The secret war of Charles Goodeve
CONCLUSION: The weapons of tomorrow
The Panjandrum, the Alligator, and Lily the floating airport . . . these revolutionary inventions created under the guidance of a little - known Canadian have yet to be tested in combat
This was the problem: It was reported in that summer of 1943 that the Germans holding the coast of northern France were racing ahead with the construction of an Atlantic Woll to keep out the Allied invaders who they knew in their bones would come out of the Channel mists some fateful day. The wall wuis to be an enormous bastion of reinforced concrete ten teel high and seven feet thick. Before any troops landing on the beaches could reach the country beyond, this would have to be knocked down — or. at any rate, a breach would have to be made in it large enough for a tank to pass through.
The man to whom the top Allied brass took the problem was Charles Frederick Goodeve, the Manitoba-born naval officer who wuis now in effective control of the whole research and development program of the Royal Navy. Recently risen from the rank of lieutenant-commander RNVR to an Admiralty post with status equivalent to the rank of rear-admiral, the thirty-nineyear-old Canadian had already chalked up some brilliant achievements in the “war of the wizards.” As deputy director of the Department of Miscellaneous Weapon Development—popularly known as the department of “Wheezes and Dodges”—it had been his task to milk the brains of the world's best inventors and supply the Allies with new secret weapons to which the enemy would have no counter.
The achievements of Goodeve’s small band of dedicated idea men — and of the scientists in other walks of life w'ith whom the DMWD kept in close contact—had already included revolutionary weapons to heat the U-boat and the Nazi blitz, the development of the Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun, radar deception devices and the steelsaving plastic armor. Later they produced vital components of the Mulberry harbors, helped in forwarding the “earthquake bombs” used by the famous dam-busters and perfected techniques tor clearing wrecks from captured harbors. The story of these achievements has already been told in articles in the previous two issues of Maclean’s. But several of the most interesting weapons devised by the Wheezcrs and Dodgers were never tried in war, and remain as prototypes for development in some later struggle. This final article tells the story of these weapons of the future—some of them revealed for the first time.
Charles Goodeve was the third of five children in the family of Canon Frederick W. Goodeve who. at eighty-seven, is currently a patient in the Princess Elizabeth Hospital at Winnipeg. The family moved from Neepawa to Winnipeg's Chestnut Street when Charles was in public school. His interest in science and invention be-
gan when he went on to the Kelvin Technical High School. His sister, Mrs. John Parton. says today: “Any of Charles’ classmates interested in science always congregated upstairs in our house at 97 Chestnut. They filled the air with vile smells and small explosions. The object was to see how had they could make the smells and how loud ihe explosions. Mother was so angry! She was always afraid they’d burn the house down.”
Goodeve surreptitiously rigged wires across the street to a friend’s house and transmitted telegraphic messages. Later, before he entered the University of Manitoba and began the career
that has brought him a knighthood and renown in scientific circles, he worked in an accountant's office where he amused himself by fitting pushbutton buzzers on all the executives’ desks. La.er still, in London where he went on a scholarship, he tinkered with a scheme to clear the fog out of the metropolitan air by means of electrolysis.
Early in 1940 he asked for and got the job of gathering a small team of experts and experimenters to sort out practical new weapon ideas. One of his outstanding personnel choices was Commander Nevi! Shute Norway, who (as Nevil Shute) is the author of many successful novels including The Pied Piper. The Chequer Board, A Town Like Alice and Beyond the Black Stump. It was on Norway’s desk in the DMWD office in Admiralty Arch that the Allied invasion planners' Atlantic Wall problem fell. Could the Wheezers and Dodgers dream up a workable device to smash such a bastion?
To breach a wall of such dimensions meant that one ton of high explosive must be placed in close contact with it. The beach itself would, it was assumed, be sown with landmines in front of the wall, and the continued on page 55
continued on page 55
The rocket-driven robot built to smash the Nazis’ Atlantic Wall
The secret war of Charles Goodeve continued from page 24
“Sn clouds of smoke the awesome Panjandrum thundered down the ramp and set off up the beach”
whole area would be swept by heavy ire. The problem facing DMWD was how to get one ton of high explosive to nhe base of the wall and set it off under hese conditions.
Norway w'as puzzling over this one morning when a group-captain named Finch-Noyes, who was attached to the headquarters of Combined Operations, came to see him. He brought with him *ome rough sketches of a remarkable device. It consisted of two enormous steel wheels, each ten feet in diameter, with a tread about a foot wide. They were connected by a drumlike axle which. Finch-Noyes explained, would contain high explosive. The monster would be propelled by a large number of slow;burning cordite rockets fitted around the circumference of each wheel.
The thing would be carried to the shore in a tank-landing craft. When the ramp went down the rockets would be ignited and the monster would propel itself through the shallow water and up rhe beach like a giant Catherine wheel, reaching a speed of perhaps sixty miles ¿n hour by the time it struck the concrete wall. There the steel wheels would collapse and the drum of TNT would be hurled against the foot of the wall, where a mechanical device would set off the explosive.
It was an ingenious and revolutionary conception. The more Norway studied it. the more it seemed to him that it offered the only solution to this highly difficult problem.
Norway christened the monster Panjandrum—"because the gunpowder ran out from its heels.” Within a month the first model had been built in great secrecy in a special iron shed at Leytonstone. Before it could be removed from the shed, the end of the building had to be taken out. In the early hours of Sept. 2. 1943, the Panjandrum was rolled across the yard and loaded onto a transporter. The police had been alerted and. with an escort of motorcycle outriders, the monster set off for its trials in the west of England, moving only under cover ol darkness.
The precautions taken by the se. ity authorities were somewhat peculiar. Tr. *y insisted that the Panjandrum must only stop at approved Admiralty depots on its journey westward, and on arrival at these places it was hurriedly locked up before curious civilians could catch a close glimpse of it. When it arrived at Appledore, however, Security abandoned all interest in it. The Panjandrum was rolled off the transporter onto the beach, where it was promptly surrounded by holiday-makers, who gazed with awe at the towering wheels, and prodded the rocket-holders inquisitively.
For its first tests the device was taken tc Westward Ho! where the slope of the open beaches and the tidal conditions were almost identical to those that would he encountered on the far side of the Channel. On the morning of Sept. 7 its central explosive drum was filled with four thousand pounds of dried sand and the rockets were clamped in position. As no one was quite certain how the Panjandrum would behave only eighteen rockets were tried at the start, but even so it was an awe-inspiring sight.
Surrounded in clouds of smoke and (fame the Panjandrum thundered down the ramp of the landing craft, plowed its
way through the water, and set off up the beach. It kept a relatively straight course until two of the rockets on one side failed to ignite, causing it to swing to starboard, but Norway saw it was much underpowered, and it came to a standstill after
covering two hundred and twenty yards. Without more rockets it was obvious that the Panjandrum would never reach a speed of sixty mph at the head of the beach.
Guy Williamson, who had shouldered
the difficult designing problems, decided to double the number of rockets, fitting them onto the inside of the wheels. On the following day the Panjandrum was taken around to lnstow Beach. With clouds of steam hissing around if. il ne-
gotiated one hundred and fifty yards of water quite successfully, hut just before it reached the target marker on the beach a patch of uneven loose sand slowed it up. Again some rockets failed, and it swerved aside, coming to rest after four hundred yards. It was still far too slow, and more stability was obviously needed.
At a staff conference, Williamson suggested the fitting of a third wheel to make the contraption more stable and this was agreed, but when they came to discuss the rocket problem there was some difference of opinion. Norway contended that the faster the Panjandrum traveled the straighter it ought to go; another expert took the view that it should begin its run slowly and work up gradually to maximum speed. In the end it was decided to double the number of rockets once again.
On Sept. 27 a three-wheeled Panjandrum was placed on a special wooden ramp erected near the waterline at Bideford. Before they could try it out, however, a fault developed in the electrical wiring circuit and, although they worked desperately to clear this, they were overtaken by the tide. Rolling in across the bay the sea engulfed the great machine, and to Williamson’s dismay the centre wheel collapsed. Some of the rockets were salvaged, but it was three weeks before the juggernaut was again ready for action.
Powered by more than seventy rockets on its third outing the Panjandrum gave a sensational display. No sooner had it reached the water’s edge than it swerved violently back toward the sea, heeling over until the wheel flanges caught in the sand. It lurched and overturned, the crash dislodging several of the rockets, which flew low over the beach in all directions while others, still secured to the perimeter of the outer wheel, continued to explode under water, sending up fierce jets of steam.
Ihe third-wheel experiment was abandoned and a steering system was rigged up—cables controlled by naval kite-balloon winches acting as brakes on the large axle—and on Oct. 26 the monster was given its fourth trial, at Westward Ho!
Two one-ton cables, two thousand feet long, were used, and Norway and Williamson each took charge of a winch. The beach was ribbed, soft and very wet. This time the Panjandrum worked up to a tremendous speed and when Norway applied the brake to steady it, the cable on the port side snapped off close to the machine. It came whistling back like a bullet, and both the steersmen had to hurl themselves face downward on the wet sand. The working of the starboard wire showed that the steering system had possibilities, but when they tried it out again next day one of the cables snapped. Trials were therefore suspended to await a heavier wire.
With this fitted, and new winches operating. they launched the Panjandrum once more on Nov. 12. It was a fine autumn day and this time the beach was hard and smooth. A marker post was erected two hundred and fifty yards down the beach, and they tried to demolish this. In spite of a cross wind there was no difficulty in steering the Panjandrum, but the target was hidden in smoke as the machine thundered toward it. At the ha if way stage one rocket burst from its clamps, and released another, but on the whole the Panjandrum gave quite a satisfactory account of itself.
Norway was still worried, however, by the stability problem. At length it dawned on him what was happening. The power needed to make it reach the desired speed against the rolling resistance
on the sand exerted so much torque that wheel slip was developing. The steering gear showed some promise, but he felt that this would never hold the huge machine with any certainty. The real basis of directional control was the grip of the wheels on the sand, and on an uneven surface the Panjandrum might well run amok.
The Wheezers and Dodgers realized that the experiments were becoming extremely dangerous, and the hazards were increased by the erratic behavior of the rockets, which were not designed to withstand a lateral centrifugal force while burning. When the speed of the Panjandrum rose to over fifty mph it was common for one or two rockets to burst. This usually destroyed the attachment of adjacent rockets, which began darting all over the beach. These rockets were formidable pieces of ironmongery. each weighing about twenty pounds and burning for forty seconds with a thrust of forty pounds. When one broke away from the side of the Panjandrum it would scream across the sand in a series of hops at a height of only two or three feet, its progress lasting half a minute or more.
A trial run was a thing that had to be seen to be believed: the Panjandrum, a hurtling mass of smoke and flame, often careered straight for the spectators. or at the movie operator filming its progress who usually thought he had chosen a safe position, while rockets that had burst free from the wheels flew in all directions. The hazards, however, had to be accepted.
Temperament at Westward Ho!
On the afternoon of the same day— Nov. 12—they decided to test the monster over a chain of small craters, three rows of mines being detonated to make them. The Panjandrum traveled at a higher speed than ever before, and right from the start the steering became erratic. The machine took a sinuous path, with violent swings at each touch of the brake, and after covering one hundred and forty yards it lurched wildly to port.
Norway threw up his hands to release all the burden from the steering apparatus, and this caused an instant over-run which locked both winch wires. The Panjandrum pivoted toward the sea and came to a halt. I hey found that this last fierce turn had badly distorted the starboard wheel.
The DMWD team returned to their hotel thoroughly dejected. I he Panjandrum was quite unpredictable, and there seemed to be no end to its fits of temperament. Talking things over they decided that the new band brakes were too powerful, even it controlled with a light touch. A new type of brake must be designed. If, too, an angle was introduced on the steel tires this might give the machine a firmer grip on the sand.
No more trials took place before the end of the year. Various modifications were made, and two new Panjandrums were built in London. While they were being made ready word came to DMWD that close accuracy of steering was no longer considered imperative by the invasion planners.
When they next assembled at Westward Ho!, early in January 1944, the Panjandrum that they loaded onto the landing craft was almost a reversion to the original prototype in appearance, with just the two ten-foot wheels, the axle chamber (ballasted with two tons of sand) and no steering gear fitted. In the morning the Panjandrum was given
a preliminary run wilh forty-eight rockets in position.
After lunch a resplendent gathering of admirals, generals and scientific observers made their way to the pebble ridge that ran along the beach. Whitehall had come to pass judgment on the Panjandrum, and the Wheezers and Dodgers sensed that this trial would decide its fate.
First, two minefields were detonated to provide the craters lhat would be encountered on an enemy beach. The photographer who was to cover the run chose a position about halfway up the course. As he got his movie equipment ready he was joined by several brass hats, and an Airedale dog.
Far down the beach lay the LCT. Through binoculars the watchers could see the Panjandrum being brought to the head of the ramp. Then the firing signal was given and the Panjandrum was on its way.
It made a slow, impressive start. In the first few yards the inevitable rocket burst from its clamps. Two more broke free, but now the Panjandrum was moving at a terrific speed. To the photographer it seemed to be nearing one hundred miles an hour — a rushing inferno of smoke and fierce jets of fire.
At eighty yards the monster crossed one line of craters, and the shoreside wheel dipped ominously. At one hundred and twenty yards the awed watchers realized it was out of control. The Panjandrum began to swing in a great curve to starboard. Hypnotized by the vast Frankenstein object roaring across the sand, the photographer continued to cover it until it was heading straight for him. Then he sprang to his feet and ran for his life, following the VIPs as they flung themselves headlong down the far side of the pebble ridge into a mass of barbed wire. At any moment they expected the monster to come hurtling over the brow and crush them all to death. But the seconds passed, and nothing happened. So they crawled back up the stony slope. From the crest of the ridge they saw an amazing sight.
The Panjandrum was in its death throes. It had swung back toward the sea and crashed over on its side on the sand. This smothered the rockets that were underneath, but the others continued to explode, wrenching and distorting the whole frame until the remainder burst from their fittings and screamed oil' along the beach in every direction, some vainly pursued by the Airedale.
When the pyrotechnics were over and the awe-struck admirals, generals and scientists descended cautiously to the beach, all that remained of the Panjandrum was a twisted and blackened mass of wreckage. Around it lapped the incoming tide. The Panjandrum was dead.
1 he official reason for the Panjandrum experiments may never be told. Even today there is still some mystery about it, for the Atlantic Wall, which it was called into being to demolish, never in fact existed in the form outlined to DMWD. The beaches ultimately assaulted by the Allies in Normandy had no defense of this kind, and the proposal may well have been launched in the hope that it would leak out to the enemy, thus convincing them that the Allies intended to attack that part of the coast where such walls had already been built.
The work of Goodeve’s Wheezers and Dodgers was, however, turned to good account. It stimulated and advanced research on a much more tractable engine of war—the Alligator.
This was an amphibious vehicle, originally designed for rescue work in the Everglades of Florida. Il had tracks like a tank and on these were little scooplike spades which propelled it slowly through the water. The DMWD now proposed to mount on the bows of this amphibian a "mattress” containing a ton of high explosive. This would be held by two compressed air jacks, which would press firmly against a wall or any other type of obstruction it encountered.
Guy Williamson designed the high-explosive mattress and the supporting jacks: others tackled the intricate electrical problems and the radio-control gear which was to guide the Alligator from
its landing craft to the enemy shore. In quite a short time an automaton even more ingenious than the ill-starred Panjandrum began to take shape.
When it was ready the hydraulic system was tested against a ten-foot wall. The explosive mattress was slung on two pivots attached to the outboard end of a pair of huge hydraulic rams. These rams were linked in such a way that if the Alligator hit an obstruction at an angle the ram taking the first impact would be forced inward, breaking a copper seal. This would bring into play (he
ram not in contact, and it would shoot out, forcing the other corner of the mattress into position. The pivots allowed the load of explosive to turn upward or downward, according to the slope of the target, and the actual detonation of the charge was effected by mine detectors fixed on the front of the mattress.
The first trial went well. Williamson had been repeatedly reminded by the ballistic experts that the mattress must press tightly against the target; to his delight the hydraulic rams exerted such pressure that the whole vehicle, which weighed
eleven tons, was pushed slowly backward.
Next, the radio-control apparatus was installed and, borrowing two tons of weights, they carried out loading trials to test the Alligator’s stability in the water. At Westward Ho! some brilliant work on the electrics of the amphibian converted the remote-control system so that the Alligator could be directed from the air, and it was driven in and out of the sea, and up and down the beach, guided entirely by one of Goodeve’s associates flying above the Devon coast.
The Alligator passed all its trials with colors flying, but—exasperatingly enough for the Wheezers and Dodgers who had created this strange and menacing craft— it suffered the same fate as the Panjandrum. No promising targets could be spied for it on the vital stretch of the Normandy coast and. although development continued in the hope that it might be given its baptism of fire in the Far East, it never found an enemy stronghold to destroy.
Although Goodeve’s personal role in the Panjandrum and Alligator experiments was one of encouragement, and guidance through the maze of red tape that often threatened to choke unorthodox projects, he was himself largely responsible for developing the strange
genius of Ronald Hamilton whose invention of Lily, the floating runway for aircraft, is considered one of the most important advances to come out of World War 11. Planned for use in the final assault on Japan, it was never tried under actual combat conditions. Goodevc had first met Hamilton in his one-man laboratory in a bombed-out wing of the Grosvenor Hotel and had taken him on the DMWD staff. From their labors came the fantastic Swiss Roll, a floating roadway eventually used at Arromanches to put trucks and supplies ashore after D-Day.
Using the same principle as the Swiss Roll, but making his floating carpet flexible laterally as well as longitudinally, Hamilton found that he could build whole artificial islands of any shape or size on the surface of the sea. They were made of hundreds of hexagonal buoyancy cans, six feet wide and thirty inches deep, which were linked and clamped together so ingeniously that they gave in controlled undulations while retaining a surface rigid enough to take the weight of heavy aircraft. The flexibility of these man-made islands could be simply controlled by the action of underwater dampers.
The Wheezers and Dodgers held the first full-scale trials of Lily off Lamlash in the Isle of Arran. They found it was easily possible to assemble a strip five hundred and fifty feet long and sixty feet wide in an hour, using a working party of forty men. and from this runway a Swordfish aircraft made a series of rocket-assisted take-offs. Lily's flexibility formed a saucerlike depression under the Swordfish's weight. This lengthened the take-off,as the plane had to climb out of its own depression, but it slowed the aircraft down very conveniently in the last fifty feet of its landing.
Pilots reported that touching down on
“Sn a wind approaching gale force the Wheezers and Dodgers laid down an entire island on the sea”
the island was little different from landing on the deck of a carrier. They had, however, one or two tense moments when a powerful motorboat was used to make artificial waves, circling around the Lily field. On one occasion the Swordfish’s propeller tips, tilted down by the wave undulations, struck the metal surface of the runway.
The experimental strip at Lamlash was deliberately limited in size, and only Sw'ordfish and Auster aircraft could use it, but Hamilton showed by calculation that a similar runway twelve hundred feet long and ninety feet w'ide would comfortably take a Hurricane fighter, and winds up to sixty mph would not put the airstrip out of action. When he had fitted his special dampers to the underside of the island Lily remained quite fiat in waves up to thirty-six feet from crest to crest. The airfield could be easily dismantled. moved and reassembled, and more than once in those wild waters off the Scottish coast an impressive demonstration of this was given. In a w'ind approaching gale force an entire island w'as laid down on the sea and made secure by only tw'o men.
The importance of Hamilton's discovery is plain. Now it is possible for one ship to carry a whole airfield without difficulty and a handful of men can assemble it practically anywhere on the seven seas.
The boat that ran by radio
Many of DMWD’s most revolutionary ideas were born in desperate circumstances, in attempts to block some new offensive weapon of the enemy’s or to find some way to minimize the blood bath threatened in the invasion of France. Invention would build on invention and, as circumstances changed, many promising ideas would be reluctantly bypassed. Several of these were in the robot field.
Commander John Dove, one of the original Wheezers and Dodgers, devised an explosive motorboat to attack the German shipping that crept around Cap Gris Nez at night. It was the complete robot. Under radio control it could start itself, slip from its moorings unaided, and set off on a gyro course plotted by the radar sets that directed the big guns at Dover.
Dove brought his boat up the Thames to demonstrate it. Although on that memorable occasion something went wrong with the remote-control system, and the boat charged the wall below the Houses of Parliament, he eventually induced the robot mechanism to w'ork with such uncanny accuracy that the craft could be homed onto a target twenty miles away with an error of only twenty yards.
As things turned out, however, it was destined never to be used in its explosive role, for a much more important task cropped up. The development of the boat went forward as an invasion project and, stripped of its explosive apparatus, it became a cog in the elaborate deception plans evolved for D-Day.
One of the most secret projects tackled by Charles Goodeve’s versatile crew was the development of protective clothing to enable frogmen to withstand explosions under waiter. Current progress is still shrouded in secrecy, a fact that can be gauged by the recent uproar over Commander Lionel Crabb, the British frogman who disappeared near the Russian warships during the visit to Britain of Bulganin and Khrushchev. The problem was first put to Goodeve when the inva-
sion planners were worrying in advance about restoring Cherbourg as a workable port. It was bound to be heavily sown with delayed-action mines and booby traps which would have to be tackled individually by frogmen.
The more Goodeve thought about this, the more it worried him. He was convinced that the frogmen volunteering for this task would have little chance of surviv-
ing underwater explosions unless they could be provided with some form of protective clothing. Eventually he put the problem to Surgeon-Commander C. L. G. Pratt RNVR. the medical officer in charge of the Royal Navy’s Physiological Laboratory.
"I know we can’t protect these chaps against an explosion at very short range." Goodeve said, “but we must find a way
of reducing the risk. Do you think you can design some sort of suit which will give at least a measure of protection against underwater blast?”
“How long can you give us?” Pratt asked. "If we were going to tackle a job like that thoroughly in peacetime it might take anything up to two years.”
Goodeve thought for a moment. "You’ve got only six weeks," he said. "In
that time the suits must be tested, made and distributed.”
After exhaustive tests in a deep seawater lake on Horsea Island, Pratt drew up a program of trials with human subjects. The aim was to expose each man to a series of explosions, increasing the severity of these step by step until he reached the limit of his endurance or showed signs of slight injury.
The first to subject themselves to this ordeal were Pratt and Dr. Edward Case, in peacetime a Cambridge biochemist. Dressed in ordinary frogmen’s suits they were rowed out to the centre of the lake and then, clambering awkwardly over the side of their small boat, they disappeared below the surface.
They advanced to within seventy feet of the charge. At that distance the blast lifted them bodily in the water and a violent stinving sensation attacked their hands, wrists and neck. They were brought to the surface and a doctor examined them. Then they went down again and the tests continued, the depth of the charge being varied while the distance between the subject and the charge was also changed before each explosion.
From these preliminary trials, Pratt and his helpers designed three different types of kapok jerkin. Then the experiments on the bed of the lake began again.
Wearing protective clothing the volunteers now approached much nearer to the demolition charges and at forty feet they were severely buffeted. Case’s experience was typical. He felt a terrific blow on the head—"it was like being hit with a cricket bat”—and for a second or two he staggered blindly about, unable to collect his senses. His chest hurt and he had a raging pain in his ears. At this close range the stinging sensation he had experienced before became an acute pain, accompanied by an unpleasant numbness in his hands as if they were turning to ice. To make matters worse the force of the explosion displaced his face-piece, with its breathing tube, and it filled with water.
For a long time after they had been brought ashore Pratt, Case and Lieut. Guy Boissard RNVR, an Australian who had asked to be allowed to take part in the experiments, all suffered from splitting headaches. It was therefore decided not to shorten the distance any further, for it seemed all too likely that they might be stunned, seriously injured or drowned, but they carried on with the tests, trying out several different suits. As many as four times in a day they went down into the icy depths of the lake. The ordeal left them battered and tired, with excruciating aches in the knees, elbows
and shoulders. In time the pain spread to smaller joints like the wrists and fingers and was to persist for several weeks.
A third series of underwater tests was launched with a fresh team of volunteers headed by a young New Zealander, SubITeut. W. J. L. Smith. Often when they were brought to the surface of the lake the battered and semiconscious men had great difficulty in describing their strange new experiences to the waiting scientists. But they stuck to their task, and all the information that Pratt needed was finally secured.
It is not possible to recount the precise steps that were taken to neutralize the effect of explosions under water, but the protective suit that was produced in time for use on the sea bed at Cherbourg was triumphantly successful. Wearing it, the "P” parties, as the frogmen who volunteered for this dangerous mission were officially known, searched over two million square feet of the port. Much of the time they were in total darkness and had to fight their way through deep mud, with wreckage of all descriptions littering their path, but they located and destroyed hundreds of mines.
Throughout the war Goodeve was always treading the thin line between the inventive genius and the crackpot zealot. He listened patiently to schemes for building an anti-aircraft mountain, thousands of feet high, in Kent from which antiaircraft gunners would shoot down the highest-flying bombers attacking London, to plans for death rays, space ships, dazzle guns, and artificial tidal waves.
One incredible project he still remembers began one morning when he received a message that a Very Important Person wanted to see him immediately. Dropping everything he called on the Great Man and was introduced to a stranger—a civilian who, he gathered, was an engineer.
"Mr. Blank has an idea which I'd like you to look at, Goodeve,” said the Great Man. "It’s a countermeasure to these Hying bombs. Would you let him show you the details? I’d like a report as soon as possible.”
In Goodeve’s office the visitor opened a bulging brief case and extracted a mass of papers which he spread all over the floor.
"It’s really quite simple," he remarked. "You know the barrage balloons?”
Goodeve said he did.
“Well, then,” went on the visitor, "you send up hundreds of those balloons across the normal route of the flying bombs and to the cable of each you connect this apparatus of mine. It consists of a cy 1 in-
der of oxygen, joined to a small benzine tank by an electro-magnetic release valve. On the other side of the benzine tank is a bath containing a soap solution. Do 1 make myself clear?”
"Perfectly,” said Goodeve. “Please go on.”
“Now we come to crux of the whole scheme. The mixture finally emerges into the air in a series of huge bubbles . . .”
Goodeve sat up. “I’m afraid I don’t quite see what these bubbles of yours can do to destroy the flying bombs.” he said a little sharply.
"Come now. Dr. Goodeve!” chided the inventor. “Surely it must be obvious. Over come the flying bombs and. as they pass, they suck my bubbles into their intake system. Immediately the bombs will explode in mid-air.”
For a moment Goodeve remained speechless. He had left vital work to waste time on a project that had no basis of scientific probability whatever. When he sought to dispose of the matter, however. he found himself in a quandary. The Soap Bubble Scheme was far too ludicrous to send to any Admiralty department for their comments; indeed, it hardh concerned the Admiralty in any case. But the Great Man was interested in it and had asked him for a report. Obviously it would have to be treated sympathetically.
After pondering for several days he had a brainwave and dictated a letter to the inventor thanking him warmly for the public spirit he had shown in bringing his scheme to the notice of the Royal Navy.
"I would, how'ever, like to point out,” he continued, "that flying bombs are themselves propelled by a series of explosions far more violent than would be created by the introduction of your bubbles. What your scheme would, in fact, achieve is a refuelling of the bombs in flight, and here you may well have hit upon a most important discovery. If you can increase the strength of your mixture it may be possible to decelerate the flight and range of the bombs so considerably that they will pass right over London and land in the open country beyond. I am convinced that you should reconsider your idea in this light and then put it up again—to the Air Ministry, not the Admiralty.”
A day or two later the inventor rang up Goodeve. "That letter you wrote to me,” he began cautiously, "I believe you are pulling my leg!”
"Why should you think that?” parried Goodeve.
“Well ... 1 think you are."
“In that case,” Goodeve remarked with a chuckle, "I wouldn’t feel disposed to contradict you.” ★
This series of articles, now concluded, will be included in Gerald Pawle’s book, The Secret War 1939-1945, to be published later by George G. Harrap, London, and Clarke Irwin, Toronto.
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