This map plots the settings and references in Gravity's Rainbow

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London, 1944

By 1944, the main Blitz on London by German bomber planes was long over. However, the city had suffered severe damage and loss of life as a result of the campaign. Britain's victory in the Battle of Britain had prevented German bombers from entering British airspace, but this had encouraged German engineers to develop remote controlled missiles that did not require manned planes to target Britain.

 

Family eating in a bombed out East London house
Creative Commons AttributionFamily eating in a bombed out East London house - Credit: Paul Townsend

 

The "Robot Blitz", or "Baby Blitz", consisted of offensives by V-1 and V-2 rockets. While the V-1 rockets could be heard for about ten seconds before they struck, the V-2 rocket travelled faster than the speed of sound, meaning that there was no warning of an impending strike. Londoners lived in constant fear of sudden destruction between the first attack on September 8th, 1944 and Victory in Europe Day on May 8th, 1945.

 

 

Milkman delivering milk amid ruined houses
Creative Commons AttributionMilkman delivering milk amid ruined houses - Credit: Flickr, Jhayne

 

 

In total, 1,402 V-2s struck London. The estimated death toll from V-2 attacks on London is 2,754, with another 6,523 injured. In one incident, a missile struck the Rex Cinema in Antwerp on December 16, 1944, killing 567 people. This incident may well be the attack depicted in the novel's conclusion.