The V2 Rocket is now in the building

December 2013 saw the return of one of our most iconic objects – the V2 rocket. The rocket is now in place in our new atrium.Between September 1944 and 27 March 1945 approximately 1,054 V2 rockets reached Britain. You can read about a V2 rocket exploding near IWM London during the Second World War here.

This V2 Rocket was brought back from Germany at the end of the Second World War, and after display at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, was transferred to the museum in 1946.

For those of you who didn’t see the rocket in the old atrium, the alcohol and oxygen tanks can be seen, as can the rocket engine itself – note that one half of the outer skin has been fretted to reveal the tanks, and two of the fins have been removed, exposing the engine. Although the position on the floor is close to where the V2 used to live, the rocket now sits one floor further down inside the museum building.

The installation of the V2 in the atrium proved to be a real feat of engineering, and a great team effort between IWM conservators and our partners for the installation – Borley Brothers and Acro Engineering. The challenge we had was to raise the V2 off the ground (to look like it is taking off) whilst still ensuring the giant 14 metre high rocket fitted under the new ceiling in the atrium.

Our solution was to bring the V2 into the building in sections.  The first task was to set up the engine on the display plinth.


The upper section of the rocket was then raised using a strop (a reinforced fabric cable, essentially) and a manual winch. Because of the restricted ceiling height (in final position the tip of the rocket is only 40cm away from the ceiling!) this suspension was carried out in a section of the atrium where we could run a cable past the new ceiling to the old museum roof.

When the upper section was airborne the engine section was slid underneath. The IWM conservators and Borley Brothers then worked together to lower and connect the two sections together. The rocket was now together but the work was not done!

The next step was to slowly and careful winch the rocket across the floor to its final position.
Once into the position the upper section of the V2 was attached to one of the upper gallery floors by using horizontal restraints from the upper section of the rocket across to a steel support in the floor. (IMAGE: V2 Horizon Rest 1)

By Christmas we had got to this stage. The final part of the work is to fit the fins to the engine section. Then the installation is complete!

The planning for this installation started almost a year ago, and given the sensitivity of the object (which despite its size is a fragile object composed of very thin metal) and the constraints of the building I am delighted that we’ve managed to realise our plan and return the V2 safe and sound.

Many thanks must go to Borleys; as well as the IWM Duxford Conservation team and Acro Engineering for their help in realising the design and installation. We’re not done yet- but this is a significant milestone in Transforming London.

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