§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
Last February I told Parliament that the Germans were preparing to attack this country by means of long-range rockets; and I referred again to the possibility of this form of attack in my statement in this House on 6th July.
For the last few weeks the enemy has been using his new weapon, the long-range rocket, and a number have landed at widely scattered points in this country. In all, the casualties and damage have so far not been heavy, though I am sure the House would wish me to express our sympathy with the victims of this as of other attacks. No official statement about the attack has hitherto been issued. The reason for this silence was that any announcement might have given information useful to the enemy, and we were confirmed in this course by the fact that, until two days ago, the enemy had made no mention of this weapon in his communiques.
Last Wednesday an official announcement, followed by a number of highly coloured accounts of the attacks on this country, was issued by the German High Command. I do not propose to comment upon it except to say that the statements in this announcement are a good reflection of what the German Government would wish their people to believe, and of their desperate need to afford them some encouragement. I may however mention a few facts. The rocket contains approximately the same quantity of high explosive as the flying bomb. However, it is designed to penetrate rather deeper before exploding. This results in somewhat heavier damage in the immediate vicinity of the crater, but rather less extensive 1654 blast effect around. The rocket flies through the stratosphere, going up to 60 or 70 miles, and outstrips sound. Because of its high speed, no reliable or sufficient public warning can, in present circumstances, be given.
There is, however, no need to exaggerate the danger. The scale and effects of the attack have not hitherto been significant. Some rockets have been fired at us from the island of Walcheren. This is now in our hands, and other areas from which rockets have, or can at present be fired against this country will, doubtless, be over-run by our Forces in due course. We cannot however be certain that the enemy will not be able to increase the range, either by reducing the weight of the war-head or by other methods. Nor, on the other hand, can we be certain that any new launching areas which he may establish further back will not, also, in turn, be over-run by the advancing Allied Armies.
The use of this weapon is another attempt by the enemy to attack the morale of our civil population in the vain hope that he may somehow by this means stave off the defeat which faces him in the field. Doubtless the enemy has hoped by his announcement to induce us to give him information which he has failed to get otherwise. I am sure that this House, the Press and the public will refuse to oblige him in this respect.
§ The Prime Minister
Naturally that is a matter upon which much attention is concentrated, and should satisfactory intelligence be received, no doubt appropriate measures will be taken.