I believe this is a new show to the History Channel (US.) They told the story
of Mountbatten proposing to Churchill carriers made of pycrete. Pycrete was a
slurry made of ice and sawdust and if used in colder climates would last
indefinitely especially with the coolant piping they envisioned. The first one
was to be named the HMS Habbicook (or maybe Hubbicuk; not real sure on the
spelling here.) These ice carriers were planned on being 300 feet wide, they
showed CG images of refueling B-29s. Anyone ever heard of this before?
The Keeper (of too much crap)
The substance "pycrete" was the brainchild of a man called Pyke. He was the
brother of a rather eccentric gentleman called Magnus Pyke who was quite
well known on British TV for a while. One anecdote related by the brother
was that at a meeting of his staff, Mountbatten wanted to demonstrate how
strong Pycrete was. He fired his service revolver at it. At which point the
Military Police rushed in .
Pycrete was evaluated by the Miscelleneous Weapons
Development Department (MWDD) Also known as "the wheezers and dodgers,
they developed many well known devices and weapons. The "Hedgehog" anti
submarine launcher, Multiple anti aircraft rocket launchers, plastic
"applique" armour fitted to escort carriers and my personal favourite "The
They related that story as such: he fired the revolver at a regular chunk of
ice which expectantly disinegrated. He then fired at the pycrete, the bullet
richocheted and nicked the leg of an American General. No mention of the MP's
although I can surely see that happening.
The Keeper (of too much crap)
I'm glad they did this show. It has long bothered me that they'd show
all these axis 'secret weapons', and compare them to operational Allied
weapon systems. Unfair. Now, they have in part corrected it.
In part, I say, because they only covered a small part of the very large
number of Allied R & D projects. They did not have time to cover a
great deal of interesting stuff, even if you restrict it to aircraft
specifically. The Ryan fireball was not the only jet prop combo we were
working on (there was even a turbojet-turboprop combo), the pusher
flying wing with contra-rotating props, the P-75, etc. I think they need
to do a whole series of secret/R&D Allied aircraft of WW2.
There were Allied cruise missiles, glide bombs, turboprop bombers, and
scads of other things.
I also was glad they gave credit to US turbojet developers, though they
never did mention the effort underway at GE before the war. The copy of
the Whittle engine was NOT the only gas turbine engine built at GE
during war. I think they actually developed TWO indigenious engines, a
turbojet and a turboprop, both with axial flow compressors. And they
never mentioned Sandford Moss, the father of US GT technology.
Keeper wrote about the planned "ice" aircraft carriers:
Habakkuk. Some biblical thing or other.
Yes, there's a 1:6000 scale miniature of this produced by
Hallmark/Figurehead. They produce naval miniatures for wargaming in various
The Habakkuk is, er, a rather interesting model, especially when set side-
by-side with models of conventional ships. The shape is normal looking,
it's just really, really big.
These defintitely were being worked on and were well along in the research
stage. I have an article on these in a book. It was a two-volume set by
Readers' Digest about Canada's experience in WWII published years ago.
I am unpacking (slowly) after a move and can provide further details when
that box surfaces. IIRC, there was a photo of part of the coolant sustem and
descriptions of how it was to work. Never got to prototype stage but there
were research models of components and it was apparently a viable concept.
Will send more when it shows up.
Desperation leads to lots of people having "great" ideas to counter
the fact that the ememy has just finished blowing the crap out of 95%
of the industrial infrastructure and is in the process of killing big
parts of the population.
These toys make cool shows but none of it really made as much of an
effect as the stupid stuff we did, like having no OSS on the ground to
do the ground pounding intel ops that might have warned us of the
German breakout in Dec 1944.
I really loved some of the stuff the Brits came up with. There was
this big pinwheel mine detonator/beach clearing device. Too bad no
freshman Physics major wasn't their to tell them about the gyroscopic
effect. It went in every direction except the direction intended.
Thank God no one deployed it on June 6. I guess that is why James Bond
and Q were British.
the grand pajandrum was a false flag ops for the germans.
the brits were aware it couldn't work. they had 7-8?
projects to drive herr wehrmacht nuts. considering the
abilities of german intelligence, it's no wonder they
according to ian hogg, anyway.
That said, I've read several books on D-day recently, and they've
consistently agreed that Hobart's "funnies" did make a significant
contribution on the British beaches, and it was a mistake for the US Army
not to take them more seriously. The Sherman DDs were marginal at best (not
through any lack of courage and tenacity on the parts of the crews, I hasten
to add, but the vulnerability of the skirts. Driving off the ramp into deep
water when you KNOW that you have a big hole in the canvas and you will sink
in short order shows considerable bravery, but it doesn't get the tank to
the beach or make it effective...)
[I'm not a regular hanger-on in this group, but I thought I'd drop in
for a few nit-picks... (:-)]
The usual spelling is "Pykrete", for obvious reasons... It was named after
Geoffrey Pyke, though he didn't actually invent the stuff -- he just wanted
to build an aircraft carrier out of ice. The wood pulp addition was
apparently by a couple of anonymous US researchers.
The tale of the ricocheting bullet is apparently true, though the
details vary with the teller. The meeting was actually of high-level
Allied staff at the Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec. The most believable
version has the bullet narrowly missing a US General, though some variants
say he was actually injured. First time I've heard about MPs rushing in...
I would think that the eccentricity of Magnus was well outdone by that
of Geoffrey! (A google will give details, I'm sure.) But have you any
evidence that the two were brothers -- or even related at all? They were
not at all the same generation; Geoffrey died in 1948, Magnus in 1986.
"DMWD", actually ('Dept. of Misc. Weapons Development' in the Admiralty).
Looks like you might have a copy of Gerald Pawle's "The Secret War" (:-)
There are a lot of wonderful stories from that period, well retold in that
book. [And, yeah, I have a personal interest -- my dad ran DMWD... (:-)]
-- Pete Goodeve --
Depends what you mean by "prototype". They actually build a small test
ship on Lake Patricia, near Jasper. This didn't involve 'Pykrete', which
came later, but was intended to investigate refrigeration and insulation
-- Pete --
That was the 'Panjandrum'. And the problem wasn't gyroscopy -- it was
pretty much intended to travel in a straight line anyway. The hitch
was the rockets, which just weren't reliable enough. They all had to
ignite and burn very precisely or the thing would get kicked onto a
random course. The propellant technology of the time just wasn't up
to that. [Please don't denigrate the people involved. There were
some top-notch scientists on the job.] But yes, the results were
sometimes very funny (in retrospect (:-)): the film of the Panjandrum
veering around and chasing a dog that had been chasing *it*, is
And not all such projects were failures. The "Swiss Roll" floating
roadway was important to D-Day, and the "Hedgehog" anti-submarine mortar
still has variants in use today.
-- Pete --
"Matt Bacon" wrote
This is the standard line, but does in really make sense? Was the Bobbin
launcher really needed at Normandy or just a reaction to Dieppe? A petard
mortar might have helped at Omaha, but so would practically any tank with a
decent HE round. A Crab flail? Maybe, but the problem seems to have been
obstacles under heavy covering fire as much as mines per se. Where there
any ditches at Omaha that would have been easily bypassed "if only" we had
fascine carriers? Finally, if the DDs were so dumb, why did the British
invent them - and use them at D-Day? Look at it another way: if we couldn't
get enough of our regular tanks ashore to make a difference, how were we
supposed to land the funnies?
If you look at it, seems like the whole "funnies" issue was just somebody
saying "if only. . ." after the fact. I have seen no real evidence or
analysis indicating that using the British special tanks would have provided
a marked improvement given everything else that went on at D-Day. In other
words, given that only X-number of US tanks made ashore, the fact that these
were 75mm Shermans vs. funnies is pretty much irrelevant. As a corollary,
if N more tanks could have landed, N more 75mm Shermans would have had about
as much effect as N funnies.