Tale of Orpington woman killed by Hitler's final V2 uncovered in new book
PUBLISHED: 13:21 09 October 2012 | UPDATED: 10:41 10 October 2012
Travelling at about 1,600 miles per second, the last V2 rocket launched by the Nazis in 1945 hurtled across the English Channel bound for an anonymous Orpington street.
Carrying enough explosives to reduce a tower block to rubble, the missile devastated homes in Kynaston Road and claimed the final civilian casualty of the war on British soil – 34-year-old Ivy Millichamp.
Orpington-born author Colin Philpott’s new book A Place in History has unearthed the story 77 years after Ivy’s death on March 27, 1945 – revealing how she acquired a macabre form of celebrity.
He said: “A lot of other people were injured, but remarkably Ivy was the only fatality from the blast.
“There had been a rocket attack almost two months before on Court Road, which runs parallel with Kynaston, where eight people were killed.
“It seemed to me there was a poignancy about her death as the last one on British soil. I bet some people in Kynaston Road don’t even know it happened.”
Killed in the kitchen of her home, the rocket left a crater 40ft wide and 20ft deep.
Her husband of eight years, Eric, had rushed into the wreckage and pulled out his lifeless wife who was still wearing her coat when the bomb hit.
The pair had no children, leaving Eric heartbroken and homeless.
The missile had injured 24 people in and around the street.
Some survived through sheer luck, as stories of shoppers returning to find homes flattened and children playing in Anderson shelters emerged after the attack.
Having grown up in Ridgeway Crescent, it was a childhood memory of a school trip while a pupil at St Olave’s in Goddington Lane that sparked Colin’s interest in Ivy.
He said: “I can remember going to visit Churchill’s war bunker in the 1960s and being told then that the last V2 landed in Orpington.
“But it’s only more recently that people have begun to look into these instances and move towards marking fairly momentous events like this.
“For me one of the most fascinating aspects of it all is the cross-intelligence being sent back and forth, meaning the Germans amended their aim.”
False information leaked to the Nazis informed them their missiles had been overshooting London, leading to the bombardment of south London and Kent.
It was this that caused V1 and V2 rockets to land in Orpington, leading to Ivy’s death by one last defiant rocket launched as the Germans fled Holland.
Formerly the head of BBC Yorkshire, Colin, 55, still has family ties with Orpington and used his research for the book as a chance to visit the area.
Visiting Ivy’s belated headstone recently, the author reflected on the tragedy of her grave and thousands like it that had been unmarked for more than 40 years.
Buried at All Saints’ Church in Bark Hart Road, her headstone was added in 1989 on Remembrance Day – which Colin says was fitting.
For more than 20 years people have finally been able to pay their respects to Ivy, whose final message reads: “Always in our hearts. Remembered with love.”
A Place in History, which details various significant events from British history, is available from Sunday. It is published by Ammonite.