V2 ceremony halted

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IN THE face of wounding criticism at home and abroad, plans to celebrate the first launch of the V2 rocket were cancelled yesterday, writes Sarah Lambert.

Pressure had been mounting all day but became irresistible once Chancellor Helmut Kohl made his anger known.

Erich Riedl, the junior minister who was to have made the keynote address at Saturday's ceremony billed as a commemoration of 'the birth of the conquest of space', said early yesterday that he would not attend. He had previously dismissed criticism as 'absurd and hysterical' and denied there was any intention to celebrate an instrument of death.

Much of Germany is upset and defensive about the hostility things German arouse in Britain in the wake of the sterling crisis.

The press, reprinting cartoons that have appeared in British papers, made the obvious parallel with the unveiling last May in London of a statue to 'Bomber' Harris, architect of the massed raids on German cities.

The V2 was developed by Wernher Von Braun and his team from the A4 rocket that was first launched from Peenemunde, in 1942. It was the first ballistic missile to break the sound barrier. Von Braun was recruited to the US space programme. About 3,000 V2s were launched to devastating effect on London and Antwerp.