.
Chiswick crater
Staveley Road
By February 1945 these counter measures included fighter sweeps. As well as specific targets these sweeps would often just attack an area hitting anything that looked like a good target of opportunity. One of the squadrons that took part was 602 Squadron with Spitfire MK XVI's. No 602 Squadron's other claim to fame was one of its pilots had been the individual who strafed Rommel's staff car earlier in 1944.
One plan was to have AA fire box Barrages along the flight path of V2's detected by Radar. It was never implemented.
On February 14th a flight of six Spitfires set off from Coltishall Airfield. The Spitfires were armed with a mixture of 500 lb and 250 lb bombs, as well as their cannons. This flight was lead by Raymond Baxter, who later became a famous BBC presenter. When they arrived over the Dutch coast they knew exactly where they were going, as they'd flown to this areas many times before. As they approached the area they were to sweep, at 8000 feet, German heavy flak opened up at them. The flak stood little chance as the flight carried on switching its heading, feeling faintly pleased when the flak bursts continued along the path they'd just turned off.
Over Wassenaar at 6000 feet the Spitfires spotted some vehicles moving below. Baxter knew they would be German as every drop of fuel was used for the war effort. The six Spitfires rolled in and dived on the Germans. On their way to the target they passed over a large wooded area. One of the risks of dive bombing in Spitfires is that the bombs would hang up, and as the pilot pulled 5G's to get out of the dive the increased weight could cause the wings to rip off. In this attack all six Spitfires released their ordnance safely and pulled up at 1500 feet. German light flak units were everywhere in the area to deter just such attacks. In most cases the Spitfires would use all their built up speed to zoom away, but occasionally they would turn and attack.
Baxter was feeling very aggressive, and he ordered his flight to strafe the troublesome flak batteries. They turned hard so as to change the direction they attacked from. One of the pilots, Thomas "Cupid" Love dipped his Spitfires nose and aimed at a flak gun. Suddenly over the radio Baxter yelled "Christ! would you look at that!". Looking up, Love saw a huge cigar shaped object slowly rise on a pillar of flame and smoke, directly in front of him!
As the Spitfires flew over the woods, the 485 Rocket Battery had been well into a countdown on one of the 19 V-2's they would launch that day. They had opted to go ahead with the launch, not realising the Spitfires would turn around.
Love was the only pilot with an angle on the V-2, he quickly wrenched his gun-sight onto it, and at a range of 600 yards began firing. He sent a long scything burst towards the huge rocket as it accelerated away but luckily he missed. The V-2 if hit would likely have exploded very possibly killing the entire flight.
V-2 vapour trail, photographed from a USAAF bomber.
Although the Spitfires of 602 Squadron came close there was, however, one claimed shoot down of a V-2. Strangely for such an impressive claim, I've not yet been able to find many details. On an unknown date the 34th Bombardment Group in B-24's were flying at 10,000 feet over Holland. A V-2 was launched through the formation and one of the waist gunners on a B-24 opened fire and hit the missile at the end of its vapour trail.
There's little other detail apart from that, no date, no names, not even a mention of the target. Never the less the 34th painted a V-2 kill marking on its aircraft.