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The secret materials of the British Army World War II. Great Panjandrum, or the Wheel of Doom

Part one, rusty

This is a photograph of a secret device called “The Great Panjandrum” (translated as “big bump”, meaning “important person”), in some sources it is referred to as “Hogarth’s mine mine trawl”, but this is incorrect, because it is not anti-mine trawl, and a self-propelled mine to destroy coastal fortifications. This device was created by the British in 1943, during preparations for the Allied landing in Normandy.

Great Panjandrum was a design of two steel 10-foot wheels (3 meters in diameter), connected by a drum filled with explosives, with a twisted shock fuse from an air bomb. On the wheels along the perimeter fixed missiles with slow-moving gunpowder, which were supposed to drive this unit. According to the plan, the landing ship approaches the shore, lowers the ramp, the rockets are ignited, and the deadly wheel rushes ashore, knocking off wire barriers and anti-personnel mines, flies the beach and crashes into stationary fortifications, blowing them to hell and making a passage for the tanks. Further, obviously, the fascists (those who have not died of laughter at the sight of such fireworks) hang out a white flag, and a happy end comes. Well, in any case, it was planned.

The prototype was ready in August 1943, and then it was decided to test. The wheel was loaded on a truck and in strict security mode was taken to a village in southern England, the beaches near it were similar to the beaches of Normandy, which will be stormed by the Allies on day D. Interestingly, just before the test, someone came up with the cautious idea that, on just in case, the drum should not be filled with explosives, but simply filled with sand to bring the weight to the design values. As an English historian writes, “this was the smartest idea in this project.”

And the hour came.

A deafening fiasco. No, it all started well, the rocket ignition system worked properly, the wheel moved from the place and got fairly fast, but then the bouncing began on the uneven ground and Great Panjandrum began to rush unpredictably along the beach, sizzling ominously and emitting clouds of smoke, raising clouds of spray and piles of sand . At one point he rushed towards the selection committee. The generals from the commission took their feet in their hands and began to scatter in different directions, which is fundamentally wrong, as the general should not run around at all – in peacetime this causes laughter, in times of war – panic. But it happened, you can not erase the words from the song, there was such an episode. Meanwhile, the fiery whistling wheel continued to gallop along the beach and almost killed the army officer and cameraman, and also the dog and cat survived by a miracle, providing moral support to the testers. Finally, the powder charge in the rockets ended, and the wheel stopped.


Dialogues among the members of the commission to complete the test in history were not preserved, unfortunately, but protocols remained that said that this type of weapon does not stand at all due to the structural weaknesses of the design – the slightest surface irregularities, some unworked rockets cause a change in the thrust vector y two-wheel system, and compensation for the change in the vector structure is not provided at all. As one of the generals put it: “You guys made an explosive equivalent of a garden hose that was thrown on the ground, turned on full power.”

The developers did not give up, and later there were several more tests. Consistently in the design made changes in the form of the third tail wheel, pieces of thick cables on the sides of the drum with wheels, but all tests ended running up the admissions committee who is where during the wild unpredictable jumps Panjandrum on the beach. Eventually, the generals got tired of running around from this fiery Shaitan-arba, the project was closed, and in the D-day German fortifications only vulgar bombers and ship artillery worked. A pity, with Panjandrum would be the most epic landing operation in the history of wars.

In general, the design captivates with its simplicity and elegance of the idea. Some enthusiasts even decided to revive this secret project, and in 2009, during the jubilee of the landing of the Allies in Normandy, they built a model of the Great Panjandrum (diameter of 1.5 m). But here, too, went badly – from the planned 1500 feet the wheel rolled only 150 feet, then stopped. It’s not meant to be.


Part two, cognitive

The founder and leader of the development team for this project is Lieutenant Nevil Norway. He has a more successful project, an unguided missile RP-3 , albeit not as massive as German missiles, or Soviet Katyushas, ​​produced in millions of pieces, but, nevertheless, contributed to the victory over Nazis (these missiles with armor-piercing heads sunk two German submarines, and, according to some sources, it was the RP-3 rocket that destroyed the Tiger with the most productive tank ace of the second world Michael Wittmann).

But the most interesting thing is that in the world Nevil Norway is known under a different name. Nevil Shute is the best-selling British writer of the postwar period.

His pen belongs to 23! novel, written from 1932 to 1960 (the year of the death of the writer). According to his novels, nine films and series are shot, one novel “On the Beach” was shot as much as two films – “On the shore”, directed by Stanley Kramer, starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, 1959, and “On the Last Bank,” in the main the role of Armand Assante, 2000.

PS The network has a pretty well-known video called “British Secret Wartime Follies” (feilah of secret British projects), where Great Panjandrum goes as one of the episodes.

Also there are very interesting projects PLUTO and Kapoc Landing Stage MkI.

But this, as you know, is completely different stories, about which I will sometime (probably) write …

PPS And, more interestingly, to another brainchild Nevila Shut, more successful, still had the opportunity to participate in the D-day. Several Landing Craft Tank landing ships were charged with 1066 RP-3 pieces and represented the celebration of the New Year off the coast of Normandy. They write, the spectacle was amazing.

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