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The Story of Inventions that contributed 
to Victory in the Battle of the Atlantic 




Recorder of Newbury 
War-time Captain R.N.F.R. 

With fifteen plates in half-tone 
and two endpaper diagrams 




"9 -tO - to"^-4» 

Yk/) 1 Lords of the Admiralty 
of the Second World War 

who made these things possible 

First published in Great Britain 1 9 5 8 
fry Georgia G-. Harrab © Co. Ltd 
182 High Holbom, London, W.C.i 

© Udivard 'Terrell 1 5 ; 8 

Composed in Linotype Caledonia type and printed by 

Western Printing Services Ltd, Bristol 

Made in Creat Britain 


This story is not a history of the war at sea, but contains some of 
it as yet untold, and the background of these adventures is the 
Battle of the Atlantic. 

For five long years the Royal Navy and Coastal Command 
fought the deadly German underwater craft and bombers with 
ships and planes and every scientific invention that could be 
devised. Upon the issue of this battle depended the fate of our 
armies in North Africa, the landings upon the Mediterranean 
shores of Europe, and, finally, the liberation of France. In these 
encounters naval ratings fought side by side with merchant sea- 
men, and captains of escort ships with masters of tramp steamers. 
Convoys were the order of the day, and their safe passage through 
the solitudes of ocean meant everything to the Allied cause. 

The constant patrol of the Bay of Biscay by planes, the 'ping' of 
asdics locating submerged U-boats, the explosion of "Torpex"- 
filled depth-charges, and the gun duels with Hispanos and Oerli- 
kons were all pint of the pattern. Behind the ships and the planes 
were the inventive brains of the nation and the direction of the 

During the early years of this sea war our naval and air 
resources were strained to the limit and more — it was touch-and- 
go and make-or-break. The terrifying losses in seamen and mer- 
chant ships mounted and mounted," and worse always seemed 
round the corner. 

The strain on those in high command was intense, and, after the 
battle turned, the penalty "of premature death was exacted from 
many: Dudley Pound, 'Kennedy-Purvis, Wake-Walker, Percy 
Noble, Max Horton, Somerville, Harwood, John Walker, and 
other illustrious admirals and captains are no more, but their 
names and deeds live on. 

Fate drew mc on to the naval machine, and it was like riding on 
a great ocean roller driven forward by high winds. There were 
eddies and backlashes, turbulence and turmoil, but finally the 
Wave carried us with irresistible force to the far shore of victory. 

« E.T.' 

Phe Temple 

June 1958 



I am indebted to the Admiralty for allowing me access to my 
papers of the War and numerous other documents in their 
archives. Mr John Gardner, of Admiralty Rccord-S, was tireless in 
his efforts to trace important dockets. 

f am particularly grateful to Lieutenant-Commander Peter 
Kemp, R.N. (reld.). Archivist of the Admiralty, for reading the 
manuscript, making valuable suggestions, and also checking many 
points of detail to ensure accuracy. 

The assistance given by my Wife was most valuable, and 1 am 
deeply appreciative of this. 

Acknowledgments are also due to The 'Secret' War, by Gerald 
Pavvle, a work in which some of my early activities in the Royal 
Navy are chronicled; the brilliant history The War at Sea, by Cap- 
tain S. W. Roskill, D.S.C., R.N.; The Navy's Here!, by Willi 
Frischauer and Robert Jackson; The Devices of War, by Norman 
Kemp; Walker, R.N., by Terence Robertson; The Story of Sea 
Warfare, by David Divine; and many other sea books of the 
Second World War which have been consulted in the writing of 
this story. 

1. The Call 


2. The Admiralty 


3 . Admiralty at W a r 


4. Armour 


5. Plastic Armour 


6. Plastic Armour goes on the Ships 


7. The Triumph of Plastic Armour 


8. The Close of the Battle of Britain 


9. Film Producer! 


10. "Scorpion" 


11. The Capture of U570 


12. "Many Inventions" 


13. "Smoke on the Horizon" 


14. America 


15, The Rocket Bomb 


16. Tortured Europe 


The Aftermath 





Captain Edward Terrell, R.N.V.R. frontispiece 

The Author commissioned 14 

"Hell-fire Corner" 14 

Beauty and the Beast ]5 

The Factory making Oerlikon Guns 1 5 

The Gunner opens Fire on the Enemy 15 

The Showcase at the Imperial War Museum 48 

Plastic Armour on the Bridge of a Merchant Aircraft Carrier 49 

A Model of a Ship's Bridge fitted with Plastic Armour 49 

The Survivors 64 

Action Stations! 64 

Give us the Guns! 65 

The First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, 

hands a Dispatch to Chief Messenger Leslie Cross 65 

The Penlee Quarry in Cornwall 112 

MrG.T. Cummins and Lieutenant Edward Terrell, R.N.V.R., 

aboard Ship in the Channel while fil ming The Gun 112 

The Signals Room at the Admiralty 113 

Captain Roger Sclby greets Mr Edward Murrow 113 

The Deadly Plumes of Smoke in an Atlantic Convoy 128 

The Atlantic Convoy has become Invisible! 128 

The Tactical Tabic 128 




The Trimming Panel and Hydroplane Control of U570 129 

U570 being captured by H.M.S. Buncell in the Atlantic 129 

A Unique Picture of (J 570 leaving Germany upon her Ill- 
fated Voyage 129 

The Author and Rocket Bombs 176 

The Rocket Bomb under the Wings of an American Fortress 

B17 176 

The Rocket Bomb 176 

Marti n vast; Flying-bomb Site 177 

The Great U-boat Shelter at Brest 177 

The Crater caused by the Rocket Bomb in the V2 Structure 

at Watten 192 

The Author in the Great Unfinished Shelter at Equeur- 

dreville ' 192 

A Jest in the Crater at Watten 192 

The Inscription in the Crater at Watten 192 

The Author on the Bridge of PI. M.S. PI 187 193 

The Hungry People of Rotterdam 193 

Causes of Allied Merchant- ship Losses in the Second World 
War (colour) front endpaper 

The Rocket Bomb rear endpaper 


The Call 

Tune 18, 1940, was the vital day for me. 

The Battle of the Bulge was over. A triumphant and strident 
Hider was streaming Jus armoured divisions through France. 
Dunkirk had fallen, but the miracle of a calm sea and the brilliant 
improvisation of the Navy, using every ship that could swim or 
paddle, and every man who knew how to spit out salt water, had 
brought back the bulk of the army — without arms. The nation 
licked its wounds. 

I sat in my chambers in the Temple. The documents of a brief 
called for concentrated attention. Round the walls of the room 
stood in shelf upon shelf the tools of my trade, bound in leather 
with red, green, and black labels— King's Bench Reports, Chan- 
cery Cases, Equity Appeals, Statutes, 'Last-word-of-alP House of 
Lords decisions, and textbooks — with the Bible of practice in the 
High Court lying open on the table. As I looked through the win- 
dow the sun glistened on the time-honoured turf of the garden, 
reflecting up the scarlet and white roses each side of the entrance 
gates, where tradition said with authority that York and Lancaster 
had started their bloody frays for the crown of England. 

Beyond the overhead blue to the south-west lay the skyline of 
the London Thames. On that horizon rolled black clouds, and 
distant flashes ominously heralded the coming of the Storm* sun- 
shine, bees, and scents would perish before the pitiless downpour. 

I heard the buzz of the telephone through the door, and a 
moment later my very personal clerk knocked and put his head 
through. Sidney Kensington had been with me over ten years, and 
had watched my progress at the Bar with the fatherly solicitude of 
a ^ em ple clerk to his master. 

Admiralty on the phone, sir," he remarked casually. 

I looked at him gravely, and he, an old soldier of the Marne 
battlefields , looked back and grinned. 

' This is it." I said slowly. 

It looks uncommon that way," replied Sidney, giving a benevo- 
le nt chuckle. "You're through, sir." 





listened for was that of Churchill — next day back in the old office 
he held in World War I — First Lord of the Admiralty. 

The Prime Minister's speech was followed almost at once by 
sirens, sounding their weird and eerie warnings, and the alarm 
came through to the post headquarters. We tumbled out, with 
secret admiration for Hitler and Goering in beating us to the 
draw, and took up position in the streets and watched an empty 
sky. The all-clear signal came. It was a false alarm caused by one 
of our own planes" People, however, took confidence from our 
presence as something tangible and reassuring with which to face 
the unknown terrors of the future. 

Our first problem was to ensure diat every civilian had a gas- 
mask that fitted. Although gas was never used in this war, the 
fear of it, in those early days, was very real. When fitted the masks 
did not: look beautiful or add to charm, and many a fair lady 
assured me she would rather be dead than seen walking in one. 
Later there came exquisitely built full-size baby masks to be used 
in cots for those infants who had not been evacuated from the 
danger areas. I tried one out on a particularly repulsive-looking 
young bawler, and it was a great improvement. 

Then came the task of finding out the number of inhabitants in 
each house and prying into personal affairs to an extent not con- 
ceivable in England, where some ancient lawgiver had onee mis- 
cnu'dcdly said lhat every man's home was his castle. Buildings had 
to be carefully explored and the emergency stairs and fire-escapes 
located. Roofs called for special examination, and main water- 
points had to be marked on plans. 

But the most loathed and detested part of civil defence was the 
blackout. Were the Chiefs of Air Staff right in insisting upon such 
a rigorous blackout in a great city like London? Two years later 
ray own department in the Admiralty were even ordered to try to 
black out the Thames with coal-dust floating on the surface to 
prevent the river guiding enemy aircraft to their target. But with 
such a vast area it" would seem that raiders were bound to make a 
hit somewhere in London. 

We practised mock exercises extensively, endeavouring to be 
ready for the real thing when it came. One of us would take com- 
mand of an 'incident' where a bomb was supposed to have fallen- 
When it was my turn to take charge my fellow -wardens piled 
every conceivable disaster on my shoulders. The building was 
wrecked, an aged couple were trapped in the basement, Ore had 
broken out on the top floor from incendiaries, electricity was 

Porting; there was a strong smell of gas from fractured pipes, 
•ater mains were turned oil, and other bombs had dropped near 
i calling for immediate attention. They clamoured constantly 
for instructions and orders, and I finally told them to go back to 
fire post and call in reserves from headquarters with a competent 
warden to take charge. The great thing in a war emergency is to 
crive orders, whether right or wrong — but it is better if they are 

That winter was bitter, and ice and snow came to add to the 

effort needed. With a north-east wind spreading a thick white coat 

over roof-top and street, we still had ceaselessly to patrol every 

night for lights showing. It was not that there were dangers on 

such nights, as visibility would have been impossible for German 

bombers, but once the right standard of Stygian black had been 

attained any relaxation would have meant losing ground. 

We made contacts and held street exercises with special bodies 
of demolition squads who could stand up to a whirlwind of bat- 
tering bricks and masonry without turning a hair. The lowering of 
wounded 'casualties' from top floors was a hazardous operation, 
leading to many a 'near-miss' for the unhappy patient. 

Some of us went through decontamination stations for unpleas- 
ant gases. Even written examination in the duties of an air-raid 
warden was held by order of those in authority. 

Spring came, and with it the powdering of almond-trees with 
pink blossom and crocus in Regent's Park in riotous carpets of 
colour. Still nothing happened; still we pursued our eternal patrols 
and exercises. 

At this stage of the War a new topic was entering into conversa- 
tion. Good food had for generations been accepted by English 
people as their right. Roast saddle of mutton, s teak-kid n ey-and- 
mushroom pie, broiled chicken, succulent ribs of beef, tender 
grilled cutlets, cream and butter, were normal fare. Now all that 
was changed. The U-boats, under Admiral Doenitz, were carrying 
out unrestrained attacks and sinking the ships bringing us vital 
necessities. The luxuries one by one vanished, to be replaced by 
substitutes. While Lord Woolton as Minister o£ Food saw to it 
that we had enough, this meant a stringent, but fair, ration, with 
the issue of cards for purchases and queues at the shops. Plain — 
Ver y plain — food was the order of the day. 

The ribaldry caused by Mrs Beaton's "take half a dozen eggs 
atL d a pint of cream" was everlasting. We had an original copy of 
that great lady's work, and read it with glee and avidity. For six 



We found our house, and I bargained with the owner, as « 
right and proper on the exchange of title-deeds. He feared raids 
were coming and was prepared to let the freehold go at a low 
price. 1 reckoned that if the house were blown up we should hf, 
in it and shouldn't have to worry about the loss — and clinched tli^ 

By the time the Munich affair was over we had settled in. 

We spent August sailing in my yacht Swan in the creeks and 
swatches of the Essex Blaekwater. In winter and summer it was 
our delight to wander along the marshes watching strange sea. 
birds feeding on the mud-flats; we would pick the wild grasses 
and large bunches of sea lavender and tlirift. Up the estuary to 
Osea Island there lay idle ships that once had ploughed hading 
oceans and now, their service done, waited for demolition. 

In her way Swan "was a witch, and with cased-in lee-boards and 
the shallow draught of a barge she would turn on her heel in light 
breezes and make headway against the foulest tides, which in 
those waters sometimes ran to six knots. I knew most of the mud- 
banks of the estuary, having at one time or another stuck upon 
them on falling tides for twelve hours, until the returning seas- 
creeping up so slowly — refloated the boat. Charts were all very 
well, but there was nothing like Gliding out by personal experience 
whether they were accurate. 

We put up in Br ad well, at the mouth of the estuary, and facing 
the North Sea, We moored up the narrow creek opposite the quay 
which led to the little fishing village, and wended our way to the 
famous hostelry the Green Man. 

Over the village planes from the local aerodrome buzzed all 
day like angry bees, and that evening we fell into conversation 
with the Commander of the airfield. 

"Yes," he said, "war is very near," and he gazed with troubled 
eyes over the calm waters, intensely blue from the reflected light 
of the setting sun. 

I looked at my wife; we were both thinking of our young son 
in London. 

"We'll go home with the morning flood," I said, 

"I think so," she replied gravely. 

I sailed Swan back to the Hey bridge Canal and tied her up W 
spend her winter; but later, during the raids on England, a bomb 
exploded on the opposite bank, and she gracefully sank to the 
bottom, whore she remained for the rest of the War. She was only 
teak and mahogany, and Burgoynes, her builders, had lamentably 


•T e d to anticipate that she would have to stand up to high 


Upon returning to St John's Wood 1 offered my services to the 
x.farylebone Borough Council as a warden and was duly enrolled. 
Civil Defence seemed to be the only outlet for patriotic zeal, and 
T had become a member of a service, although at that stage we 
had the most hazy ideas of what to do in the event of raids. 

j was allocated to the post known as Al, and this post was 
commanded by a gentleman named Leo Lane, L I called on him at 
his house, some half-mile from my own. Of medium height and 
Celtic dark, Lane welcomed me with open-hearted charm, A year 
later he was to give me the vital clue which led to one of the 
major inventions of the naval war, saved many, many lives and 
slaps, and upheld the morale of our merchant fleets. 

"It rather looks as if the balloon is due to go up in a fortnight," 
I said. "How do we stand?" 

"We meet from time to time and have exercises," drawled Lane, 
"Then we talk matters over. We had a meeting some three weeks 
ago. No, there isn't any equipment — only gasmasks and helmets — 
but I expect something will come along some time or other. 
There's no meeting in view at present." 

Drake's game of bowls was left at the starting-post. 

"Could we all meet?" I asked. "It might be a good thing." 

I suggested that the members of the post should gather at my 
house, and Lane readily agreed. We all met one evening, and I 
prepared to play a part in the defence of the civilians of my 
area. But, although during spare time I worked for many months 
as a warden, learnt much, and made some good friends, there was 
never a raid or hostile aircraft or bomb dropped over England 
during this period. 

We established a post under a block of flats, strengthened it 
with struts, and sandbagged it with bags which I wheedled out 
of a local Army unit by gross misrepresentation of our importance 
in the scheme of things, We obtained protective clothing, stirrup 
pumps which were of little use but looked professional, buckets, 
torches, rattles for gas warnings, and other apparatus, which was 
stored in homes. In fact, the sands of time had nearly run out, and 
we felt we had better get a move on. 

On the third day of September 1939, following the invasion 
°f Poland, Britain declared war on Hitler's Germany. Chamber- 
'aiii made his speech as Prime Minister, but the voice the nation 
1 Afterwards Lie u tenant - Com i n an d er L c-o Lane, R . K . V . R . 




ENEMY, 1941 

(Sir p. 1 17.1 

From ihv Admiralty fiiim 

, a ded by the venerable George Kingham, 1 had been learning the 

re elementary problems of civil defence. We had no equipment, 
hut lecturers came from the Home Office to give talks, I bad a 

pjcion that the lecturers knew as little about it as we did, and 
that it v vtis tl race between us as to who should first get a grasp 
r SOJ ne of the fundamentals. 

Gasmasks there were none — but promises that they would be 
forthcoming some day. Pumps were non-exi stent, though we were 
told that the dropping of incendiary bombs was considered a 
pleasant pastime by hostile aircraft. These would burn at some 
two thousand degrees Centigrade, and were calculated to set fire 
to buildings en masse. I thought that our old timber-and-plaster 
house up Middle Temple Lane would make a merry blaze, but, as 
it happened, it went through the War, with conflagrations and 
devastation all around, entirely unscathed; Christopher Wren must 
have put a spell on it when giving the final pat with his trowel. 
Sand in large quantities was the answer to the incendiary, but 
there was no sand. Water made the fiend worse, but in any ease 
there was not much water. Fire-points had to be installed, and 
shelters devised in large uu mbcrs; it would not do for the Majesty 
of the Law to be engulfed in masonry and rubble. This last item 
was not difficult to supply, as our ancestors, widr a cheerful taste 
for tipple, had created cavernous wine-cellars, now only used to 
store occasional coal; and very comfortable they proved later on 
to the residents — no doubt ancient customs were revived to the 
bursting of bombs and the booming of our guns. 

That summer of 1938 my wife and I had decided to move from 
the Temple, although it was not fear of war that caused the deci- 
sion, but the growing need of our son to have a bouse of his own. 
His playful habits of dropping water on the heads of passers-by, 
hammering on the floor to the distraction of the elderly bachelor 
dwelling beneath, riding bis miniature bicycle into the Chippen- 
dale bookcase, and roller-skating from one room to another were 
matters calling for action on our part. 

St John's Wood, near Regent's Park, was a district that had 
always attracted us, partly because it was the home of so many 
brilliant artists. In the glittering but gaudy Edwardian days its 
re putation for bohemian life ancl vivacious mistresses, stowed 
away in villas, had gained for it a somewhat dubious character, 
■"it the need of business and professional people for houses near 
"* e centre of London had changed all that. 

1 Afterwards George Kingbuin, K.C. 

'The G 



that we sent out some of the first wireless signals by sparks be- 
tween elementary conductors and received signals from other 
enthusiasts within a range of a few miles. Perhaps he had hoped 
that I would become a scientist, but, al though deep interest re- 
mained, fate and my own bent had taken me to the field of law 
as a profession. 

"Wo want information," said Good eve. "Information from 
enemy sources of their weapons, their melhods of bombing our 
ships, the aircraft they are using, then speed, their mines. We 
know very little. Would you rim an information section?" 

Mountain clapped his hands. 

"The very thing — the barrister's training to extract vital matters 
with an appreciation of scientific methods," he exclaimed. 

Rather shamefaced I drew from my pocket a revolver clip for 
rapid loading, which in an idle moment I had invented. Goodeve 
looked at it. Mountain was pleased. 

"There you are/' he said to Goodeve. 

In a moment my mind was made up. 

"I'll come and join you to-morrow," I said. 

We all shook hands, and then I added as an afterlh ought to 
Goodeve, "I suppose I must call you 'sir' now?" 

"You can if you like, but not if you don't," he said, with a smile. 

I returned to the Strand upon the important mission of ordering 
from my tailor the umform of an officer in His Majesty's Royal 
Naval Volunteer Reserve. I was no longer Mr Terrell, but Lieu- 
tenant Terrell, and perhaps as a result I held my head a little 

Chamberlain in 1938 had made his abortive efforts to save 
Western Civilization from a second World War. Wc had listened 
to the voice of Hitler raising the frenzied blood-lust of a nation 
only too ready to listen, follow, and act. The mass roars of "Hell 
Hitler" echoing on the wireless through quiet English homes had 
prompted many to greet Munich with gasps of relief, however 

But at the same time we were stiffening our sinews to face the 
inevitable outcome. The farm -labourer, the artisan, the bricklayer, 
the miner, the shopkeeper, the businessman, the stockbroker, and 
"Uncle Tom Cobley and all" were considering then individual 
actions in the event of war. The clear trumpet of Churchill gave 
warning after warning, and people were awakening to reality. 

For some months in the Temple an enthusiastic number of us, 

SIONFD, 1940 

{Seep. 23.) 


Taken from [he cliffs of Dover. In 

Lhe background enemy- occupied 

France. (See pp. 29-30.) 






I pondered this cryptic observation and reached for the re- 

"This is Mountain speaking, the secretary of Commissions 
Branch, We have dined together in Hall. I would like you to meet 
an officer— Commander Goodeve. 1 Can you come?" 

"Now?" I replied. 

"Yes, now-." 

I hesitated for a moment, and then: 


I looked at the brief and carefully replaced its documents, tying 
them up with familiar red tape. Sidney watched me. 

"We'll never finish that case, sir," he said, as he picked it up and 
retired to his den, reverently smoothing out the folds of paper and 
adjusting the bow knot with the loving care of a mother with 
baby's first dress. 

He had given a sound opinion on the facts laid before him. 

Passing Sidney on the way out, 1 handed him my wig. 

"Keep this," I observed. "It may be needed again some day,'' 
and I wended my way down to Whitehall and the Admiralty. 

Walking up Middle Temple Lane, paced by so many great 
judges and brilliant counsel, I passed close to the beloved round 
church surrounded by courtyards. Built by Knights Templars in 
the reign of Richard Ceeur de Lion, of exquisite Norman tracery 
and architecture, it enshrined the mortal remains of those gallant 
crusaders the Earls of Pembroke. 

Before me was the gate with its great studded oaken doors, 
opening on the right to Fleet Street and its world of headlines and 
on the left to the roaring Strand. Here I had often watched the 
glittering ceremony when the King, with his escort of Life Guards, 
had accepted the keys before entering the City— here the ancient 
grey London met the equally great but modern Westminster. 

Above and over the gate loomed the last timber -and- pi aster 
house from the days before Pepys — renovated by Wren, In the 
top floor of this house I had dwelt for many years; here my son, 
Christopher, was bom. 

This place I knew — it was my world; the stones were hewn 
from England's history. Within this gate my friends lived in cham- 
bers snug and lined, and there dwelt the charm of cloister and 
courtyard, echoing with [he gay laughter of a cultured people. 

Soon it was to be a sea of flames, with buildings crashing to the 
thunder of high explosives, the church gutted, the Hall destroyed, 

'Afterwards Commander Sir Charles Goodeve, O.B.K., F.R.S., R.N.V.K. 

the library wrecked, Oliver Goldsmith's grave vanished, and the 
crusaders blown to the four winds— the price of war, 

Down the crowded Strand people walked as usual, buses 
choked the narrow gap of Charing Cross, but dotted here and 
there among the milling mob were uniforms, Naval, Army, and 
the pale blue of the Ah Force — a reminder that for nearly a year 
w e had been at war. 

My first meeting with Charles Goodeve and Mountain was to 
prove fateful. 

They told me that Vice -Admiral Sir James Sornerville 1 in Janu- 
ary 1940 had been appointed Inspector of Anti-Ahcraft Weapons 
and Devices, which was virtually a 'free-knee' appointment, and 
that Goodeve had joined the Admiral's staff. 

A slim scientist, with greying hair over an intellectual forehead, 
Goodeve appeared deceptively older than he really was. He had 
won great distinction in the world of science, being one of the few 
Canadians to hold the honour of a Fellowship of the Royal 
Society. He had played an important part in saving our ships from 
the dire menace of the magiretic mines. 

Beneath his placid exterior there lurked indomitable energy and 
considerable guile in naval politics. His appointment to the staff 
of the Inspector gave unlimited scope to a man desperately 
anxious to forward naval war in scientific weapons. But the 
appointment of Sornerville held no permanency. Goodeve, there- 
fore, as a good tactician, was engaged in recruiting on behalf of 
the Admiral a private army which the established departments of 
the Navy would have difficulty in dislodging. 

Goodeve and I nosed and sniffed at each other rather like two 
strange dogs on first meeting, with Mountain pleasantly anxious 
that we should agree to join forces. 

But I was entering a strange world and felt a little cautious, 

"What would you want me to do?" I asked. "I'm not trained to 
naval warfare." 

"Your father was the King's Counsel on the law of patents," 
swiftly interjected Mountain. "You have a scientific background." 

"Ye— es," I hesitated. "A little." 

My father had practised in the law of inventions ever since he 
had 'taken silk' in the reign of Queen Victoria, and had a passion 
for science. When I was a young lad he gave me a laboratory of 
m y own at the top of our bouse at Preston Park, in Sussex, where 
i could indulge in chemistry to my heart's content. It was here 
Afterwards Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Somrrville, G.C.B., G.B.E., D.S.O. 


years we had to face serious food problems, and this brought 
home to an island people the grim buttle for survival that was 
being fought in the Atlantic day and night without ceasing. 

In' the early summer of 1940 a great honour befell me of the 
kind for which every good Englishman rightly yearns. Sir Pelham 
Warner arranged a Civil Defence match at Lord's — wars may 
come and wars may go, but cricket must go on. Having been 
chosen to captain the Marylebone eleven, I led the team on to the 
sacred turf. My name was on the printed score-card, and I passed 
through the pavilion gates at the head of the fieldsmen. We played 
surrounded by the great balloons softly swinging to their cables 
as a defence against low-flying bombers, and we won the match. 
I made a duck, I had played at Lord's. 

As the summer proceeded my thoughts turned more and more 
to the Royal Navy, although it was true the call-up age-limit 
would not reach me for many years, if at all. There was also the 
Judge Advocate's department in the War Office to be considered, 
but I felt an unconscious dislike for that work, however necessary 
it might be. 

I felt a natural affinity with the sea, with its clear, cool tang, and 
decided to offer my services to the Navy, but found that the Navy 
was not so easy to enter. The impression I received was that the 
Navy did not really want amateur volunteer officers, as it could 
handle matters pretty well on its own. 

The idea struck me that thousands upon thousands of seamen 
would be enlisted during the War from civilian ranks, and that 
many of these men torn from their homes and occupations would 
have serious problems. Peace of mind would make them happier 
and more efficient, and only a trained lawyer could cope with the 
difficulties that: would arise— divorce, tenancy agreements, hire- 
purchase instalments, contracts of service, custody of children, 
and the innumerable issues that can torment a man's private life, 
The Navy had no organization for coping with this work. I out- 
lined my' proposal to "the Judge Advocate of the Fleet, my friend 
John Graham Trapnell, K.C.," that there should be a small corps 
of lawyers, attached to each Ileet and base, to administer such a 
scheme. He put questions, approved, and wrote letters to the 

At the same time I filled in the necessary form for application 
for a commission in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. The form 
called for two references, and so, with permission, I gave Lord 
Justice Luxmoore and Mr justice Cassels. Both responded nobly. 

THE C A L 1. 21 

jjaving dispatched the application, in due course I was invited to 
attend a Board of Selection. This was a lit Lie frightening, but I 
duly presented myself punctual to the minute, as the Navy prided 
itself on time-keeping. Mere I was, starting life again. 

The Board consisted of a charming old Admiral as President and 
Captain J. R. Hemsted, R.N.V.R., who in private life ran a profit- 
able wine merchant's business. 

"You are an unusual candidate, Mr Terrell," said the Admiral, 
with a smile, turning over the papers. 

In front of us there hung a chart of the North Sea, presumably 
used to test, skill, in navigation, and, remembering the number of 
times Swan had run aground, a practice frowned upon in high 
naval circles, I gently steered the conversation towards the 
scheme supported by the Judge Advocate of the Fleet. They were 
impressed and said so — it was novel and might be useful to the 
Navy. We parted the best of friends, and the Admiral actually 
escorted me to the door. 

In company with others I was subjected to a medical examina- 
tion. The medical officer, a regular Surgeon Commander, had a 
haughty eye, modified by a kind voice. I passed the stringent 
sight tests and other physical requirements. 

Two weeks afterwards Captain Hemsted informed me that the 
Board of Admiralty had not accepted my plan, yet eighteen 
months later this very scheme was adopted by reason of the 
urgent need. But then I was engaged upon other pressing matters 
and could take no further interest in its progress. 

Nevertheless I was offered a commission in the Special Branch 
of the Volunteer Reserve, in the highest possible rank allowed in 
the circumstances by Fleet Orders— namely, that of Lieutenant. 

If I chose to accept I became a naval officer. 

Then Mountain telephoned, we met Charles Goodeve, and the 
wheels began to turn. 




The Admiralty 

No man ever forgets his first day at a public school, the break with 
home life, the strange house, the new faces, the eager questions 
and answers, and the vision of authority lying behind it all. So in 
stepping into the Admiralty at a lime when it. was gearing up to 
face the most intense period in its history I remembered that first 
day. But then I was a boy of thirteen; now I was thirty-eight, wiih 
a career behind me and the more certain poise that gave. 

My first impression was of dark-blue uniforms flashing gold lace 
and a great number of papers. My knowledge of the great depart- 
ments that lay behind the fleets at sea, the convoys, and the escorts 
was vague and unformed. The Admiralty was governed by a 
Board of Sea Lords, presided over by a civilian Minister, the First 
Lord, responsible to Parliament, That a great naval war could be 
largely conducted from Whitehall had never crossed my mind, 
but in the years that followed I was to learn that in this war, as 
in no other, it was the Admiralty that was playing a dominant part 
in sea warfare and strategy in all parts of the world. 

My immediate concern, however, was not these matters of high 
policy, but rather to discover what I was supposed to do. The first 
objective was to find a peg upon which to hang a cap and coat, 
and Goodeve and I planted ourselves upon an inoffensive section 
of officers concerned with kites and balloons which had apparently 
been acquired by Admiral Somerville in his stride. These gentle- 
men admitted us to their sanctum with but little hesitation before 
the blandishments of Goodeve, who proved a past-master in soft- 
inducement. We acquired a brace of desks, and then started to 
talk about war. 

We talked because we had nothing to examine, no papers to 
read, no weapons to test, no establishments to visit, and only 
existed by reason of some minute written out by Mountain and 
filed away in his archives. It dawned upon me after a while that 
curs was not a well-established business with a substantial balance 
at the bank, well-kept ledgers, factories at labour, and a good trade, 
but something with Admiral Somerville's name up and no credit. 

Xhere was one other officer newly joined in our coterie, and 
^is was Norway. 1 His broad, benign beam made him my friend, 
and I found that he was an experienced aeronautic engineer. 
Later I also found that he wrote novels, writing under the cele- 
brated name of Nevil Shutc. 

There appeared also a regular naval Commander, F. Millar, 
w ho wore the ribbon of the Distinguished Service Cross of the 
First World War. Tall, dark, strikingly handsome, and with a smile 
that creased in many wrinkles, he gently informed me that he was 
Admiral Somerville's secretary. A few days later there appeared a 
laughing young scientist, Richardson,- whose gaiety was infec- 
tious, but whose gleaming spectacles never missed a point. 

There we were— Millar, Goodeve, Norway, Richardson, and 
myself — in our uniforms ready for action, and I could but wonder 
when the great man, the Admiral, was going to inspect his new 
levies. He did not do so, he took no interest, we were not intro- 
duced, he failed to show up at all, and the reason burst upon me 
a short lime later. He had sailed for the Medilcrranean on his 
historic but terrible mission at Oran when he fired on and sank 
the French Fleet. 

With Sir James Somerville gone, his appointment as Inspector 
of Anti-Aircraft Weapons and Devices would cease, and we 
should be swallowed as flotsam and jetsam into the maws of 
hungry departments. The Official Receiver would take action, and 
the gloomy doors of bankruptcy stood wide open before we had 
even started business. We had no assets and the outlook was 

It was Goodeve who saved the situation with indefatigable 
energy and perseverance, supported by Millar, who had become 
the senior officer in charge. He followed the path agreed with die 
Admiral before his disappearance from the scene and also made 
an ally of Trade Division, the great department responsible for 
the safety of all our merchant ships plying the seven seas and 
running the gauntlet of torpedo, mine, and bomb. 

I started an information section for the purpose of gleaning 
little bits and pieces from enemy sources of their activities, such 
information having escaped the official machine of Ure Director of 
Naval Intelligence, who had his tentacles spread out in all direc- 
tions. It was in this connexion that I met Croghan, a Volunteer 
Reserve Lieutenant-Commander, who gave me all the assistance 

Afterwards Lieutenant- Commander Nevil Shutu Norway, R.N.V.It, 
Afterwards Commander F. D, Richardson, R.N.V.R. 


within his power, supplied me with documents, interrogations of 
prisoners in our hands, details of aircraft used lay Gocring's forces, 
and methods of attack. In 1941. he flew to Gibraltar to bring back 
some important information, but never reached his destination. It 
appeared that his aircraft approached a ship in the Bay of Biscay. 
The ship, considered British, turned out to be German; he was 
shot down and died in the execution of his duty. 

We needed a clerk, and Jamieson, a stout, level-headed fel- 
low, showed up. He was a member of his local council, and 
brought order to the documentary chaos that was existing in our 

Goodevc introduced me to Captain Roger Selby, R.N., the 
Deputy Director of Trade Division, in charge of the defence 
and equipment of merchant ships, which in fact covered a multi- 
tude of sins and omissions. The tall, commanding presence of the 
Captain filled me with admiration, and he invited me to sit in at 
the business conducted by Commander N. D. Hoibrook, R.N., 
who had won his Victoria Cross commanding a submarine in the 
Dardanelles during the Fust World War. This business was (he 
examination of the Masters of British merchantmen who had lost 
their ships through enemy action and had been invited by the 
Admiralty to tell their story and answer questions. Here, in the 
calm atmosphere of a board room, surrounded by Holb rook's 
coloured prints of old-time ships, the Master Mariner would tell 
his story in simple larrguagc to a ring of tense officers seated around 
the table. Maybe it was the tale of a Foeke-Wulf circling the ship 
at dusk, with only a machine-gun as defence for the vessel, the 
shattering of the bridge by cannon-fire from the aircraft, and the 
death of the First Mate by big side. Then had come the calculated 
run by the aeroplane, flinging its 500-pound bomb as it passed 
overhead, and the crash as the bomb exploded amidships, with 
the escape o£ steam hissing like a thousand vipers, men soaked in 
oil climbing the steep engine-room stab's, leaving their' dead be- 
hind, the lowering of the boats, and the final plunge as the bows 
dived deep. All was told to deep silence by the grim -lipped Master 
sitting on the right of the presiding officer. Then questions came 
round the ring from tfiose who had to find out and know the 

"What size cannon shell do you think was used, Captain?" 
"Not large— small— 'bout two inch, I should say. Bill, my First 
Mate, was hit over the heart — knew nothing about it," said the 
Master without emotion. 



"Any tracer, Captain?" 

"Yes, they used tracers all right — like white hues stabbing at 
vou ," replied tire Master. 

"The bridge was put out of action, I suppose?" asked a fair- 
Jiaired Commander. 

"Completely," was the reply. "Then they turned, levelled out, 
and bombed." 

"At what height would yon say?" 

"Low — devilish low — seemed not much higher than the mast- 
head," said the merchant Captain. 

"Did the plane dive on its bombing run?" 

"Shouldn't say so," he replied. 

"Could you guess at its speed?" 

"It came fast and furious," was the answer. 

"How many engines had it? " 


"Did you get your boats out all right?" 

"Four got away before she went down," said the Master, and 
added slowly, "Then the plane circled round and machine-gunned 
one of our boats, but no one was killed— two injured." 

Tir ere was no expression of horror from the circle; this particu- 
lar crime had been described before at the interview. 

Then came the plea from the Master for his next ship. 

"Give us the guns, and we'll beat them off." 

But there were no guns of the right calibre arid rate of fire to 
meet these enemy aircraft and send them spinning to a watery 
grave. The guns were coming, but to those who in 1940 had to 
fight their merchant ships into Harwich or the Humbcr or around 
the coast through the Straits of Dover they must have seemed a 
long, long time in arriving, and every officer sitting around that- 
table knew it. 

Goodeve had established a friendly relationship with, the Con- 
troller of the Navy, the Third Sea Lord, Rear-Admiral Bruce 
Fraser, 1 and it may have been his hand which saved our little 
party from being devoured — that ancl another matter for which 
I was responsible, and of which the story shall be told later. 

The Admiralty departments were much like ships at sea. Each 
department lived its own life with its own particular terms of 
reference and objects, such as Trade Division, presided over by 
Captain M. J. Mansergh, R.N., 2 who later was replaced by genial 

1 After ward*; Admiral of the Fleet Baron Fraser of North Cape. 
1 Afterwards Admiral Sir Maurice Mansergh, K.C.B., C.B.E. 





and open-mittdedl Cap Lain B. B. Schofield, B.N. 1 Then there was 
Naval Ordnance, concerned with the operation of all the gnus of 
the Fleet, from sixteen-ineh monsters to multiple pom-poms pre, 
duced between the wars as a discouragement to attacking aircraft. 
There was Naval Intelligence, the Anti- Submarine Department, 
the Mines Department, and the Hydro graphic Department, con- 
cerned with tides, currents, and charts of all the seven seas. There 
were many other departments, but all were well established, with 
plenty of tradition and nice, clearly cut terms of reference as to 
their exact duties. 

Our little party had no particular duties, certainly no past, and 
we were, therefore, regarded with a suspicious eye when gently 
insinuating ourselves into somebody else's exclusive province. 

I learnt my way about the vast rabbit-warren of a building and 
discovered most intriguing underground passages for short cuts 
at lightning speed. 

Millar advised me how to get a project started. Your proposals 
were put into writing in a numbered paper folder called a docket, 
and this was marked on to the various departments concerned for 
observation and comment. These having written their minutes- 
polite, incredulous, and sometimes frankly outraged— passed the 
docket back to you for your final observations— just like the last 
speech to the jury when the evidence has been called— and it 
would then, if necessary, be submitted to the appropriate Sea 
Lord for decision, although you might at this stage take fright 
at what was said and burn the wretched paper while no one was 

The dockets were gaily circulating round the Admiralty, carried 
by important-looking messengers from office to office, in ever- 
increasing number during the entire War. In fact, the War could 
not proceed without them, and no one could devise a better 

' From time to time jams would naturally occur in the line, and 
then docket would pile on docket like cars behind one another 
when there has been a smash. But sometimes extra speed was most 
desirable, and the Board of Admiralty had conceived what was 
termed a 'yellow jacket.' The author who considered his project 
urgent encased it in a yellow cover, and then it bypassed all other 
dockets, and went down the road ignoring traffic lights, signals, 
and sio-ns, just like a fire-engine leaping to the scene of a confla- 
gration. It bad complete priority. The 'yellow jacket' system met 
1 Afterwards Vice- Admiral Brian Schofield, C.E., C.B.E. 

■(£ much approval from some retired senior officers, who had 
■ -.turned to active service witli clear ideas as to how the war at sea 
hould be won. They used to get ahead of more honest plodders 
w ho were content with normal procedure. 

0nce I received a letter from an inventor proposing that we 
should freeze part of the A dan tic, and on the ice -field so formed 
create an airfield for Coastal Command aircraft. I thought of 
r he sixty-foot-high Atlantic rollers, and in a jesting mood put the 
letter in a docket and passed it to Richardson with a minute that 
he should take immediate action on the proposal. He minuted it 
on to Norway to the effect that it lay within his sphere of activities. 
Norway passed it back to me with a request that I should institute 
experiments. I sent it down the department with the observation 
that action seemed delayed, and this sort of slackness would not 
do in war-time. So the docket travelled round, eaefi adding his 
little bit, until it suddenly got right out of hand and danced into 
other offices, exploding like a Chinese cracker down the corridors, 
(rathering more and more caustic comment as it shot on. The 
steady clerk Jamieson retrieved it just as it was finding its way to 
a Sea Lord's in-basket. 

The tendency of our small group in July 1940 was to follow 
different lines of investigation. Richardson became involved in 
wire and bomb inventions for preventing enemy aircraft from 
attacking and bombing ships at low-flying heights. Norway 
took a deep interest in the possibilities of rockets, an interest 
which paid heavily in dividends during the later years of war. 
Goodeve held long and intimate discussions with a Major Millis 
Jefferis, 1 who had initiated a small experimental station at Whit- 
church, in Buckinghamshire, ostensibly to carry out experiments 
for Professor Lin demann, 2 the scientific adviser to Churchill. These 
discussions ultimately led to the production of "Hedgehog," a 
new weapon which threw bombs into the air ahead of the ship, 
forming a lethal pattern, to explode under water on a submerged 
U-boat, and controlled by asdics — probably, when fully de- 
veloped, the best killer of U-boats in the naval war. 

Meanwhile I was concerned with information of all kinds that 
could he gathered, sifted, and passed on to my colleagues. I wrote 
a paper on low-level bombing attacks by German aircraft on 
diips, and with the expert aid of Norway was able to produce 
technical statements of fact that were unchallenged. I also 

'Afterwards Major-Ceneral Sir Millis Jefferis, KJ3,E„ M.C. 
Afterwards Baron Cher well. 



wrote a paper on high -level bombing on the same lines, and these 
literary efforts were disseminated to all who took an interest. One 
day we were somewdiat surprised — and, indeed, gratified— by a 
formal visit of a Group Captain and his officers who were respon- 
sible for ah- tactics in the Air Ministry, to discuss the implications 
of these papers. 1 immediately called Norway into the discussion 
that followed, as I might be bowled middle stump at any moment; 
he was the real aeronautic expert. We kept our end up somehow, 
and parted from our confreres of the sister-Service feeling pleased. 
All this time we harried our brains to produce something new. 
While officially I was in charge of an information section, the 
determination "to break out at the slightest excuse was always 
diere. One day I said to Norway, "What about dazzling the eyes 
of a pilot attacking a ship! " 

"It could be so," he replied thoughtfully. "We could use flash- 
lamp s." 

For good or ill diis was our first idea. 

We put the proposal to Goodeve, who was ready at that stage 
of the War to encourage anything. 

We enlisted the aid of the General Electric Company and 
urged them on to produce a machine that could reflect four flashes 
of photographic bulbs from a polished aluminium mirror. They 
responded with zeal to our designs, and in due course we had two 
'flash guns,' which we hoped would dazzle a pilot's eyes as he 
levelled to attack. It was not without interest to test these out, and 
finally I persuaded Worthy Down Aerodrome, controlled by the 
Fleet Air Arm, to give them a trial. This was done at dusk one 
evening, and the entire aerodrome personnel turned out for the 
fun. I Sew in an aeroplane on a trial run against the flashes, ana 
they certainly had a marked effect upon nn/ vision. The aeroplane 
was an open-cockpit affair, and over the near-by town suddenly 
dropped height, nearly leaving me behind, as I had no safety belt, 
I remonstrated with the pilot, but he soothed my wrath by telling 
me it was his customary signal to his wife that he would be m 
to supper; regular domestic habits were very important. 
The fates of the two 'flash guns ' were very different. 
The first we installed on a ship sailing independently to the 
United States for sea trials. The Master look great interest m H 
until a forty-foot-high Atlantic roller swept over the ship s stern 
and took the 'flash gun' with it, and that was the end of that. 

The other, during the height of the September raids, was sitea 
in a bare patch of Hyde Park, where by its flashes it simulate 


guns firing at enemy aircraft, and so attracted their bombs on to 
gj-ound where drey were wasted. Young Sub-Lieutenant Francis, 
jj_N,V.R., was in charge of this experiment. The test was a success. 
jje did not repeat it. 

So, although this particular invention failed in the object for 
which it was designed, the ingenuity of war turned it to a useful 
purpose, and it may well have saved some citizen's life. 

The needs of the department for information were growing, and 
in July I determined to visit Dover to see what actually was 
happening to our coastal convoys as they steamed through the 
Straits- — only twenty -two miles wide, but, as one old rating put it 
emphatically, "worth to us a pound a pint." 

The convoys were bombed nearly every day, so Captain Selby 
told me. 

Millar sent an urgent signal to the Flag Officer Commanding at 
Dover that I should be arriving with a view to obtaining informa- 
tion, and with a request for all assistance. On arriving at Dover 
Station I was met by a regular Lieutenant-Commander, who took 
me in hand and showed me the sights. The principal hotel had 
been demolished by bombs and shell -fire from Calais, where the 
Germans had installed some pretty big guns. I visited naval head- 
quarters in the heart of Dover Castle and watched convoys sailing 
with their escorts. A destroyer ambled by the signal station, and 
suddenly darted off at forty knots to investigate some underwater 
disturbance that greatly interested her, The Colonel of the local 
Artillery and his officers gave me a great deal of information 
about the dive-bomber. It came down in a dive from five thousand 
feet almost vertical to the horizon, and literally hurled its bomb at 
die ship selected as a target, and then pulled out of the dive as 
the bomb sailed down. I was interested, as Norway had told me 
that a pilot carrying out such an operation was almost certain to 
black out just at the time when he should be pulling out. Why, 
then, did be not crash into the sea? This was a mystery not to be 
solved until we actually captured a Junkers 87 intact on the South 
Coast, and found that the Germans had installed an automatic 
pull-out,' which operated on pressure of a button, to bring the 
aeroplane out of its dive whether the pilot was unconscious or not. 

During the operation of dive-bombing other enemy planes 
Would circle higher up overhead and release their bombs on our 
ships so as to add to the general confusion. As soon as the enemy 
^'tacked, our own Spitfires and Hurricanes from near-by aero- 
'fromes would leap into the fray, hurling fire and fury at the 





bombers. Meanwhile the ships steamed on steadily in their con- 
voys, looking to neither left nor right, but hugging the English 

Many ships were, however, hit and sunk, and the Straits de- 
served 'their name of "Hell-fire Corner." 

What the Admiralty needed to wake things up were cinema 
pictures of this, and upon returning to London I obtained rom 
Paramount News Reels some special films which had been 
secretly taken. Among others I had a perfect shot of a dive- 
bomber swooping on its victim like aft eagle and releasing its 
bomb which hit' and sank a little merchant .hip. I hired a film 
theatre and showed these films to a selected number of officers 
from the Admiralty. It brought home vividly, as nothing else 
could have done, the ordeal which our coasters of the Merchant 
Navy were enduring. There were muttered oaths, and then a dead 
hush as the ship heeled over, with tiny figures swimming to the 
rescue "craft for their lives. Sclby came out of the theatre, pale 
with anger, and I heard him say, "I'm going down there-Iin 
going down there." He had commanded a destroyer m the Chan- 
nel luring Dunkirk, and knew what it meant to those merchant 
seamen. Goodevc and I walked back to the Admiralty, Coodeye 
was delighted at the effect of these true Elms: we had aroused the 

devil in our friends. "wiv,i 

One day in July Goodeve observed to me in our office, What 

we need are more'bodies. Would you care to get some? 

The macabre tinge to this conversation was unjustified, in the 

Royal" Navy it is not considered at all proper to be referred to as 

an officer or rating when on the pay-roll. One is always considered 

as a 'bodv/ however alive one may be. 
1 considered the proposal and replied, "What kind of bodies, 

"Scientists engineers, technicians, and mathematicians saic 
Coodeve. "This war looks good for a long time, and we should 

^VtaKS "e go?" I replied. "It is no use applying to the 
Naval Assistant to the Second Sea Lord, who normally provides 
officers— W* got none— I've asked him already. 

"Kins Alfred," said Coodeve, _ , , 

His Majesty's ship King Alfred was the great training-school 
for Royal Naval Volunteer officers, and, like many another ship * 
the Navy was land-based and at Hove, in Sussex. 

I spo'ke on the telephone to the Captain commanding and 

vplained our requirements. I spoke in the name of Admiral Somer- 
viH e J because he was still our Commanding Officer, and we felt 
that he would have approved of our actions hacl he known about 
them — which he didn't and never did. In the Navy it was clear to 
jjje that the name of a good Admiral was a passport to most things. 

That evening I arrived at Hove, swat tied in blackness even 
vvorse than London. They were expecting invasion at any time 
jjow, and the officers all were: their pistols loaded, a practice we 
had not yet adopted in London. 

I was greeted with great affability by the officers of the ship, 
and the Commander told mc that lie had extracted every officer 
with any scientific attainments for interview with me. 

It was only two months ago that I had been interviewed by a 
Board for a commission. Now I had become the interviewing board 
for a dozen or so gentlemen, with a free hand to select or reject, 
which was a situation that only the urgency of war coulel produce. 
True, I wore two gold rings on my arm — and it might have been 
the wavy rings [hat carried .me through, because the regular naval 
officer did not quite know who and what you really were in 
civilian life. 

The caneli dales were brought in to me one by one in the Com- 
mander's cabin, and we talked things over. So far as my party in 
London was concerned the future could be bright, and, as we had 
no terms of reference worth talking about, it was quite fair to 
say that our scope was unlimited. 

From the candidates I selected eight gentlemen, who agreed to 
throw in their lot and future with us. I felt much like One of Cap- 
tain Marry at's press gangs, but at any rate my victims would no 
longer he employed on regular duties, but on the more interesting 
scientific investigation of sea warfare. Proud of my captures, next 
morning I shepherded them into the train, and kept them under 
close guard till they were all in our office — signed, scaled, and 

My films of dive-bombing attacks from Cap Cris-Nez airfields 
on coastal steamers became features at (he Admiralty. The dive- 
bomber was not a type of aircraft developed by the Royal Air 
Force, but if resolutely handled it was clearly a formidable 
Weapon tor attacks on such targets as moving ships. Commanelers 
an d captains called at our office constantly and asked for these 
P^tures. They were not satisfied with the stills taken, but wished 
s ee the real thing in action. I d not keep hiring a theatre, 
P a rticularly as at that stage we had no public funds to spend on 





anything. In desperation I went to a shop in Whitehall and 
bought a second-hand projector, and instructed die manager, wifli 
careless aplomb, to send the bill in to the Director of Scientific 
Research at the Admiralty. After all, this much-enduring gentle, 
man had plenty of money to spend on experiments— he had met 
the cost of producing the 'flash gun.' I approved of socialistic prin- 
ciples applying to Admiralty money, and considered that the rich 
should pass a few crumbs to the poor and needy such as we were. 
It turned out that Mr J, Buckingham was Deputy Director of 
Scientific Research and that we came from the same public school, 
Berkhamstcad. He duly paid, and my undertaking to the shop was 
honoured. The time would come when. I would spend millions of 
public money in the national interest without turning a hair, but 
at this stage 'twenty-five pounds seemed a lot. So we now showed 
the film to'" all and sundry, and I appointed a sub -lieutenant to the 
high-sounding title of "Projector Operator," and as the machine 
frequently broke down lie became most expert. 

Millar asked me one day to go and lecture to some gunners on 
the South Coast on dive-bombing and take my films with me. I 
was at first most averse to the idea— gunners were experts at their 
business, and I definitely was not. But a Lieutenant-Colonel a 
friend of Miliar and in command of the batteries, was anxious 
that I should go, and the two of them persuaded me, 

I gave the lecture on high-level bombing, low-level bombing, 
and dive-bombing, and demonstrated with the films, to row upon 
row of serious-minded young officers clad in khaki. After all, I 
wore the blue of the Senior Service, and could address them 
much as if they were a very special kind of jury. Everything went 
well until question time, which lasted half an hour. 1 answered 
when I could and ducked when I couldn't, and when driven into 
a corner drew somewhat upon imagination, since, anyhow, we 
were all greenhorns at the game. At" the end of the half -hour ot 
baiting I firmly announced, "Gentlemen, I regret that 1 must 
proceed to another appointment" 

The Commanding Officer made a short speech of thanks and 
congratulated me upon a brilliant lecture. I thought differently. 

After my escape from the Army the docks seemed a natural 
place to visit. My train back did not leave for three hours. At tU 
docks I inspected a ship which had been fiercely attacked by air- 
craft. There she was, battered and bruised, alongside the qua) to 
which she had been towed by a salvage tug. The battle had been 
fought out in the English Channel. 

T had her to myself and wandered about: the lonely decks, took 
peep into her engine-room, and had a look at the chart-house. 
There 1 noticed holes — bullet-holes — through wdiich the sunlight 
noured in long, dusty tunnels. Round the bridge there were great 
dabs of concrete, evidently erected for protection against shells 
and bullets, but now lying shattered and broken into large pieces. 
Here and there were ominous red-brown splashes, as if some 
sailor had wielded a paint-brush with careless abandon. The 
brown splashes lay behind the concrete emplacements, not in 
front; it was clear that the attacking plane had come in from the 
bows of the ship, smashed the concrete bridge to pieces with 
machine-gun bullets, and the men had died behind their protec- 
tion—the same sort of story the Master had told us at the Admir- 
alty. How r she was saved from the bombing attack I never knew, 
but that bridge, all torn up and bloodstained, left a deep impres- 
sion upon my mind — an impression which three weeks later was 
to come back sharply defined amid the turmoil and bustle of the 
Admiralty, and cause me to take swift and decisive action of far- 
reaching consequence to the Merchant Navy. 

Admiralty at War 

In July of 1940 officers of various degrees of scientific attainment 
began to arrive with bewildering rapidity. They were nearly all 
volunteers drawn from every variety of civilian life. We were 
settling down to a war of inventions against the aircraft attacks on 
our ships. The false peace following Dunkirk hung over the Admi- 
ralty like a thundercloud, and we all knew that it was the lull 
before the unleashed fury of the Nazis might fall upon England 
Time was precious: our ships were sinking, and Merchant Navy 
sailors were being blown up and drowned. 

That England, the "sceptred isle," could be invaded and con- 
quered by Hitler did not appear possible. No foreign fleet had 
sailed into British waters with evil intent since the Dutch had 
carried out their raid under de Ruyter in the days of the Merry 
Monarch and burnt our fleet at Chatham; but then the ships were 
at anchor and unmanned. We did not know of the plan, "Sea 
Lion," devised by the German Naval Staff for our destruction, but 
that such a scheme was being considered was certain. The attempt 
would come as night follows day, but, with perhaps unjustified 
confidence, we felt that it must fail 

One starry summer's evening I had stood on the gentle slopes of 
Duddleswell, in Sussex, watching the glow on the southern hori- 
zon from the battlefield of Dunkirk. My young son, Christopher, 
was staying near by, having been evacuated from London from 
the danger of air raids. Now the threat of invasion brooded over 
this peaceful county, and it was decided that he should be moved 
into the deeper country of Devon, and this moving of my son to a 
safer area gave me peace of mind to carry on my work. 

So far the department consisted of men only, but one day a 
friend from the days of wardenship telephoned me. lie had re- 
ceived a commission in the Army, and his secretary was left high 
and dry. Would I consider taking her into the Admiralty? Miss 
Otiley came to see me. A red-gold-haired slip of a girl, she after- 
wards confessed she was sick with fright at the interview. We had 
at the time a room in Archway Block North of the Admiralty 


, yjmr imitated the uncivilized habits of the cuckoo and rather 
ushed the Kile and Balloon section out of the nest. We had a 
? IV she could type, and a bargain was struck at once. I intro- 
duced her to Goodeve as our new secretary, and in a short 
while they became the firmest of friends. She managed alone 
the task of looking after a collection of large men with skill and 
tact, until, as the work increased, more secretaries were called in 
to assist. 

The scope of information was increasing. In July 1940 I inves- 
tigated the possibilities of the centre for the interrogation of 
prisoners of war at Cockfosters, in the North of London. The 
place was staffed with Intelligence officers from the Navy, Army, 
and Air Force, and admirably equipped with microphones and 
other legitimate devices for obtaining information as to the 
enemy's designs against us. 

'T want a detailed examination of a pilot from a dive-bomber 
such as a Junkers 87, please," I asked a polite Squadron Leader. 
"I want to know the height he starts diving, the angle and speed 
he dives at, the point he releases his bomb, how he aims at his 
target, and, in particular, how he pulls out of the dive if he 
becomes unconscious." 

"Certainly," said the Squadron Leader, taking industrious notes. 
"All this information can be obtained." 

"But I want it now," I said. 

"Oh, yes," replied the Squadron Leader, chewing up the end of 
what had once been a good pencil. "Quite so — but we haven't got 
such a pilot in stock. In fact, we never have had one." 

The War had been going on for nearly a year, and dive-bombers 
had been busy in Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, and the 
Channel. But none had struck in England and been brought 
down — no obliging Nazi to interrogate — no information to obtain. 
This threw a new light on matters, and I returned crestfallen to the 
Admiralty. The Interrogation Centre was beautifully efficient; it 
lacked only one thing to make it tick — raw material. 

In wandering round the offices I made a good friend in Captain 
Charles Woodhouse, R.N., 1 who, among other duties, was respon- 
sible for defence of the aerodromes of the Fleet Air Ann dotted 
over the countryside. 

All the world had read the epic story of the batde of the Plate, 
When our cruisers Ajax, Achilles, and Exeter had hunted the 
pocket-battleship Graf Spee into the neutral harbour of Monte- 
1 Afterwards Admiral Sir Charles Woodhouse, K.C.6. 





video. Captain Langsdorff, who commanded the Graf Spec, blew 
up his Ship, and then shot himself. 

The sequel m the rescue of our captured seamen from the 
simply ship Altmark in Jossing Fjord in February 1940, by the 
destroyer CossacK under Captain Philip Vian, R.N. * to the cry o 
"The Navy's here!" from an unknown sailor, is a tale which will 
be told from generation to generation so long as the white ensign 
flutters proudly in the breeze. 

Here was the grim-faced sailor of short speech, who had cap- 
tained Ajax at the Plate, sitting quietly at his desk, ploughing 
through the usual file of dockets marked Secret or Most 
Secret? according to contents and taste, and showing a novice o 
a volunteer lieutenant that he had a heart of gold. We discussed 
the defence of our naval aerodromes— about which I knew no- 
thing not vet having even seen one-and he took my views upon 
such matters with a merry twinkle in his frosty eyes. I admired 
him as a great sea Captain of the Navy, and often returned to his 
room and talked of war in its gathering aspects. The first talk 
stuck most, and early in the next year bore its fruits. 

I had read of a *Q* ship in the First World War— a camou- 
flaged ship that pretended to be an innocent merchant vessel— 
and when a roving U-boat hove up with the polite intention or 
firing a shell into its side-lo and behold! the sides of the mer- 
chant ship would fall down, and a number of hitherto concealed 
corns vomit fire at the unsuspecting enemy. Why not a Q ship 
asainst dive-bombers and four-engined Focke-Wulfs, armed with 
numerous pom-pom guns that would shoot down any plane 
attacking and yet would be concealed until the plane was over- 
head? Commander Millar was impressed with the idea and took 
me off to see an admiral. _ _ , 

"Let mc see," said the little Admiral, who is m command at 
the Inspectorate of Anti- Air craft. Weapons?" 

"Well sir," said Millar, with a slight cough, remembering that 
Admiral' Somerville was well down the Mediterranean, m fact, 

Tlum" said the Admiral, and pondered a while, "*Q" ships is 
the First World War were never really worth the effort put in© 
them' they were spectacular, but never bagged much. 1 doubt tt 
we could risk the guns and men in an anti-aircraft q ship 

pom-poms are worth their weight in gold-gunners stiU 

more so." 

1 Afterwards Admiral of die Fleet Sir Philip Vian, G.C.B, 

The Admiral was dead right, and I abandoned the project there 
and then. Millar was sorrowful but resigned, I had conceived an 
idea, but it was impractical. 

Meanwhile Richardson was strenuously working on. wire 
devices to entangle aircraft attacking our ships — cables suspended 
by parachutes, first invented by the Sehermuly brothers. The 
brothers devised a rocket that could carry the parachute up to a 
height of 500 feet, and the cable would lie athwart the oncoming 
aircraft- The rocket would be fired from the ship, and it was a 
question of nice judgment when to fire. The nerves of the operator 
had to be pretty tough to face a German bomber with its guns 
blazing and ready to drop a 500-pound bomb amidships. Never- 
theless this wire device proved its value, and, before the guns 
arrived in overwhelming numbers, accounted for the destruction 
of nine enemy aircraft and saved many ships. The attacking 
planes were compelled to abandon their low -lev el attacks and 
bomb from a greater height, thereby losing accuracy. The real 
reply to the bomber was guns and more guns, but at this stage of 
tire war at sea w^e had to patch the great gaps in our defences with 
whatever we could lay our hands on until the men and women in 
the factories could give the answer. "Give us the tools, and we 
will finish the job," cried Churchill to America, till weapons 
came it was dodge and makeshift as best we could. 

Goodeve, Richardson, and I won Id meet for lunch nearly every 
day at some local tavern. Our past lives at these meetings failed to 
interest much, and conversation always returned to the absorbing 
present — -how to kill bombers, how to save sailors and ships. We 
were all three getting one-track minds. Norway scarcely attended 
these meetings; rockets were his magnet, and great things he 
made of them, but, as Kipling wrote, 'That is another story." 

I began to appreciate the vital importance in the Royal Navy 
of being 'a brass hat'; wearing the band of golden oak -leaves on the 
peak of the cap was a sign of authority and responsibility, and 
the lowest rank entitled to w r ear this emblem was that of Com- 
mander. We had two of these gilded gentlemen in Millar and 
Goodeve, the former wearing the straight stripes of the regular 
Navy, and the latter the wavy lace of the Volunteers, If I got 
Mo serious difficulties one or other would have to extricate me. 
Unce, when seeking some information, I was kept talking by a 
Captain for a whole hour upon nothing in particular, and I could 
Sod no excuse for breaking oil the engagement. "You should have 
talked out," said Goodeve, who displayed at times a disregard 


for the seniority and the traditions of the Royal Navy which. 
frightened me. ' Six years with the Navy taught me that the 
officers were great gentlemen and the ratings most gallant men. 
Further the close association of officers and men within the nar- 
row confines of small ships brought a relation between tipper and 
lower decks unique in the services and only created by hundreds 
of years of tradition. Francis Drake s admonition that the gentle- 
men and mariners must both haul on the ropes was pinned up m 
capitals in many an Admiralty office. 

The need for an assistant in my information work became 
urgent. I went to the Naval Assistant to the Second Sea Lord and 
asked for an officer with the right qualifications, but the Director 
of Naval fntelligence had obvious prior claims, and It appeared 
useless to follow this path. Then I thought of Lane, still pursuing 
his duties as a warden in Post Al in St Johns Wood, waiting for 
the raids to come. 1 telephoned him that evening. 

"Would you like to join the Navy for a change? ' I asked, know- 
in* that his brother was a lieutenant-commander. 

"Yes, I would," he said, without hesitation, and not even know- 
ing what I was doing. Life was like that in those days. 

I saw him and told him of some of my work, and he agreed 
to come as my assistant if the matter could be organized I then 
set about 'organizing,' and spoke to no less a person than the 
Admiral Commanding Reserves. Forms were duly filled up Lane 
came before a Board, and within some seven days there he was 
in tire office as an acting temporary sub-lieutenant in the Koyal 
Naval Volunteer Reserve. These qualifications to substantive rank 
were imposed by a far-seeing and wise Board of Admiralty. It took 
about a month to get rid of the probationary period, another 
month or so to cease being temporary, and at least three month 
to stop acting. By that time you had become seasoned, reckoned 
my Lords, and entitled to wear your single wavy stripe of go k 
without fear or favour. I wore green colour between my go d 
bands to indicate that I was 'special, although it was doubtful 
what kind of specialist I could claim to be. It was believed b 
other similar 'coloured' officers that this meant sixpence a da> 
more pay, but we never discovered the Fleet Order granting that 
magnificent sum, and pay was so torived. ^™f^ 
allowances and extra payments, that it would have taken a ctar 
tered accountant to discover what we were really entitled to 
receive, R didn't come to much, anyway. 

Lane set to work at once after a grand farewell party with friS 



post wardens. His first step was to obtain from secret Air Force 
sources model German planes and hang them from wires in our 
room. This was for the purpose of identification, and aroused 
much interest in Norway and Richardson, neither of whom had 
lost the small-boy love of toys, I said that the only thing to do 
with a German plane w r as to shoot at sight or trip it up with some 
f Richardson's parachute-wire devices, but opinion was against 
me, and they all thought identification important; so the models 
stayed — and drew their daily sightseers. 

Lane and I went one afternoon to Princes Risborough, where 
the Ministry of Home Security had a museum of bombs and 
fragments. This department was under the control of Dr 
Reginald Stradling, 1 and the bombs certainly looked most fear- 
some. We became interested in his fire-bombs, as I had heard 
of ships catching fire through such bombs being dropped on 
wooden decks. A burning ship is a dreadful spectacle, and fire 
was an ever-present risk added to those of shells and torpedoes. 
Dr Stradling was a charming host, and gave us long scientific 
explanations of the mechanisms of the various bombs used by the 

"You push this wire, pull that stud, release the detonator, and 
then ■" said die demonstrator. 

"And then," I echoed. 

" — it explodes," said the young scientist. "But dris case is 

"That's fortunate," I replied. 

Fortunately it was not the duty of an investigator to take a live 
bomb to pieces, but my admiration for Lieu tenant-Commander 
J. G. D. Ouvry, 2 who in November 1939 at Shoeburyness had 
unpicked the jigsaw puzzle of the first magnetic mine found on our 
shores, knew no bounds. In the blaze and heat of action a man 
will do brave things, deserving maybe the Victoria Cross. But die 
courage displayed by the calm, cool, and detached scientist who 
piece by piece dissects an infernal machine, knowing full well that 
at any moment it may explode and blast him into fragments of 
flesh, bone, and blood, is of the highest human order. 

Lane and I parted at St Marylebone Station somewhat silent, 
but our visit had forged a link in the chain leading to my first real 
invention for the Navy. 

Next day I received a telephone call from the Lieutenant- 

1 Afterwards Sir Reginald Stradling, 

= Afterwards Commander J. G. D, Ouvry, D.S.O., H.N. 



me with a range, some <;•.■.< 




"Can yon please 

ammunition?" . , r 

"Nothing like that here," replied Dr Stradlmg, in the one of £ 
sweetshop proprietor asked for arsenic. "We deal in bombs. 

"Do you know anywhere? " I said in desperation. 

■'The Road Research Station on the Colnbrook Bypass have 
fixed up some Home Guard rifles and a bit of a range. 

"Good." I said. "I'm going there to fire this afternoon on some 
tar etc ts . Woul d y ou arrange it? " 

"Saturday afternoon!" said Dr Stradlmg pamlully. 

"Yes " T said firmly. "Will you meet me there? 

"Eight," said Dr Stradling. "Three o'clock. Ill get some of the* 

5t f snatched a sandwich, obtained a vehicle of sorts from the Car 
Department of the Admiralty, loaded my precious samples with 
mv own hands, and we set off. 

The sun blazed from a cloudless sky, and f removed my thick 
monkey-jacket in the privacy of die car. Comfort before de- 
cency " I said to the driver, remembering Mr Midshipman Easy 
only'plaeed duty before decency. Thoughts o a clean dive mto 
he cool waters of the Thames at Maidenhead were maddening, 
and I resolved to see what could be done on the return journey 

We turned in to the Road Research Station, and I rather won- 
dered what such a peaceful establishment was doing with lethal 

" TXadling had already arrived at the Station, jW^J* 
plained to me was one of the great establishments of the Depart 
nent of Scientific and Industrial Research, operating under the 
authority of the Privy Council. As I knew nothing of the .ramife a- 
tions of Industrial Research the information was news but by 
name I assumed that the investigation of road surfaces came 
within the Station s ambit. , ...... . 

We passed by various buildings, until the car drew np, 
long, low, single-storey shed-the range. There we were met by 
S A. R. Lee° a dark, benevolent little scientist, whose p. case 
language belied a gentle sense of humour 

Tier! was also Mr Markwiek, a fair-haired assistant who had 
apparently expended much effort in construe ^S^^gg 
essentially with the object of carrying out tests for the Munsu) 

° f SS and Dr Lee looked at my precious targets made u| 
by Mr Thompson, and, while too polite to comment critically- 



"We should We to know what steps are being taken in camou- 
flage?" asked Goodeve politely. 

"Nothing, so far as I am aware/' said the officer sho.dy and 
sharply. "I do not propose to give you any information, its none 
of your business— whatever that may be." 

Goodeve was taken aback at this discourteous reception but 
urged that we were anxious to help. As junior officer I kept silent 
though sharing Goodeve's indignation. Nothing that Could be said 
moved the man, and so we retired to Captain Se bys office £ 
discuss the project with him. Before going m Goodeve said hat 
we'd better cool down a bit, and I had never seen him so flushed, 
We talked it over with Selby, and decided to go ahead on our 
own A day or two later Goodeve introduced me to two Army 
camouflage experts from Leamington, and we opened around tire 

S "l j was struck by the complete lack of urgency in the altitude 
of these gentlemen. Camouflage, whether of ships or of land tar- 
gets wasl subject which called for deliberation and thought. The 
War did not matter because experiments with paint could not be 
hurried; a little would be done, and then a little more, and then 
experiments on a larger scale might be «*^£™£ri* 
the artistic temperament at work, and I had the feeling they were 
right I told Goodeve that this subject was not my metier and, 
while appreciating good art, this was not a case of love at hrst 
Mit Fm-tunately Lieutenant Donald Curtis came under my 
wing and immediately developed an urgent desire to io low tin, 
picturesque path. A former naval officer, he had taken to pain - 
L, and I could see brushes sticking out all around lum and pig 
mints being squeezed into marvellous hues on his palette. Tic 
proved successful at camouflage, and among much o her wo k 
brilliantly concealed "Scorpion," a mobile Render o fiddj 
which I invented in 1941. The easualness of this important voik 
Tuited him so admirably that in a few weeks I vanished disae etl> 
from the picture. He also introduced me to wend and exotic Eas 
tern food still obtainable in London, but only went one 
lunch appeared to be a series of well -camouflaged dishes-Cmm 
could not keep away from his favourite vice, 



August came that year blue and warm. On the 12th of the month 
Lane stopped me during the morning as I was speeding to the 
interrogation of a merchant captain who had lost his ship. 

Tve a report here from Dunkirk," he said. "It is about bullets 
striking the deck of a ship and being stopped. I wonder if you 
would care to look at it." 

"Thank you — after this interrogalion with Commander Hol- 
brook," I replied, and sped cm. My guardian angel was whispering 
and I was not listening — this was the first delicate strand thai led 
to what proved a great invention of the War. 

That afternoon I was heavily engaged on various papers when 
Lane came up and pushed a document in front of me. I glanced 
at it casually, and then summoned the energy to read it. The 
document was in the form of printed questions and answers, and 
attached there was a report from Shipwright Lieutenant Hind- 
marsh, R.N., to the Maintenance Commander. H.M. Naval Base, 
North Shields, and dated July 31, 1.9 10. 

The D ur as tic compound mentioned has been extensively 
tested in paddle-steamers attached to the Base, with the follow- 
ing satisfactory results. The paddle -steamers were in a much- 
worn condition on arrival here, and it was found necessary to 
caulk the living spaces almost each time they proceeded to sea 
owing to the elastic nature of the vessels and the heavy seas in 
which they had to work. The result of a high-explosive shell 
passing through the deck on which an officer was standing, the 
shell passing between his legs, is also interesting. Although con- 
siderable damage was done below, the officer in question was 
unhurt, there being no splinters. It also has a deadening effect 
on small -arms ammunition and splinters from high-explosive 

The officer in question must have been quite 'interested' to see 
a shell pass between his legs. 

The document with the questions and answers gave the name 
°f a ship in action at the evacuation of our army at Dunkirk, the 





sea contest be I ween destroyers and on the one hand 
and U-boats and the Luftwaffe on the other. 

We all wore blue and gold, but different lace bands on the arm 3 
—straight for the regular Navy, wavy for the Volunteer Reserve, 
and crisscrossing for the merchant officer serving in the Royal 
Navy. All officers had the curl in the top band, indicating by 
tradition that they were executive in their own sphere. Between 
the gold bands there were various bright colours, indicating a 
particular branch of the Service, but the normal seagoing officer 
did not wear any such colour. The doctors had red— most appro- 
priate and engineers, from admirals to sub-lieutenants, carried 

purple. Paymasters wore white, electrical experts a vivid blue, 
and we of the special branch green. These colours added to die 
gaiety of life, and aroused interest. When I first lunched in the 
Middle Temple Hall in uniform in 1940 R. C. Vaughan, 1 in the 
pale blue of a squadron leader of the Air Force and wearing the 
ribbons of the First World War, was heard to say in a loud voice, 
"He's in the Navy, but damned if f know his colour." 

The United States Navy did not wear such colours, and instead 
of the executive curl had a star. To-day the colours have all gone, 
and, under the influence of Lord Mountbatten, so have the wavy 
stripes. All wear plain gold bands, but keep the curl. M ore's the 
pity. The Reserve Navy, because of the outstanding work achieved 
in big and little ships, were proud of the wave, and in honour of 
their service should have been allowed to keep it. Those of us 
who wore it for six or seven years of war felt chagrin when the 
Fleet Order abolishing 'waves' was made after the cessation of 


PetLv officers wore on their arms red or golden anchors, and 
leading seamen devices indicating special knowledge, zigzag flash 
for wireless operators, telescopes for signalmen, and torpedoes for 
torpedo-men. These badges were the result of achievement and 
much coveted; it was a war of specialists. 

At the commencement of August security measures at the Ad- 
miralty were much tightened. When I had entered in June all J 
was asked to do was to sign a book, and I was subsequendy issued 
with a printed pass with my name on it. Now each of us was 
photographed and the print reproduced actually in the pass to 
prevent forgeries, and this, duly signed, had to be shown to the 
attendants before entering. 

Then, in the event of raids, the entire Admiralty was to become 
'Afterwards Group Captain R. C. Vaughan, O.E.E., M.C., Q.G, 

a nned citadel. When the sirens sounded every part of the 
■ ist building was to be guarded by officers carrying their loaded 
• e vol vers. The outside doors were to be closed and no one 
admitted upon any pretext until the all-clear signal came through. 
The orders were strict. 

■The German paratroopers had taken Government buildings in 
polish and other Continental cities by surprise with dire effect. 
The Admiralty was the nerve-centre of all ships at sea, and could 
it have been seized by an invading enemy it would have been a 
disaster of the first magnitude. Looking back over the years, it 
seems strange and unreal that in the heart of London a b till ding 
should, with the enemy over the Channel, have been treated as if 
in the front line. It should be remembered, however, that England 
and the Commonwealth stood alone. We had no knowledge of the 
intentions of Hitler, and he might well have attempted to wipe 
gut such a fortress by troops flown over. The future was unknown, 
and the Board thought it wise to take stringent precautions with 
such a stake upon the table. 

On August 7, 1940, the Luftwaffe started its attack on England, 
and the first raids were on the Kent and Sussex airfields and upon 
London— the Batde of Britain had opened, and civilians were 
in die front line. The sirens would sound their eerie warning 
during the day, and then all work would stop and officers and 
staff descend to cellars. The bombing may or may not have been 
effective, but this was a serious interruption to the war eflort. 
Later on raids and the siren were shrugged off as one of the neces- 
sary evils of life, but now it was all very new, and we were all 
very raw. Those early days of bombing in London were particu- 
larly fretting because at first there were no guns to reply. One 
would have thought that with the constant expectation of raids 
our guns in London would have been ready to go into action 
immediately, but it was not so, and the guns were not there for 
some time. 

Early in August Goodeve suggested that I might take an inter- 
est in the camouflage of our merchant ships. It appeared that 
nothing had been done in this science since the First World War, 
and the problem now was to disguise our ships from the low visi- 
bility of a U-boat rather than from enemy surface craft. We dis- 
covered the officer responsible for diis subject in the Admiralty. 
So we both went to see him to have a discussion, but the inter- 
View was short and tempestuous. 





Colonel commanding the gunners at Southampton to whom I had 
given my lecture. He had a German dive-bomber, a Junkers S7, 
111 intact, captured on the coast. The plane had been slightly 
damaged by gunfire over the English Channel and landed m our 

fields. It was all mine, . 

"Do you remember the bottle of Scotch you promised me it we 
got you' on e? " boomed th e soldier over the wire. 

"Put it down to our entertainment allowance, whispered 

"'Aye^aye, sir," I whispered back. "But we haven't got one, so 

LaSS and Norwav inspected the aircraft and found (he mech- 
anism which, when the pilot blacked out at the lowest point ol his 
dive owing to his rapid descent in the air, automatically brought 
the aircraft out of the dive although he was unconscious. 1 was 
meatly impressed by Norway's knowledge of aeronautics, tor he 
had anticipated such a method and proved right. He however, 
treated the matter as one of everyday occurrence— the proper 
professional attitude of the expert. 

The plane carried a small bomb under each wing-tip and a large 
bomb amidships, all of which would be released during the 

^One afternoon at the beginning of August 1940 Goodeve came 
into our office in the Archway Block looking very flushed and 
somewhat agitated. „ , 

"I've just heard," be said to Biehardson and myself of a 
first-class scandal from an officer of the Training and Staff 

Division." . n . 

Tl i i s was a dep artmen t with which we h ad close contacts . 

"We have no eiras for red-ensign ships capable of beating o t 
aircraft attacks. Before the War the Board of Admiralty decided, 
after innumerable tests, that the only really suitable gun was the 
Oerlikon. It is a light, rapid-firing gun of twenty-mill, me re bore 
and fires exploding shells at 2725 feet a second. We need that gm 
-and need it desperately. It's Swiss manufacture, and the on 
factory capable of turning them out is at Zurich, with the tota 
output seized by the Germans. There s no chance of getting a gun from that source. The Director of Armament Supp } 
has got no Oerhkons, no factory to make them, and no tools. 
Something has got to be done-and done now 

We discussed the situation and what could be done to make 
these guns. At this stage of the matter, much to my relief, I was 

n ot asked to take further action. The setting up of a factory to 
make Swiss automatic guns by the thousand was somewhat 
beyond my powers. 

The story of how Goodeve, backed by Commander S. W. Bos- 
kill, B.N., of the Staff Division, and Steuart Mitchell, 1 who had 
miraculously escaped from Switzerland and the Germans with the 
Oerhkon-gun plans, established in the teeth of strong opposition 
a factory to make the guns at Ruislip, and turn them out in ever- 
increasing quantities, is told el sc where. - 

At this stage I was only on the touchline, but from time to time 
there reached me reverberations from the field — the finding of 
disused railway sheds and their conversion into a factory, the 
obtaining of ma cf line tools and priority for steel, the forging of 
gun-barrels by Kendall's at Grantham, and the problem of 
serious labour unrest at the works. The guns were coming off pro- 
duction in six months, and there is no doubt that this result in such 
a miraculously short time was clue to the courage, pertinacity, and 
fighting spirit of Goodeve. In the course of this fight for produc- 
tion of a vital weapon certain well-established officials were 
seriously offended and the rules of procedure only sometimes 
observed. But we had our backs to the wall, our sailors wanted 
those guns, and were dying for lack of them; laws are made to be 
bent at times. 

Colon r played a great part in the Navy of the Second World 
War. In the first place there was the white ensign — the red cross 
of St George on a white background, with the small Union Jack in 
the corner — proudly flown from every one of His Majesty's ships, 
whether mighty battleships with fifteen -inch guns or ba tiered and 
weathered minesweepers, The ensign with the Union Jack on a red 
background — the red ensign. — was flown from every British 
merchant ship. In this war the two flags mingled, and as never 
before the officers and men of the Royal Navy regarded the 
officers and men of the Merchant Navy as brothers at sea facing a 
common enemy. The merchant ships were becoming each a war- 
ship, capable of fighting on its own, with Navy men aboard to 
man the guns as they came along. Gay bunting was never used; 
it was put away for a peaceful review at Spithead some June day 
in the far distant future, but there were battle flags slowly hoisted 
a t the mastheads in actions with enemy surface ships. The occa- 
sions for this were few and far between, for this war was mostly a 

' Afterwards Sir Ktetmrt Mitchell. 

''The 'Secret' War (Harrap), by Gerald Pawle, 










(5<?f p. 7\ 


Imperial War ' 

n„„ h 

a 11 _\t o a it 


A MODLL Of \ Sffifl 

bridc.l nrii i.i \vn: 
plastic: a mom 

A. Compass hou e. B.M 
Shields. C, Bridge gun sM 

D. General bridge aim^ 
(black). (A'iv f). ?i) 
Imperial War Wimtm 

ivtis clear that the scientific brains were taking a somewhat adverse 

view of my foundlings. 
"Cork and mastic asphalt," said Di Lee, "Humph!"' 
"Cork! " said Dr Stradling, "Will that stop bullets?" 
"It might," I said cautiously, and added, catching Dr S trad ling's 


"again it might not.' 

I did not tell them that all there was to go on was Lieutenant 
Hindmarsh's report and my entirely untested theory regarding 
die effect of different densities of material on a bullet. I rather 
felt like packing up my samples and going home, but remembered 
that I was in naval uniform. 

"Let's set one up and try," gently suggested Dr Lee, with an 
infectious smile. 

"Ah right," I agreed, my confidence oozing back. "Take die 
first Tnsulphate' target, which is three-quarters of an inch thick." 

They set the target up at the back of the range, facing an odd 
collection of guns. 

"Shall we try normal rifle shot to start?" suggested Dr Lee. 

"Oh. no!" I said, much alarmed. "This target should be handled 
gently. No need to be tough with it. I'll try my pistol first." 

They all stood behind me as I drew my -45 revolver from its 
holster in the best Wild West tradition. I aimed at the target" and 
fired. I am not sure what I hit, but the lead bullet certainly 
bounced back, and this raised my spirits considerably. 

"Try again," suggested Dr Stradling, with a dry cough. 

I fired again , and the bullet embedded itself in the target and, 
on examination, had not passed through. I gave every one a look 
of subdued triumph. 

"Not much in a revolver shot. Tt is only lead and travels at six 
hundred feet a second," said Mr Markwick quietly. 

The testing now started with rifles, using ordinary bullets. These 
were lead, coated with nickel of -308-inch diameter, and at point- 
blank range travelled at 2350 feet a second — which was a for- 
midable speed. This scientific data was pumped into me as Mr 
Markwick loaded the rifle and fired at target No. 1. Every shot 
whistled through with the utmost ease. 

We then put up target No. 2, with "Insul.phate" one and a half 
inches thick. We fired again and again. The target raised no 
Ejections to the nickel bullets going through. It was too easy. 
Everybody rather avoided looking at me. We tried target No. 3, 
Which was composed of four sections, and still the bullets cocked 
a snook at it. The range was now heavy with blue smoke, 






At this stage Dr William Glanville, 1 the head of the Research 
Station arrived on the scene of action. Tall and with a command- 
ing presence he filled the doorway, shutting out the sunlight. We 
shook hands, and I told him the result, which to date was exactly 
nil. In the dark gloom of the range, lit by one globe, I felt the 
pessimism surging around. 

"Let's try backing the targets with steel plates, and then finng, 
I suddenly said, breaking the silence. 

I was still vaguely pursuing my f ast-vamshing theory. 

"Certainly," said Glanville. "'"'But we should use armour-piercing 


I had heard that the Germans were using armour-piercing 

bullets, so naturally I readily agreed. 

An armour-piercing bullet was constructed with an inside hard 
core surrounded by an outside covering of soft lead coated with 
nickel When the bullet struck the target the soft casing crumpled 
up but opened the way for the inside core, made of toughest 
hardened steel. The core would slide into the opening gap SO 
made and go on, and this was the real devil that would penetrate 
armour to do its deadly work. A 'SOS A.P. rifle bullet against a rmld- 
stcel plate at 90 degrees' angle of incidence and within DO yards 
distance would penetrate a whole inch in thickness of the steel. 
" When the cordite in the cartridge case was fired and the bill et 
was impelled through the barrel the soft casing engaged m the 
rirhmr thus giving it the spin essential to stabdity in its trajectory 
In" larger armour-piercing projectiles the whole shell was solid 
hardened steel and without a cover, but with soft copper bands 
around it to engage in the rifling, as the hard steel would have 
ruined the rifling when fired through it. 

So we tried the targets all over again where the first bullets had 
not struck this time using ordinary and armour-piercing bullets, 
but 'with 'steel at the back of the target. The armour-pi eraiig 
Pullets whistled through all the targets, even with seven-eighths- 
of-an-inch mild steel behind, and the targets faded to show an 
appreciable resistance to armour-piercing bullets. 

Dr Stradbng looked at mc and said, ' I M afraid its no good. 1 

II IIe g left us in the range and missed the birth-pangs of Plastic 

" V TfTer'the departure of Stradling, in a fit of despondency and 

chagrin at the results of testing the targets, I must have allowed 

> Afterwards William Glanvilk, C.n., C.D.E., D.Sc, I'h.D. 

the specifications of these, given to me at the Admiralty by Mr 
Thompson, to fall to the ground. I considered them useless. Every 
one present had come to the conclusion that the experiments were 
a complete failure, ancl years after Glanville said in open court 
that if it had been left to him he would not have gone on. Be that 
as it may, fortunately for and unknown to me, Mr Mark wick, as a 
careful scientist, retrieved them and filed them away. I shall ever 
be grateful to him for this, as seven years later it was largely 
responsible for saving my name and honour. 

Once again I talked the matter over with Glanville and Lee, 
who still beamed pleasantly on the scene, I felt much as if plead- 
in^ in a lost cause in the Court of Appeal. 

"Could we as a last resort try armour-piercing shots on the third 
target at an angle of forty- five degrees and with a five-eighths-of- 
an- inch-thick steel plate behind it?" I said to Glanville. 

"All right," he replied, with a slight shrug. 

As the shadows grew longer from the setting sun, once again 
we set up the target and clamped a five-eighths -of -an -inch- thick 
mild-steel plate behind it. But this time Lee and Markwick turned 
the target so that the bullet would strike at an angle instead of 
direct on. The shot would be glancing. The gun was loaded with 
an armour-piercing bullet inserted in the breach, and we stood 
again outside while Markwick pulled the wire connected to the 
trigger. We entered the range and examined the target: the bullet 
was stopped. 

"Interesting — very interesting," murmured Glanville, stroking 
his moustache. 

We dug out of the target the remains of the bullet. The soft 
casing was crumpled up, but the hard core was embedded be- 
tween the "Insulphate" and the steel plate, and, from its position, 
had been slightly turned in passing from the material to the back- 
ing of steel, and in doing so had scored along the inner side of the 

With intense interest we all discussed the implications of this 

"We must repeat this experiment, but using concrete instead of 
the target, with the same backing of steel plate five-eighths of an 
inch thick and at the same angle of incidence," said Glanville, 
"That will give a rough comparison between the target and the 

He selected a piece of concrete two inches thick left over from 
some previous experiments of Markwick. 



"Pretty bad concrete," he said. 

"So much the better," I replied. "From what I have seen, ships 
are being armoured with bad concrete." 

We set up a combination of die concrete backed by the steel 
plate and again fired on it, with the bullet striking at an angle of 
45 degrees to the target. The concrete was shattered, and the 
bullet went through deep into the plate-not .such a good result 

as the last shot. , ,. 

Clanville and I went into a long discussion as to the cause ot 
this and 1 advanced the theory that I had previously suggested to 
Mr Thompson. lie turned it over in bis mind, and we made com- 
plicated mathematical calculations on the result of the two last 

^My mind was whirling, and I said to him, "We are all in the 
dark! but I am gping on experimenting. There is something here 
which has got to be found out, and we are going to do it. It vc 
replace the cork with granite, that might turn the hard core oi the 
- armour-piercing bullet, so that when it strikes against the steel 
plate it does so at an angle and is stopped H ^, 

The targets lay all around shattered and broken as Marl, wick 

locked up the range- T -, , -, , 

It was 1 verv late! with the shadows deepening as 1 sped back to 

mv house in St John's Wood. There was no bathe m the 1 names 

at S 1 evening I telephoned Goodcve at his house. It was clearly 
time he was told what we had been up to. I gave him the data, 
and he was enthusiastic. ; , -, 

The private address of Mr W. B. Thompson was in *c lei* 
phone directory, and, rousing him at. eleven clock .at night 1 
Sed if he would be kind enough to meet me at the Admuaky h 
next day Sunday afternoon, which he willingly agreed to do. 
SS at" the meal which mv long-suffering wife had cooked and 
-i. fr, «Uati dreaming of the crack of rule-shots and blue naze- 
Th- d SkedTml Mr Thompson at the Admiralty at three 
o^ ocWn 1 Sternoon in our room in Archway Block North, and 
, he way to meet him the problems were vividly m my mind ; 
A year or two before the War I had conducted a case m the 
R a Ttwav and Canal Commission, a Court largely concerned with 
m era rights, before Mr justice Mackinnon/ A. T. Mil or, KC 
STSbSt Paulh were the counsel against me, and the case 
' Afterwards the Right Hon. Lord Justice Macldmion. 
,;* the Hon. Mr Justice Pawn. 

A R M O U B 53 

lasted several days. I was appearing for the Amalgamated Road 
g to ne Corporation, which owned a mine called the West of Eng- 
land quarry, where they worked and won granite. The Corpora- 
tion also owned the Penlee quarry at Falmouth, in Cornwall, and 
during the course of the case I became very friendly with Mr 
Geralcl N alder, the chairman of the company. While visiting a 
quarry to study the technicalities of winning granite for road- 
niaking and other purposes, and in the course of conversation, I 
was told by him that Penlee granite had a higher crushing strength 
than any other in the country — namely, 68,000 pounds to tire 
square inch. This chance knowledge, obtained in the course of 
professional duties, was to prove most valuable in the events that 
followed, and those pre-War days spent in investigating the blast- 
ing of granite fro in vug in rock were to pay handsome dividends. In 
fact, in after -years Gdbert Pa nil jestingly claimed that he was the 
real inventor of my armour. 

I was alone in our office when Mr Thompson was ushered in. 
We discussed his "Insulphate" material, and he was told that, 
although failure had so far resulted, the Admiralty intended to go 
on experimenting. He was not informed of the actual results of 
the firing tests made, as the rule was that scientific information 
should not be passed on to anyone outside the Admiralty organiza- 
tion. I started to dictate an entirely new series of targets, which 
he undertook to prepare. He carefully wrote down all these speci- 
fications, and while making them up I decided to telephone Glan- 
ville at his house. Glanville had returned that Sunday morning to 
the firing -range to see if he could obtain any kind of order and 
reason from the chaotic tests that we had carried out the previous 
day, and in a long conversation on the telephone we discussed the 
targets being ordered from Mr Thompson. 

That list of targets is before me as I write. They were eleven in 
number — -they were all two feet square — in thickness they varied 
from one and a half inches to two and a half inches. All contained 
proportions of granite chips varying from three -sixteenths of an 
inch to onc-cighth of an inch in size. The size meant that most of 
the granite would be retained in each case by a mesh of that par- 
ticular diameter, but pass through a mesh a little larger. In some 
targets "Insulphate" was inserted with layers of mastic and 
granite; in others there were sheets of expanding metal lathing. 
The proportion of small granite to larger was varied; in other 
specimens the percentage of granite chips to mas lie asphalt 





Pacini* up and down the office as if it were a quarterdeck, I 

allowed mV imagination to run riot. As the position began slowly 
to crystallize it became plain, particularly alter the talk with Dr 
Glanville on the telephone, that if there were secrets to be wrested 
from the experiments— and there Were— it could only be done by 
trial find error. No amount of scientific calculation could do any 

gt The two points established were: (1) The bullet should be 
turned in its passage through the target; (2) the steel backing was 

V1 In' the days that, followed we were to obtain a great deal of 
information and the actual research on this subject was to go on 
most of the years of the War. At this stage I was only on the: 

fringe. ,■,■■, r, i 

I specified to Mr Thompson that we should use Penlee granite, 
and by good fortune he could obtain some. Mr Thompson was 
most obliging in every way, and carefully wrote clown all of the 
eleven specifications, promising that they would be made up at 

* He was told that naturally the Admiralty would pay for all the 
targets It crossed my mind that it was by no means sure where 
the money would come from, but the qualm was dismissed as 
unworthy-somebody would find it. We parted after an interview 
lasting an hour and a half. 

On Monday August 19, 1940, I came into our office feeling that 
at last we might be on the verge of making an important dis- 
covery I reported in detail to Goodeve, who, with his swift mind, 
at once appreciated the significance of the experiment carried on. 
He encouraged me to follow up the matter with all speed, but L 
drvly replied that there did not seem to have been any very great 
waste of time. At the inquiry before the Royal Commission after 
the War Goodeve said of my action, "He proceeded with speed 
which astonished even me, and I was used to things happening 
Quickly -but I bad never seen anything happen as quickly as 
that"-* tribute from a man who never let a fair breeze run to 

W The possibility that some great department of die Admiralty 
might have vested rights Over the development of armour nevei . 
occurred to us-where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to ** wis* 

I told Lane about my activities, and we settled down to pap e» 
and Signals. From time to time the sirens would sound. Dunn 
one of these alarms, when commanding the guard on the entrance- 

hall staircase of the Archway Block, I drew my loaded revolver 
and indicated to my brother -officers that at any rate it had been 
fired twice, which was more than they could claim about their 


It appeared from the reports we examined that day that attacks 
on our East Coast shipping from aircraft were becoming more 
and more intense. This intensified dive-bombing and machine- 
gunning of the convoys in the North Sea seemed the prelude to 
some great operation of our enemies against this laud. One could 
feel under the 'old school tic' banter that the atmosphere was 
strained. Hitler was on the move, and the Rattle of Britain was the 
opening gambit to invasion, 

At two o'clock in the afternoon on Tuesday, August 20, 1940, 
Mr Thompson delivered the targets ordered. He had promised 
quick delivery, and he kept his word, The targets, which had no 
steel backing, were duly brought into Boom rj of the Archway 
Block, and they nearly filled the office. We all had a good look at 
them, and Norway made a careful inspection, but did not com- 
mit himself, despite the temptation. 

The targets were loaded into a van, and I set off to the firing- 
range of the Road Research Laboratory to meet Dr Glanville, 
Dr Lee, and Mr Markwick. 

The targets were set Lip, and firing that evening and the next- 
day was continuous. We now used only armour-piercing shot, as it 
seemed valueless to test with anything less powerful. Each target 
had a mild-steel plate of either one-quarter or five-eighths of an 
inch in thickness clamped to the back before wc fired on it. 
Results began to show, and when the result was promising and 
the bullet failed to penetrate both target and plate the bullet was 
dug out to be examined. Those targets composed of all granite 
chips and mastic asphalt were the most promising, whereas those 
with the original "Insulphate" showed the least resistance. 

In several cases the hard core of the armour-piercing bullet was 
broken into fragments by the fierce impact against the granite, 
Further, when the bullet failed to penetrate right through there 
frequently appeared a bulge of several inches in diameter on the 
backing plate, indicating that the force of the bullet blow had 
been spread. 

We tried firing on targets with the steel plate in front, but the 
result was not nearly as good as when the plate was at the back. 

We shot every target to fragments, and noted each result with 
growing satisfaction. We were quite certain by August 22, 1940, 



that it was only a question of time and test before we had a good 
armour superior to anything on our merchant ships m the lorin of 

concrete. But there were still formidable problems to solve. 

The carrying out of the experiments at the Road Research 
Laboratory ''was one of the strokes of luck which only come once 
in a lifetime The targets 1 brought to them were modifications of 
road-making material, and prior to the outbreak of war their 
researches were largely in such substances, This was one reason 
why the initial research was so swift and effective— I had walked 
into their domain. , 

Glanville and I had serious discussions from time to tune as the 

firing proceeded. 

"We need a mastic asphalt entirely filled with granite chips. 
The chips turn the bullet and make it strike at an angle. The result 
is that the entire force of the strike is absorbed by a large area of 
steel backing plate," 1 said to Glanville late on August 22. But wc 
do not want any cork-that does no good at all. We do need the 
backing plate. The bullet, when turned by the granite smashes 
itself up, and it is the plate which takes the shock and holds the 
granite in position." 

Glanville agreed with this view, and I proceeded-. The next 
question is the proportion of granite to mastic asphalt, and it looks 
as if it should be of the order of fifty per cent, of granite. 
Glanville again agreed. 

"The third question is the size of the granite and whether there 
should also be particles of granite in the mixture to fill the spaces 
between the larger chips; cither we use a clean granite or else 
mix it with proportions of grit at present unknown-it is one or 
the other. That is the next problem, and can only be determined 
by continuous experiments." 

Glanville considered this analysis of the situation. I think I bat 
we should start testing with the clean granite first, he said. It « 
the more likely to give the result." 

He was to prove dead right. 1 should have arrived at this result 
in the end, but it might have taken weeks of firing before doing sft 
and time was very precious. „, . 

That everurig at 8.80 p.m. I telephoned the patient Mr ThoPip 
son from the range and ordered more targets-six in ™nbe^ 
and requested him to prepare them as soon as possible In thes 
targets the cork was all to be taken out and replaced with gram ■ 
In general the granite was raised in size to three-quarters .» 
inch but some of the targets were also to contain granite as so* 

A E M O U R 57 

one-eighth of an inch. The effect was to increase the size of 
trraiiite and keep it reasonably free of grit. 

Meanwhile the Road Research Station were anxious to make up 
targets of their own. and there was no reason why they should not 
do so for the Admiralty. Glanville told me that the Station had no 
penlee granite in slock, but, the results having been so promising 
with this granite, I insisted that it should be used for future 

I telephoned Gerald Nalder at a flat near Baker Street where he 
usually stayed when in London, and, fortunately, found him at 
home. Returning from the Station, I called and told him that the 
Navy wanted Penlee granite. He was delighted that at last his 
quarry could supply valuable material for the sea war, and, with 
a seraphic smile on his lean countenance, picked up the telephone 
to rouse the manager of the quarry at Falmouth and get Benlee 
granite of the right grading sent up by the night train to the Road 
Research Station. That important business settled, we filled our 
glasses and settled down to the even glow of two Ha v anas which 
he miraculously produced from a box secreted by his hosts in 
an old chest, and kept for special guests. The War seemed far, 
far away as \ve talked of other days and the lives wc had once led. 
By this time I had come to the very definite conclusion that I 
had invented a new armour, and the next step was to christen it 
with a name. In the Navy names are very important, whether of 
people or things, and are traditional. There had never been a 
sailor with the surname of Glarke, whether officer or rating, not 
called "Nobby," nor a Miller not termed "Dusty." The Navy had 
its own language. I would add my child to the list, and "Plastic 
Armour" seemed a perfect choice for three reasons; 

It was plastic because the mastic asphalt was melted by heat 
into a liquid before stirring in the granite, ft then 
solidified when cool again. 
The word 'armour' would give confidence to the Merchant 

Navy as no other word. 
It might deceive the Germans, who, when they learnt about 
it through their agents, would connect it up with syn- 
thetic wood plasties. 
If Goodeve and I had realized that the use of the word 'armour' 
was to stir up intense trouble we might have hesitated, but we 
^d not; and that same day, August 22, 1940, I wrote to Glanville, 
wanking the Station for its services, and already calling the new 
Material "Plastic Armour"— and the name stuck. 

Captain Roger Selby presides at the 
Commander Oswald is on tier right. Commander r- 

German planes. 

examination of the wounded Master 


Ail mi rally 

Millar is in the left for 
(Seep. 119.) 

fthn 'Tin' Guff' 

Miss Ottley takes notes, 

;s:round. Note the mode! 



Chief Messenger Cross lost, llis ai ■■■ 




Hie battle DT Jutland. Me received Hie Il.E.M 
"Daily Sketch" 



Goodeve and I decided to submit; the report of tie Road 
Research Laboratory in a docket marked to the appropriate de- 
partments, and then on to the Controller, Rear- Admiral Sir Bruce 
pYaser, as the Sea Lord within whose sphere of control the subject 
would fall. 

Our minute was dated August 29, and marked first to the Direc- 
tor of Naval Construction, then the Director of Training and Staff 
Duties, then Trade Division, and lastly the Director of Naval 
Ordnance — a powerful array of great departments. 

The minute stated that: 

1. Consideration should be given to the adoption of Plastic 
Armour for the protection of ships. 

2. A report on trials was attached. 

3. A demonstration of the material had been given and wit- 
nessed by representatives of departments. 

4. Arrangements were now being made for (a) a trial casting 
of the material on a ship newly constructed; (b) ex- 
perimental production of plates backed with three- 

sixteenths -of -an-in eh mild-steel backing for gun posi- 
tions; (c) trials for the application of Plastic Armour to 
bridge structures. 

The docket was duly dispatched to the Director of Naval Con- 
struction at Bath on the first part of its journey, and Goodeve and 
I crossed our fingers and wished it happy landings. In fact, it 
never got farther than the Director of Naval Construction at Bath, 
as will be told later. 

With the docket off on its travels, and while waiting, T looked 
round for something active to do on the new armour. 

"Why not take some samples down to London Docks and give 
a demonstration?" suggested Coodeve. "It will spread the glad 

I was struck with the idea and went to see Captain Selby, who 
Was positively purring, and he telephoned his officer in charge at 
the clocks to tell him I was coming. I picked up some samples 
wade by Dr Lee from the Road Research Station and proceeded 
to the London Docks to report to the Captain in charge of the 
defence of merchant ships. 

We set up a target in a yard in the London Docks. The Captain 

w as accompanied by his broad, squat Petty Officer, who rolled 

aiotig with what seemed to me rather a villainous countenance. 

r e carried a Service rifle and several cartons of armour-piercing 



1 Two inches' thickness of armour backed by a five- 

sixteenth s-of -an- inch steel plate prevented '303 armour- 
piercing bullets from penetrating appreciably into the 
steel plate. . , 

2 Weight for weight the armour, including the weight of 

the backing, was superior to mild steel as regards resis- 
tance to armour-piercing bullets. 

3 Plastic Armour two inches thick was superior, as regards 

penetration and fracture by arm our- piercing builds, to 
three samples of concrete two and a half inches thick 
obtained from ships as typical examples of what quality 
was being fitted. 
4. ft had less'" tendency than concrete to cause bullets to 

ricochet. , 

5 It had a much smaller tendency than concrete to crack. 
6 ' \ standard test conducted at a testing-station inchoated 

that the armour was resistant to incendiary bombs. 

7 It was more flexible than concrete and, therefore, more 

likely to yield to ship movements, and was waterproof. 

These claims- were fairly convincing, and at any rate would cat 

for a full investigation, particularly coming from a Government 

kl ¥K entire' SrcE ^produce Plastic Armour of a specification 
that would give protection against -303 armour-piercing bullets 
S taken tin days, although It should be observed that ^ tests 
had as yet been carried out aga.mst twenty-milhmetie cannon 
shell, which the Germans were undoubtedly using. 

I had now to convince the user departments of the Navy that 
here was a new and important invention of value tc ,xn « .^g 

To conceive an invention is easy, to make it woik is dulicuU, 
but to sell the invention is a titanic task. 

On August 28, 1940, I arranged with Captarn Selby to give a 
dem nst ation of Plastic Armour at the Road Research Sta ion o 
representative officers from Trade Division , Training . and S»* 
Division, the Ministry of Shipping, and the Ministry of A. uU 
Production. Included in the party was also the London Adinnal^ 
irooueuuj , Director f Naval Gonstruction. I here was 

representative ot trie uirectoi i« ,. 

no car available, so wc set off in a van crowded head to a 1 W 
sardines in a tin. The shooting demonstration given b yDi U 
Markwiek was most convmemg, and nothing ■■ 


(S,!,- p. 12.1.) 

From the AdmUuit\ tiini "The Guii 


[See p. 123:) 

From the Admiralty film "The Gstn' 

through the targets. The nods and murmurs of ■«*£** 1 
these hard-bitten officers were sunshine after the icy blasts ol J» 

Plastic Armour 

On Satnrdav, togmt 24, 1940, at nine o'clock in the morning, the 
samples I had ordered from Mr Thompson two days earlier over 
the telephone arrived at Archway Block of the Admiralty. V.m 
prompt action by Mr Thompson displayed his great .keenness m 
the project and anxiety to help. These targets were the same a» 
as before bat some were two inches thick, some two and a half 
inches thick, and one three inches thick. The granite loaded into 
the mastic asphalt was all Penloe, and increased in size from one- 
emhth of an inch to three-quarters of an inch, and amounted to 
45 1 par cent, of the total weight of the target. 

I took the six targets to the Road Research Laboratory, where 
after backing them with steel plates, we fired and feed and feed 
on them with armour-piercing '303 ammunition. The resul s were 
very good, and the majority of tungsten-steel cores were broken 
up oi turned and stopped. Yet it was not quite perfect-as m the 
Se of the two-inch-thick target, a few of the cores wont through 
between the granite chips. , 

Meanwhile the Rc/d Research Laboratory had also bee 
making up targets with their road-making plant but these were 
SB Clle Hill granite, as Gerald Nalder's Pen lee had math 
deningly not arrived To time. Clee Hill granite had a jushrn 
strength of only 45,000 pounds to the square mch. The results 
were also most promising when these targets were Bred on. 

I wanted, however, Penlee granite, and the telephone wire 
heated to red-hot during my searching of the Orea 
W n Railway authorities at Paddington Station. Eventu 
the consignment was located and rushed to he Research SWWJ 
We made more and more samples at the Research Statu ^ 
thoroughly tested them on the range Before we were sa ■ she 
with airget every inch had to be fired on lest there should be 
weak nlace- a soft spot might mean the hie of a man. 

Tb Suns of d last month had told on Goodeve, and h^ 
cided that he must take a few days' leave. He chose to go and \m 
under an apple-tree in the West Country. Before gomg lie agrfi 


tliat we must approach the Director of Naval Construction at 
path upon my unauthorized excursion into the highly preserved 
field of armour. We both felt that there was going to be trouble. 
g we arranged to meet at Bath on August 25 and beard the king- 
pin of armour, a naval constructor', in his den. Goodeve would 
co ine from his apple-tree and I from London. 

Accordingly we met in the Old Roman City, and proceeded to 
an interview with the Constructor. In civilian clothes, small and 
sharp -featured, at the first mention of experiments in armour he 
bristled with outrage like a eat with its fur stroked up the wrong 


"You have no business to experiment on armour," he said, with 
cutting emphasis. "Thai is the function of the Director of Naval 
Construction. I have had thirty years' experience on this subject." 

I tried to explain that it was by accident that wc bad hit on this 
train of research. 

I was silenced, however, by Goodeve kicking me under the 
table — which I took as a broad hint to say no more. We parted in 
a polar-ice atmosphere on all sides. 

Goodeve in the train back to London said he was not displeased 
with the interview, as it gave us a free hand to go on. This was 
rather Machiavellian reasoning, but I intended to go on, 

On August 27 Dr Glanville, Dr Lee, and I sat down and drafted 
a report on the experiments carried out and the results achieved, 
and giving the first specification of Plastic Armour. This report 
from the Road Research Laboratory was addressed to the Admi- 
ralty, and concluded with the statement that I had agreed it. It 
recited how I had ordered targets from Durastie Bituminous Pro- 
ducts and how other targets of similar material had been made up 
by the Laboratory. It gave the results of filing at the best targets 
and gave a preliminary formula for Plastic Armour — namely; 

Clean granite of half -inch size 50 per cent. 

Limestone mineral 43 per cent. 

Bitumen - 7 per cen t. 

Within a few more days we were able by tests to improve upon 
this formula by increasing the percentage of granite to 55 per 
Ce nt and reducing the limestone in proportion, which gave a 
s Oiriewhat better performance. 

The following advantages of this new armour were set out in 





proposition. No tests appear to have been earned out with tins 
type of projectile— no questions asked about, it. 

Captain Selby, on January 16, 1940, on the strength of the 
advice given bv the Director of Naval Ordnance, advised a! 
shipowners to fit concrete slabs two; and a half inches thick, and 
stated that they would keep out machine-gun bullets, and be one- 
fifth of the weight of sandbags. 

On February 12 full details of the firms who would supply the 
concrete slabs and instructions as to where to fit them were given 
by Trade Division. 

On February 17 Mr D. E. J. Ollard, a naval constructor serving 
with the Director of Naval Construction, raised for the first time 
the vital question whether the trials of the Ordnance Board were 
with ordinary bullets or with armour-piercing ammuni boa. 

By March reports were coming in to Trade Division thick and 
fast'of the failure of the concrete blocks in action. Trials had been 
made unofficially by the Ministry of Shipping, and Captam Selby 
reported on the 14th of this month that the results were causing 
disquiet in shipping circles. He called for official trials. 

The Director of Naval Construction, who was responsible lor 
the armouring of all white-ensign ships, ordered immediate trials 
of concrete, as used in merchant ships to be carried out by H.M.S. 
Excellent, the gunnery school at Portsmouth. 

On April 19 the Director of Naval Ordnance minuted the 
docket that it now appeared from the trials of the Ordnance 
Board that armour-piercing bullets had not been considered by 
them— "the recommendation was based on insufficient data. 

The trials were carried out by Excellent with the utmost dis- 
patch, and Captain E. J. P. Brind, P.N./ reported on May 17, 
1940 the complete failure of the concrete agamst, g 
bullets at a hundred yards' range-severe cracking and complete 
penetration of even three and a half inches of concrete at 
Eo degree incidence of fire, which ^^f^^f^tus 
crete was forwarded to the Director o Naval Construction or , 
examination. Captain Selby pencilled on the report, This is 

hundreds and hundreds of ships had already been fitted wg 
this' sort of protection. The War Cabinet were most anx,ons about 

th Durffig il the following months an intensified search, high aj 

low waf made by the Director of Naval Construction for *** 

'Afterwards Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, G.B.E., K.C.B, 

a a _\t o u k 61 

material which would give efficient protection. Constant tests and 
reports were obtained from H.M.S. Excellent, and, galvanized by 
the demands of Trade Division and Captain Selby, no effort was 
spared. But nothing had been found, and the fitting of concrete 
blocks was continuing, faute tie mieux, better than nothing, and 
nothing was the alternative, as there was no plate or steel. The 
armed merchant cruiser H.M.S. Alcantara, on July 28, 1940, went 
into action against the raider Thor in the South Atlantic with can- 
vas screens fitted to give the illusion of protection to her gunners. 
This was the state of affairs, of which 1 was sublimely uncon- 
scious, when 1 walked into Captain Selby's office and asked, 
"Would you like a new armour, sir?" 





While Mr Thompson was preparing his third set of targets, atid 
the Road Research Station were making up theirs, I deemed it 
advisable to find out which department at the Admiralty was 
really responsible for the development and production of armour, 
as the time was rapidly coming when a genial but cautious ap- 
proach would be called for. I telephoned a Commander in the 
office of the Director of Staff Duties, and he stated that it was 
the Department of Naval Construction and that they had been 
moved to the Pump Room at Bath as a precautionary measure, I 
bad visions of the exquisitely dressed Petronius of Bath— Bean 
Nash— but somehow the picture did not fit in with armour. 

Having obtained this information, I made a call upon Captain 
Selby o£ Division, in the Admiralty, who was responsible 
for the arming of all our merchant ships. The gallant Captain 
looked up from his papers and appeared to be more harassed than 
usual and somewhat impatient. 

"Would you like a new armour, sir?" I said, coining straight 

to the point. • 

"Armour!" gasped Captain Selby, his mouth wide open, as it 
anticipating a choice morsel. 

"Yes sir I said "In the last few days Ive been occupied in 
developing a new armour which will stand up to armour-piercing 
bullets The work is not quite complete, but will be shortly. 

I added with an innocent expression, "We are wondering it it 
will be of anv use to your department." 

"Armourl Use! Stop armour-piercing shot! roared the Captain. 
"Is that what you said?" 

"Yes, sir," I replied. . 

The Captain drew his long, lean length to its full height, and 
waved his arms at a great pile of papers on a side-table m one 
all-embracing gesture. 
"See that lot!" he said. 
*¥ Vs sir 

"Well that's only a quarter of the complaints pouring mahout 
concrete' The Germans arc using these armour-piercing fellers 
and they are going slap through the concrete, smashing it and 
killing our chaps right and left. I was told it was all right, but 
all wrong. Unless something is done, and done quick, there 11 at 
a miblic outcry and scandal— and I'm for it." 

Although I had always the vision of the little ship at Southamp- 
ton this was news-and staggering news. We had no idea of the 
State of affairs disclosed by the Captains outburst. I here was no 

more controlled man than Roger Selby, and things must indeed 
u e serious for him to talk like that. I briefly outlined the experi- 
ments carried out, and told him that we were pressing on as hard 
as possible, and could promise a specification for "Plastic Armour" 
in a few days. The Captain's cars were immensely tickled by the 
ne w name. He did not tell me who told him "it was all right," or 
the story that lay behind. This was to be learnt years later at the 
nublic inquiry when the relevant documents were revealed by the 

In August 1939, just before the War, the Trade Division in the 
Admiralty had issued an important instruction to all merchant- 
ship owners, signed by Captain G. R. O. Allen, R.N.: 

In war machine-gun attacks might be made by aircraft" 
against merchant ships. Such attacks would probably be only 
of short duration, and would be unlikely to cause serious 
damage, but unless protection is provided casualties might 
occur. If, due to casualties, the ship got out of control in pilot- 
age waters, the results might be disastrous. 

The form of protection recommended was sandbags of the kind 
used for trench warfare in the First World War, The wheelhouse, 
wireless office, and bridge were to be so protected. Steel was most 
scarce, and would in any case affect the compass, and non- 
magnetic plate was unobtainable. So we went back to sandbags. 
These rotted, and the sand spread all over the ship, and. further, 
added enormously to the top weight— that is, the weight above 
the waterline — which affected Lhc stability of the ship and was a 
vital consideration. Sandbags were of no use. 

On December 18, 1939, Captain Allen, in a minute on a docket, 
stated that attack might be expected from machine-gun fire and 
cannon, and that, as a shipowner proposed to fit concrete paving- 
stones for protection, he would like to know what they would stop 
in the way of: (a) machine-gun bullets; (b) shell as used on 
German aircraft. 

The Director of Naval Ordnance replied on December 27, 1939, 
mat he had consulted a member of the Ordnance Board (a depart- 
ment dealing with arms for all three Services), who deduced from 
trials that at point-blank range two and a half inches of concrete 
made to a British Standard specification would keep out machine- 
gun bullets, and six inches would stop shell. 

No consideration appears to have been given to the fact that 
me Germans used armour-piercing bullets — a very different 





cartridges, proceeded to plump down on his stomach in a 
businesslike manner, his legs straddled, and with metallic clicks 

Ch f^:Zf^t them through," said the Captain with a 
slight, sardonic grin, as if Jem had some magical power o adding 
to tie speed and weight of a Service nlie shot, which hither o I 
had considered as worked out by ballistic experts with mathe- 

malical accuracy. *t*r«Ji u^ i 

"Indeed, sir," 1 replied, with some composure. Well, lied 

better try his skill on this sample." 

fern 4c a hoarse chuckle, aimed at a distance of twenty-five 
yards and fired. The bullet cracked on the target, and we walked 
over to examine the result. The shot had gone clean through 
armour and steel backing plate. 

"Hum," said the Captain, stroking his well-shaven chin. 

I was horrified and thunderstruck. m ., u 

"We'll try again," said the Captain, in the tone of I told you 

S °i'em, now in his clement, fired several more shots. Two out of 
every hree went through, and I regarded the mangled remams of 
the Target with despair" The results achieved in the range of the 
Road Research Laboratory were useless, and the material had 
Sd nr the field at its frrst trial. I looked at the Cap tarn and 
wondered what to do. Something was horribly wrong. What 

"Something not quite right With tins target, sir I «£* *>* 
Cant dn standing by. "HI have to find out about it. I looked at 
2Sp^^ added, "I'd be obliged if you d say nothing 
about this for the moment till I discover the error, 

"All right, my boy," replied the Captain jovially. But Jem 

never fails." 

I had no answer. , _ T 

Returning to the office at tire dockside, I telephoned Dr Lee, 
and told him of the disaster that had befallen the target and h 
I was returning immediately to the Laboratory with the remainder 
of the samples they had made up. , 

I also telephoned Goodeve, and, as a scientist, he calmly said, 
"If you've succeeded in making it work once you can alwavs 

^ AtThe Laboratory all that evening we fired again and again g 

these targets, testing every inch, probing and dissecting the r . 

ults examining the" structure and extracting fragments, and bY 

late night the problem was solved. The targets had been made up 
in hand-operated mixing plant, and this had given an uneven 
distribution of the granite, thus leaving many places where a 
bullet could penetrate, The armour would have to be made by 
niacin" ne-driven road-mixers, which would always produce an 
even texture. 

I returned to my home feeling happier, but it had been an 
awful fright, and the next day the machine- driven mixers were 
put into operation churning the clean Penlee granite with the 
hot liquid mastic asphalt. The filing results were once again 

Nevertheless, for the time being I deemed it advisable to keep 
clear of the London Docks, and somehow did not want to look 
Jem in the face again. 

During these days the German Air Force were intensifying 
their raids on England — the Rattle of Britain was swinging into 
full force. Hitherto the attacks had been on our Kent and Sussex 
airfields, but on August 26 raiders were bombing London all 
night, and on August 31 our fighter pilots, as we now know, 
destroyed thirty-nine Heinkel and Domic r bombers and damaged 
fourteen of them in the London area. From now on it was a fight 
to the death. 

When I returned in the evenings from my researches at die 
Road Research Station to St John's Wood the skies were criss- 
crossed with seeking searchlights. London was now in the front 
line, with all its citizens, men, women, and children, facing the 
onslaught of a pitiless enemy. 

The docket containing our proposals for the adoption of Plastic 
Armour for merchant ships travelled to Bath in the special com- 
partment reserved for Admiralty documents in the night train and 
guarded by an armed courier. The documents that travelled daily 
in this compartment would be the most precious in England to an 
enemy agent. 

From the train it went to the Admiralty Registry at Bath, and 
in a matter of hours found its way to the desk of the Naval Con- 
structor for his comments. He made them on behalf of his Direc- 
tor, but they were of such an explosive nature that he marked the 
docket back to us in London instead of allowing it to proceed on 
the rounds we had originally ordained — which, at any rate, was 

Goodeve and I read this minute in silent dismay. The Construc- 
tor had made three points: first, that there was plenty of armour 





for His Majesty's ships; second, that there was nothing In my 
experiments which was new; and, third, that they were of no use. 
The report of the Road Research Laboratory had been completely 


" Tli ere was not a word as to the desperate need of onr Merchant 
Navy sailors for protection or the failure of concrete so graphically 
described to me by Captain Selby. _ 

"This docket cannot go on/' said Goodeve slowly. This man 
is the authority on armour in the Navy.'' 

I was bubbling with wrath and quite determined that Plastic 
Armour was going on the ships— and going to get there quick. I 
went to sec the Deputy Director of Naval Construction in the 
Admiralty at Whitehall with the docket and this minute, and 
explained the crisis which had arisen. He listened with the utmost 
sympathy, particularly as he had attended the trials at the Road 
Research Laboratory. In my presence he picked up the telephone 
and spoke to the Naval Constructor at Rath. 

"I t's good material. You must come and see it. Why not come 
up to London now and see firing trials?" 

I could not hear the reply from Bath, but it was clear that it 
was chilled steel. 

Reluctantly the receiver was replaced by the weary Deputy 


" I can do no more," he said simply. 

I returned to Goodeve. The situation called for decisive action, 
and it was Goodeve, with his wider knowledge of Admiralty pro- 
cedure, who proposed a solution. 

"Well go to Excellent" he said. "They will carry out tests and 
report, and nobody in the Navy will dare go against what they 

H.M.S. Excellent at Portsmouth was the gunnery school foi 
carrying out all firing trials. Goodeve knew this, but he was as 
unaware as I was that Excellent had been for several months 
parrying out various firing trials for the Director of Naval Con- 
struction on concrete and other substances. The results, as already 
related, were a failure. , , 

It was luck that took me to the Road Research Station with tac 
first "Insulphate" sample, and it was luck again that took me to 

lll'XrC&llfsTlt ■ 1 

Goodeve telephoned Portsmouth, and was put through to W 
experimental-range officer at PetersBeld, Lieutenant-Commande 
E. R, A. Smith, R.N., who was a gunner. Coodeve, with super 

a plomb, merely said that we wanted to test some samples of 
material against -303 armour-piercing shot, and explained that I 
would like to bring them down. 

"Certainly, sir," said Smith. "Well fix it." 

"I ought to mention," said Goodeve casually, as an after- 
thought, "it's political." 

In the Navy when you state that a subject is 'political' it 
immediately becomes dangerous. You are in conflict with some 
one high up, and issues are no longer simple. Caution becomes the 
watchword, and Smith at once replied to Goodeve, "I'd like you 
to speak to the Commander, sir." 

This Goodeve did, and impressed upon him that the tests were 
necessary. Commander H. N. S. Brown, R.N., breezily offered to 
riddle our targets with holes, and it was duly arranged that I 
should descend upon the range at Petersfield on September 6, 
1940. Time was necessary to make up the targets. 

This time I determined to take no chances. The trials to be 
carried out by Excellent would prove decisive one way or the 
other, and a mistake would be fatal. My experiences at the London 
Docks had shown how easy it was to go wrong with this new 
material. So I arranged with Dr Lee to make five targets in the 
automatic road -mixer, using clean Penlee granite half an incli in 
size, with 50 per cent, granite and 50 per cent, mastic asphalt, in 
accordance with the formula already drafted. I also asked him to 
make a duplicate of each target out of the same mix in each case, 
so that I should have five targets, each having a duplicate of the 
same texture and composition. Before taking my five targets to 
Excellent we shot the duplicates to pieces at the Road Research 
Station's range. Each of the duplicates was tested with armour- 
piercing ammunition at point-blank range and over every inch of 
its surface. The results were perfect, and not a hard bullet core 
even marked the steel backing plates. 

"These targets should now be all right," I said to Lee. "Excel- 
wnt can do its worst." Lee beamed agreement. 

On Friday morning, September 6, 1940, 1 supervised the loading 
of the targets into an Admiralty van and instructed the driver to 
follow my car to Petersfield and never let it out of his sight. Sub- 
Lieutenant Gornold, R.N.V.R., a pleasant young officer from our 
hispectorate, came with me. He wanted some fun, and I badly 
deeded a friend to talk to on the journey. 

We arrived safely at Excelleni's gunnery range at Petersfield, 
Wl )ere a Leaiatif'ul old country house had beeu taken over by the 



ship Lieutenant-Commander Smith met us. He exuded all the 
charm of the old school of the Koyal Navy, although a compara- 
tively young officer. He examined the targets I had brought, 
opened his mouth as if to say something, and then apparently 
thought better. 

With the aid of a stout rating the first target was set up at one 
end of a testing-field, and its backing plate fastened on. The 
rating stayed fairly close to the side of tire target to report results. 
Lieutenant-Commander Smith walked back one hundred yards, 
carrying his rifle, and explained that this was the regulatron dis- 
tance for their tests. We arrived at the firing position. 
He turned to me with a smile. 
" Shall we start with a reduced charge? " he asked. 
This meant that the bullet would have less cordite behind it, 
and so travel slower, with a correspondingly less penetrating 
power— in fact, weaker than the normal cartridge. It also mean! 
that Smith did not think much of the target. 

"I don't think that is necessary," 1 replied slowly, looking the 
Lieutenant-Commander in the face. 

"Right " said Smith cheerfully. "Here she goes. 
He loaded the rifle with a green-rimmed cartridge, indicating 
that it was armour-piercing, aimed at the target, and fired. 

The rating held up a hand, and the Lieutenant-Commander 
picked up his sea glasses and examined the target through them. 
"Clean through," he said, without fear or favour. 
I thought that my heart would die within me, and could not 
look at Gornold— this was the end. 

"Let's go and look," suggested the Lieutenant-Commander 

pleasantly. , , 

I assented with a nod, but as we walked up to the target my 

feet felt like lead. , i 

We examined the result, and there was no doubt the shot tiaa 
made an inch-and-a-half crater on the outside surface of the target 
and whistled happily through. 

Then I saw the' reason, and only Naval discipline prevented my 
thro wine- my cap in the air and giving three rousing cheers, the 
hacking plate was a little shorter than the target, leaving an area 
at the bottom of two feet wide by six inches high without plate. 
The shot had struck this area, and, there being no backing pl&h, 
at this point to hold the granite and so spread the shock, it tW 
naturally gone through, I explained the vital function of the bat*, 
ing plate in this new'armour to the Lieutenant-Commander, *W 



3 t once understood, and we went back to fire again — I found it 
easy walking on the springy turf. 

All that autumn afternoon Lieutenant-Commander Smith fired 
a t my five targets as each was set up with its backing. At the first 
crack of the rifle the rooks rose with indignant caws from the old 
elm- tree bordering the hedges. The sun glinted golden on mellow- 
ing leaves with their first tinge of russet red. 

It was triumph — triumph — triumph all the way. 

Taking me back over the years, there lies before me the report 
of the Captain of H.M.S. Excellent, dated Saturday, September 7, 
1940, of the trial on that memorable afternoon and recording in 
detail die result of each shot. 

The first target was o ne -and- three;- qu a rter- inch-thick Plastic 
Armour with one-quarter-in ch mild-steel backing. Four rounds 
were fired, and three made no mark on the back of the steel plate; 
the fourth bullet broke, and the point of the core just showed 
through the back of the steel. .All bullet cores had broken in the 

The second target was two-inch-thick Plastic Armour with 
tliree-sixteenths-of-an-ineh mild-steel backing. Four rounds were 
fired, and there were no marks on the back of the steel plate. All 
the bullet cores broke up in the plastic. 

The third target was one-and-a-half-inch-thick Plastic Armour 
widi one-quarter-inch steel backing. Three shots were fired, leav- 
ing no marks on the back of the steel plate, and all bullet cores 
were broken up in the plastic. 

The fourth target was two-inch- thick Plastic Armour with 
three-quarters -of- an-inch wood backing. My reason for having a 
wooden backing was to produce a completely non-magnetic 
armour, which would not a fleet die compass of a ship although 
placed near it. Wood backing was not nearly so efficient in its 
action with the plastic as steel. Three shots were fired, one of 
which had to be discarded as it struck a scoop made by a previous 
shot. The other two failed to penetrate. 

The fifth and final target consisted of one-and-three-quarter- 
ln ch -thick Plastic Armour with similar wooden backing to the 
fourth target. This target was of critical thickness. Three shots 
Were fired, one being discarded as it struck the top edge, and the 
other two had their cores broken up in the plastic. 

Lieu tenant- Commander Smith laid down his rifle and wiped a 
Seated face with his handkerchief. 

I've done my best against Plastic Armour," he said to me, 


with his slow, winning smile. "I can do no more. It's beaten 

"we picked up our gear and wended our way bach to the house. 
I gave a last backward glance at the targets lying on the sward as 
the sun set in a crimson- flecked cloud. They had served me well, 
As we entered the house we met Commander Brown, who 
raised his eyebrows in interrogation to Smith. Smith jerked up his 
thumb in the Roman sign. 
"Terrell's done it," he said. 

We fed on nectar and ambrosia, but I was told it was strong 
tea and rather thick bread-and-butter. 

Then Lieutenant-Commander Smith prepared his draft report. 
He set out the eomposition of Plastic Armour, stressed that lie 
backing was essential, and commented that all small grit must he 
eliminated from the granite chips. In a few terse sentences he 
commented on the failure of concrete and gave reasons-too 
brittle and the bullet could find a path through. There were no 
rebounds from Plastic Armour, and the angle of ricochet was 
about 52 degrees to the normal. The armour showed no tendency 
to crack. Efforts to ignite it with bio w-1 amps failed. 
He then wrote: 

There is no doubt that Plastic Armour is very greatly 
superior to any other non-magnetic material (excluding non- 
magnetic bullet-proof steel) so far tried, and it ^most strongly 
recommended that the fitting of concrete protection should he 
discontinued and Plastic Armour fitted m place. 
The significance of the words "so far tried" were lost on me at 

die lime. , t , T . , *-.„,, 

The full report was to be sent to the Director of Mava Urn 

struetion at Bath, and with most unchristian spirit 1 hoped tha > 

Monday. September 9, it would be on his desk, where he cou W 
digest fi full import. A copy was to be sent to the Admirahy m 
London. In all my years of service in the Royal Navy 1 neve, sm 
such a strong report. - w 

Gomold and I returned to London through a clear, fW*W* 
\, we stood on the high ground overlooking the coast and Sol » 
ampton the searchlights sought in brilliant penci s tor the h dd » 
aircraft humming overhead, and various star shells illuminate 
the dark, indicating local disturbances. 

The next morning, Saturday, September 7 I ^/reported* 
Goodeve the results of the trial at Excf ^d .J erme d - 
that a first-class report was on the way to Rath, and that a cO W 


would be sent to us. We discussed at length the procedure to be 
adopted in the light of this information. 

We had been much cheered that week by the news diat Win- 
ston Churchill had successfully negotiated with President Roose- 
velt the transfer of fifty old destroyers from the United States 
Navy in exchange for leases of naval and air bases in British 
Guiana and the West Indies, with leases of similar facilities in 
Newfoundland and Bermuda as a gift. Goodeve thought that the 
destroyers would be in pretty bad condition, but we agreed that it 
would immeasurably strengthen our naval escorts. I could but feel 
that the business had been carried out by a curious legal fiction. 
We paid nothing ill cash for the destroyers, we never intended to 
return them, the United States did not want them back, but the 
President had no powers to give them. So obviously the lawyers 
had been to work, and the result was highly satisfactory. 

That day and night the sirens wailed again and again. One of 
the greatest air raids to date of the War was launched by Goering 
against London. The glare of searchlights, the crump of exploding 
bombs, with the reflection of great fires lit by incendiaries, went 
on all night. The Heinkels 113 and Dormers 215 droned cease- 
lessly in the sky. But there was little or no gunfire. The defence 
was based upon the Air Force, but people crouching in shelters 
longed for the reassuring thunder of our guns. Not realizing the 
strategy of the battle, the men and women of London passionately 
desired to hit back, and the firing of guns would have told them 
that we were flitting back. Four hundred citizens were killed and 
over fifteen hundred seriously injured; civilian defence was in 
action and stretched to the limit. Our pilots went up in Spitfires 
and Hurricanes in a never-ending attack with blazing cannon, and 
the world was told, as was thought at the time true, that no less 
than ninety-nine aircraft from the Luftwaffe were brought down, 
but, as we now 7 know, the loss was in fact forty destroyed and 
thirteen damaged. We lost twenty- two fighters, but nine of (heir 
pilots were saved. England at bay was fighting all she knew, and 
the immortal story of the Royal Ah Force was blazoned forth to 
every corner of the globe where we could count on friends. 




Plastic Armour goes on the Skips 

Sunday, September S, 1940, was again a day of intermittent: raids, 
With the full force of the Luftwaffe let loose at night on London. 
The traditional English week-end of rest was not to bo observed 
by Hitler and Goering. 

Watching the searchlights at their restless task was fascinating, 
particularly when they caught a bomber in the rays. In the shel- 
ters men and women dozed, but there was no panic or fear. Once 
again a heavy bag of planes had been brought down during the 

d a y- 

Qti Monday morning Goodeve and I strolled along some of the 
streets adjacent to the Admiralty. Here and there it was as if some 
giant had torn a gaping hole in a tidy row of houses and cast down 
the debris with a gesture of contempt, with rubble and glass lying 
scattered in great heaps on the pavements. It was then that we 
discovered the interesting phenomenon that the blast of a bomb 
would draw out a great pane of glass instead of blowing it in; this 
was due to recoil of the explosion. 

During the day we received the copy of the report which 
Excellent had sent to Bath, and Goodeve read it. 

"We must strike while the iron is hot," I said to him, and, with 
the document, went to see Captain Selby. 

The Captain read the report, his face clearing with ever- 
growing satisfaction. ^ 

"I'll call a meeting at once of shipping interests," he said with 

The meeting was duly called for 2.30 p.m. on September U, 
and the Captain took the chair. The Director of Merchant-slap 
Repairs was represented by Mr M. T. Butterwick and Mr J. Rob- 
son. Mr F. W. Daniel appeared for the Ministry of Shipping 
Goodeve and I were there in full force. 

Mr Butterwick was not entirely in the picture, and he straight 
away asked if it was Admiralty policy to substitute Plastic Armour 
for concrete as protection on merchant ships. I had no idea wha 
Admiralty policy was, as the Director of Naval Construction a 

gath had scarcely had time even to consider Excellent' s report, 
and no Sea Lord knew what I had been up to, nor the results of 
the experiments. Captain Selby waved his long right arm in 
characteristic gesture and firmly remarked that the new material 
was vastly superior to concrete, and that the: Admiralty was con- 
vinced that there was a strong case for making the change. I 
thought that it was very fine to be a reaf Navaf Captain with four 
gold stripes and fay down a policy and law which would affect 
thousands of great ships. The Captain had the grand air. 

After this pronouncement the meeting settled into a committee 
of ways and means, and I laid down certain proposals. 

In my previous discussions with Goodeve we had agreed that 
v/e had no intention of allowing the task of armouring the fleets 
to fall into other hands. The formula for Plastic Armour was a 
delicate one, as I had discovered to my cost, and strict control of 
manufacture was most necessary. Further, we had to discover the 
best way of applying the armour to ships. It was unusual even in 
the Navy to pour on to a ship a hot liquid which, when it solidi- 
fied, would give, weight for weight, an armour superior in bullet 
and splinter resistance to steel. There was also, in addition to 
these cogent reasons, another and more personal motive which 
neither of us cared to mention. Since Admiral Somerville's depar- 
ture to Oran we had hy hook and crook carried on in his name. 
Now we had something really solid to show, and, with the 
armouring of ships with our new process in our own hands, no 
other department would attempt to dislodge or acquire us. As 
Goodeve said to me a little later, they would have eaten us up, but 
no one could swallow Plastic Armour — it was too indigestible. 

The meeting therefore discussed proposals that: 

1. Factories to make Plastic Armour should be created in 

every great port. These should be operated by private 
firms now engaged in the road industry and which had 
all the necessary plant lying idle. 

2, These firms would be supplied with the formula, and 

should make the armour by casting on the structure of 
the ship, and also manufacture steel-backed plates to be 
erected in position on vital parts. 

S. Our Inspectorate should supervise and test the manufac- 
ture, using the facilities of the Road Research Labora- 
tory to assist. 

4. Captain Selhy's department should issue instructions at 
once upon the subject to all merchant-ship owners. 

The Triumph of Plastic Armour 

On September 11, 1940, Winston Churchill in a broadcast to the 
world blazed defiance at Hitler; 

Onr shores are well fortified and strongly manned, and be- 
hind them, ready to attack the invaders, we have a far larger 
and better equipped mobile army than we have ever had be- 
fore — and we have one million five hundred thousand men of 
the Home Guard— they are determined to fight for every inch 
of the grourid in every village and every street — with devout 
but sure confidence. Let God defend the right. 
This was good and in the spirit of Elizabeth Tudor when she 
addressed her massed troops at Tilbury, Our situation was now 
even more grave, and the great fighting speech roused the nation 
to a desperate stand, as in the last century die call of the bugle 
rallied the Thin red line.' 

But as the invading operation "Sea Lion" hung in the balance 
what would Hitler have given to know the real truth about our 
defences? To throw all on one cast of the dice and finish, or wait 
and starve England into abject surrender by U-boat warfare? "To 
be or not to be, that is the question/' As we now know, this tor- 
turing decision agonized the tyrant who had crushed Erance and 
driven our army to Dunkirk. 

We at the Admiralty knew that the cupboard was bare and that 
there were no guns for the Army, no rifles for tire Home Guard, 
and no cartridges to load the magazines, "Give them pikes," sug- 
gested Lord Croft in an indiscreet aside. As the Battle of Britain 
flared on, and while the Royal Air Force brought down its quota 
of bombers day and night, the Navy waited and waited for the 
invasion signal — which never, never came. 

Meanwhile I pressed on with the urgent and immediate tasks 
tli at fell on my shoulders as a result of the invention of Plastic 

I had placed some plates of the armour in our room in tffiS 
Admiralty for exhibition to officers, and was able to show the 



rruiterial now being produced at the laboratories. A Naval officer 
loves to see and feel a thing for himself. Somewhat to my surprise, 
returning one morning, I found a large, emblazoned notice stuck 
{jito one of the plates by a drawing-pin, and with the information, 
"This is the only armour in the world in which a pin can be stuck." 
fjorway, witli impish humour, had discovered that a pin could be 
inserted into the mastic asphalt between the chips of Penlee 
granite. How many had seen it 1 did not know. 

"Fine advertisement," I growled at him. 

"My dear chap," he replied, "one unique quality will sell an 
invention, and you didn't know this could be done. If it fails as 
annour, make it up into pincushions! I shall claim a royalty." 

The card came down forthwith, and I made Norway pay for 

It was high time I departed for Glasgow, where Laurie was 
heavily engaged with the first ship. We had kept in close touch 
with each other, morning and evening, on the telephone, but as 
we were speaking on open lines it was desirable to Be guarded in 
our speech. 

At Glasgow I reported to the Flag Officer in charge, and then 
proceeded to the dock and found Laurie, Dr Lee, and Mr 
Waters, his assistant, as busy as bees with the ship. The Limmer 
and Trinidad cooker for beating and churning up mastic asphalt 
with the granite was alongside and working hard. As mixes were 
ready the molten mass was convey eel into buckets and poured into 
the space between the wooden shuttering, which had been 
erected, and the steel front of the bridge. Men stood with long 
poles on the roof of the bridge and pressed or tamped it down 
into a compact mass so that there were no air bubbles left. In a 
few hours it would harden into a shell tougher than steel. The shell 
was four inches thick, in accordance with instructions. 

On the dockside stood a little red-faced man in a battered felt 
hat, who was introduced by Laurie as the Master of the newly 
built ship, He had not as yet donned uniform. 

'T hope, Captain," I said, "you are going to like this armour." 

He gave a derisive grin. 

It seems funny to me," he replied, "to be pouring on black 
porridge and expect it to stop anything. Look what's happened to 

If this sort of thin"' was going to be said it would damn Plastic 
Armour from the point of view of morale. 

I noticed a steel-backed plate of Plastic Armour lying along the 



properties? Where had the work been done? How was it that his 
firm was handed the formula ready and complete on a plate and 
had not been called in earlier? 

"I should be grateful if you would visit the Road Research 
Station as soon as possible to master details. The screening of the 
granite is very important I should like you to operate at Glasgow 
and Hull ," I said to him. 

Wc shook hands, he replaced his hat, which he wore cock-eyed, 
and jauntily rolled down the passage, firmly grasping the specifi- 
cation to his heart with both hands. 

All that day was spent in giving instructions to the road-makers 
and allocating them areas. Besides at London we decided to 
manufacture and fit ships at Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Glasgow, 
Cardiff, Falmouth, and Southampton— an imposing array of ports, 
The time dearly had come to assemble inspecting officers and 
train them in the work. My first body was Sub-Lieutenant A. H. 
Laurie, of [he Volunteer Reserve, who wore on his breast the rare 
white ribbon of a polar expedition. Volatile in imagination and 
desperately keen, he immediately reported to the Road Research 
Laboratory, where he was found by Mr Marriott in his shirt- 
sleeves violently hammering away with a mallet at a plate of 
Plastic Armour with a view to breaking it up. Mr Marriott, who 
greatly approved of physical effort by others, was most impressed, 
and for ever regarded Laurie with tender solicitude. 

I had applied to the department of the Second Sea Lord tor 
officers, and one morning, headed by Lieutenant-Commander 
Hall R.N.R., they all came trooping in. I was nonplussed: Hall, a 
master in the Merchant Navy serving in the Reserve, 
senior officer, so how could 1 take him into my command, tJie 
problem was solved by the ready tact of Hall, who was most 
anxious to take die appointment. 

"We will assume that all your orders to me are given by Com- 
mander Goodeve," he said. "I will obey them." 

This was a fiction that appealed to my professional mstmct ana 
he was signed on to the strength. I assigned him to Liverpool, tfte 
most important port next to London, and there he faithfully serveu 
during most of the War. He armoured thousands of ships ana 
never failed in any instance to do his work well and efficiently. 

The first trial fitting of a ship was arranged at Glasgow on on 
of the newly built Empire class of 15,000 tons. 1 sent Laurie « 
die job, and asked Dr Lee and Mr D. B. Waters, from the Roaa 
Research Station, to go with him. Mr Marriott undertook the m 



manufacture. I gave instructions that, as an experiment, the 
bridge was to be 'shuttered' all over with four inches' thickness 
f Plastic Armour. This meant that a wooden structure of planks 
was to be built up at four inches from the steel front of the bridge 
and hot Plastic Armour poured in between the steel and wood. As 
it was poured in it: would be well tamped down, and when the 
mixture had cooled and solidified the wood was to be removed. 
The result would be a smooth layer of Plastic Armour cast all 
round the bridge, leaving only open slits as look-outs for the 
helmsman and officers of the watch. 

It was Captain Selby who had suggested four inches' thickness 
of Plastic Armour for the bridges of these large merchant ships. 

"We've got to foresee the future," he said to me, with his cus- 
tomary arm-wave. "The beggars are now using -303 armour- 
piercing stuff, and I know that two inches of Plastic Armour will 
give immunity to that. But they won't stop there. The next step 
will be twenty-millimetre armour- piercing cannon from their 
bombers. If we don't fit four inches now we'll have to start armour- 
ing all over again." 

How wise and right the Captain proved to be. That is just what 
the Luftwaffe in fact did, but they could not get through four 
inches of Plastic Armour — it was tough, 

I intended to follow to Glasgow in a few days, but organization 
in London occupied my every moment. 

I needed mild steel for the backing of the armour that was to 
be manufactured in plates in the factories. There was precious 
little steel in the country of any kind, and the stocks were guarded 
by a high official armed with wide powers. 

"We've got no steel," he said, in answer to my plea. "Try 
making the armour without it." 

"Impossible," I replied. "I'm saving plate in doing this." 

It was Mr Bussell who came to the rescue and insisted that I 
should have my steel. I obtained it. 

By this time raids on London at night were almost continuous, 
hut now a great barrage of guns thrilled us to the core. The 
thunder of the anti-aircraft reply to enemy planes had opened 
early in September, and night after night windows rattled and 
doors shook to the gunfire. In die dark sky shells burst with vivid 
re d flashes, and fragments whistled by, to fall on pavement or 
f oof-top with metallic clangs. Once a large fragment brushed my 
shoulder, and I was glad of the security given to my head by my 
naval helmet. 


most helpful, the basic invention was mine, and that there was no 
justification for joining the Road Research Laboratory in t3 le 

Goodeve accepted this view, but urged that it was important 
to receive the co-operation of the Road Research Laboratory and 
Dr Glanvillc in the future development of the invention. The three 
of us met and discussed the matter, but Dr Glanville persisted in 
all good faith in his claim. After some consideration I replied: 

There is only one thing that matters, and that is the further- 
ance of the war effort, I agree to your name being added to 
the patent. 

This agreement did result in close co-operation between Dr 
Glanvillc and myself in planning the great work of armouring our 
ships. One may be right, but there are sometimes more important 
issues than being right. 

Nevertheless I considered myself the sole inventor, as was. in 
fact, judicially decided after the War by the Royal Commission 
on Awards to Inventors, after a full hearing of all the evidence 
and investigation of the relevant documents. 

I duly assigned all my patent rights to the Admiral [y by a most 
imposing document. This assignment, by reason of various legal 
delays, did not take place until November 6, 1941, when I signed 
the deed and also obtained Glanv file's signature. The deed 
assigned all rights in the invention to "The Commissioners for 
Executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United King- 
dom of Great Britain and Ireland" There was an Elizabethan 
flavour about this title which highly tickled my palate. I could 
see the Lord High Admiral, Howard of Effingham, in ruff and 
rapier, drinking a goblet of canary with John Hawkins in the 
great poop cabin, while planning some piratical raid on the sacred 
dominions of Philip of Spain. 

Copies of the complete specification of Plastic Armour were 
now prepared and marked "Most Secret." Mr F. Dale Russell, the 
stout and genial Deputy Director of Contracts at the Admiralty, 
who had been taking a keen and active interest in my project, 
prepared a formal letter of appointment for the manufacturers. 

The first manufacturer I invited to come and see me was M? 
Thompson, of Durastic Ritmninous Products, Ltd. This was oni| 
fair, as there was no doubt that it was his original "Insulphate 
which had led me to invent Plastic Armour. I gave him the speci- 
fication and invited him to select any area in England in whicn 
to manufacture and fit ships. After consideration he selected tire 



London area, and asked to be the sole manufacturer in this port. 
I felt, however, that, in the national interest, this could not be 
allowed, as London was still the greatest port in the world and 
subject to constant bombing; his factory might at any moment be 
put clean out of action, but the work would still have to go on. I 
explained to him that for this reason another firm would also have 
to be appointed. Further, his firm was very small and would not 
have the capital resources to cope with the volume of work which 
would have to be done. Even with only half the work of London 
to do, this situation did, in fact, arise, but through the open- 
handed Mr Bussell, of the Admiralty, we were able to arrange all 
the necessary financial support. 

I considered that Mr Thompson and his firm deserved substan- 
tial recognition for the part that they had played in the inception 
of Plastic Armour, and made it my special business to sec that 
they got it. They manufactured Plastic Armour in ever-increasing 
quantities thron gho ut the War . 

The next visitor on my list was rubicund and expansive Mr Tom 
Marriott, the managing director of the Limmer and Trinidad Lake 
Asphalt Company, Ltd, of Grosvenor Place, London, the great 
road- makers with tentacles reaching all over the British Isles and 
vast interests in the bitumen lake in Trinidad. His salary was 
probably twenty times my pay as a Lieutenant, and his office laid 
with deep carpets, but at the call of the State he stepped into my 
little bare-boarded annexe, placed his hat on the table, pursed his 
lips, and said, "Well, Lieutenant Terrell, what can I have the 
pleasure of doing for you?" 

I explained the failure of concrete as protection in our ships and 
handed him die specification for Plastic Armour, which he read. 
I could see deep interest, growing and growing, and his eyes get- 
ting larger and larger. He read carefully to the end and said 
simply, "This is right up our street. We have the plant, the 
machines, and the men. You have only to command us, and we 
shall be proud to play our part in this noble work." 

These words came from his heart, for at last the opportunity to 
serve the Royal Navy at a time of great national anxiety and need 
had come to his firm. 

He was most intrigued at the use of Penlee granite, and I could 
se e the questions waiting to pop out like peas from a ripe pod. 
Our process was similar in many ways to that used by his firm in 
JQad-making, and they were world-famous pioneers in the work. 
Who had invented this material and discovered its bullet-resist ins: 



As I entered the city that night my car was twice stopped by 
wardens because of rumours of land-mines floating down on para, 
chutes a short distance ahead. With a wholesome respect for t]- le 
explosive qualities of these monsters, my driver made detours and 
returned me safely to St John's Wood. The raids were in fuS 
swing, and the report reached me that a house a short distance 
from mine had been struck. This was my old sector, and, still feel, 
ing a moral responsibility, I donned my naval hehnet and, with 
the new warden for the sector, went to investigate. We found that 
an incendiary bomb had penetrated the roof and was lying be- 
tween joists glowing with hellish white heat through the plaster 
of a bedroom ceiling. It was only a question of a short time before 
the whole house would blaze. The warden tore down plaster as I 
stood underneath the bomb and passed him buckets of sand, 
which he poured on, thus extinguishing it. This was the first time 
we had faced such a problem, but the lessons of Civil Defence 
during the past year proved their value. It was the sort of incident 
that now was happening all over London: the men and women of 
Civil Defence had come into their own and were saving precious 
lives and the city from a holocaust of fire. 

I now set to work with the Road Research Laboratory on a 
complete and detailed specification for Plastic Armour. I had 
started with 50 per cent, of Penlee granite, 43 per cent, limestone 
mineral, and 7 per cent, bitumen. We were now able to increase 
the percentage of Penlee granite to 55 per cent, and reduce the 
percentage of limestone in proportion. 

The mixture of bitumen and limestone was a norma] road- 
making mastic asphalt, and we were thus able to specify the 
British Standards, which were well settled in the industry, both as 
to detail of composition and the temperature at which these 
should be mixed in the cookers. This was between 450 and 500 
degrees Fahrenheit. The grading of the Penlee granite was not so 
easy, for it was clear that it must be clean, with all grit eliminated, 
but we settled on the dimensions of the sieves through which it 



would have to pass. The mixtures would have to be well tamped 
when being fittedround abridge. 

We decided that the bridges of our ships were the most vital 
part to be armoured, and, as the steel structure to form the back- 
ing plate was already there, it was only necessary to face this stee 
structure with Plastic Armour. Machine-gun and other position 5 
could be protected by plates made in factories on land. 

I obtained from Dr Glanville a list of the most important road- 

making firms in the country, as clearly, with all their knowledge 
f r oad-making, they were the most suitable companies to employ, 
a nd the prospect of their industry armouring the merchant fleets 
f the Allies would appeal to then patriotism. Further, road- 
making and -repairing had virtually ceased since the outbreak of 
^ar, and mixers and plant were lying idle. This was just the 
machinery for the job. 

The situation was, however, not so easy. This process had to be 
rigidly controlled, as deviation from the specification might prove 
fatal. J had to prevent any outside firm from putting a colourable 
imitation on ships, and the Admiralty had to retain complete con- 
trol of both manufacture and fitting. We could not afford a repeti- 
tion of the disasters that followed the use of concrete as protec- 

I considered that this policy could be achieved by two methods. 
First, the Admiralty should have a secret patent on the invention, 
wHch, so far as I knew, was entirely novel, and, second, we 
should have a trained officer in each large port to supervise and 
test Plastic Armour as it was being fitted to the ships. Detailed 
organization would be necessary, as ships would sail into port, 
unload, and sail out again as soon as possible, and the fitting 
would have to be achieved with all speed in the turn round. 

I discussed the proposal for a patent with Goodeve, and he 
agreed that it was necessary in the circumstances that I should 
apply for a patent which could, under Emergency Regulations, be 
kept secret and, in accordance with Service procedure^ be assigned 
by me to the Admiralty. Plus proposal was put in the usual docket 
and approved of by Sir Bruce Fraser. 

A difficulty now arose, I discussed the draft patent with the 
Road Research Laboratory, as was natural, and a specification was 
drawn up and sent to Mr A. j. Edwards, the Admiralty Patents 
Officer. Dr Glanville, however, wrote to me on September 20 and 
msisted emphatically that his name should be included in the 
Patent. I was unable to agree with this proposal and did not con- 
sider if right. Dr Glanville and the Boad Research Laboratory 
had been most helpful, and their co-operation had proved of great 
value. But I had conceived the idea of granite chips in mastic 
asphalt with the vital steel backing, and brought these ideas to 
t^ern. A patent involved definite inventive steps and, rightly or 

Ottgly, I considered these were mine. 

Mr Edwards was consulted and, after scanning the documents, 
le expressed the view in writing that, while the" Laboratory was 





o. We should undertake the fitting of a ship newly con- 
structed at Fort Glasgow with the armour as an experi- 
6. We should investigate the effect of creep— that is, the 
melting and seeping away of the bitumen in the mix- 
ture, due to the hot temperature our ships would have 
to face in the tropics. 
Goodeve was disturbed by this last point, but f had already 
discussed it with Dr Glanville, and, with the scientific information 
at the disposal of the Road Research Laboratory concerning road 
surfaces, I felt happy about it. 

This was all agreed, but there was a good deal of hesitation 
around the table at giving us control of manufacture and the 
fitting of ships, and taking them out of the hands o£ the proper 
departments, and this was understandable. 1 had been in the 
Navy about two and a half months, and the fitting of all our 
merchant ships with armour was a gigantic enterprise for an 
unknown Lieutenant of the Reserve. As it turned out, this work 
never ceased over the Allied part of the world until the final 
invasion of Normandy and the unconditional surrender of Japan. 
We took the hint from Captain Selby and did not press the 
matter, but, as Goodeve observed to me on leaving the meeting, 
"When the first ship is fitted— we shall see, we shall see." 

The time had come to cope with the specialist in armour lurk- 
ing in his lair at Bath and ready to pounce if given the oppor- 
tunity. The downright actions of Captain Selby had immensely 
strengthened our position, but diere still existed that devastating 
minute signed for the Director of Naval Construction. I argued 
with Goodeve that we should send on the docket and enclose the 
report of Excellent with the original report from the Road Re- 
search Laboratory, The docket with our proposals would then 
proceed through' the departments to the Third Sea Lord ^ e 
Controller of the Navy, and Excellent'* report should end the 
matter. Goodeve thought otherwise. 

"You can never finish off a well-established civil servant, i> e 
said, perhaps wisely. 

So he telephoned the Director of Naval Construction himself ^ 
Bath to discuss matters and the modus operandi, ft was clear tlia 
by this time Excellent'*; report had already reached its mark an 
was having due effect. 

Agreement was reached with the Director that an entirely n^ ^ 
docket should be initiated by us with a similar minute and p u 

forward to him. The same date was used, and Sir Stanley Goodall, 
the Director, personally signed a new minute. This minute;, while 
n0 t exactly praising Plastic Armour, did not damn it beyond recall, 
an d with that we had to be satisfied. The Bath Department was 
retreating, but in sullen order. I learned that before you are 
allowed to face the enemy you have to contend with your friends 
— it is one of the basic rules of warfare. 

The fate of the original docket was most mysterious: it: vanished 
into thin air and never showed its face again. Every kind of 
search was made for it both in London and in Bath, at the time 
and after the War, but no trace beyond a copy of our original 
minute could be found. Stringent inquiries were made everywhere 
—but no docket. We handled it, saw it, and read it; and then it 
was no more. 

Various minutes, laudatory of Plastic Armour, were put on the 
second docket hy departments who were our friends, and it went 
to Rear-Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, who approved of the new 
armour on behalf of the Board of Admiralty, thus granting official 
sanction to its manufacture. 

Meanwhile I was instituting tests of Plastic Armour for resis- 
tance to heat and resulting creep of bitumen at the Road Research 
Laboratory, and within a "few days Dr Glanville gave a clean bill 
of health and assured me that tropical heat would not materially 
affect the new armour. He had carried out extensive tests in the 
hot ovens at the Laboratory at the highest temperature that would 
be reached in the tropics. 

During these visits of mine to the Road Research Station I took 
the opportunity of calling on my elder brother, Tom, stationed at 
Northolt Aerodrome. He had woo the Distinguished Service Cross 
as a Naval Observer, and also served in the Royal Flying Corps 
in the First World War, and had now donned the uniform of the 
Royal Air Force. We dined in the mess with a young Polish fighter 
pilot, who casually observed that he had brought "down six Ger- 
man bombers that day, but had lost his plane and could not get 
another. He seemed very sad, and I then realized how short the 
su PpIy of fighters must' be. The Battle of Britain had not yet 
reached its zenidi. 

As my brother and I bade farewell we heard the distant sirens 
j 1 * London starting their evening wail, and it was with grim dis- 
taste that 1 set out for the bomb-pitted city. 

I m glad I'm here," said my brother, as he relumed to the fi "liter 
s tatio n that was in the forefront of the battle. "It's peaceful" 



dockside and examined it, I was beginning to tell with half an 
eye whether the mixture was right. 

' "Got a rifle, Captain," 1 said to the Master, "with some ammu- 
nition? " 

He trotted oil to his cabin and brought back a Service rifle with 
some rounds. I at once saw that they were normal lead bullets, 
and not armour-piercing ammunition. He had no knowledge of 
the green-rimmed cartridges. 

I'll show him something, I thought to myself, and set the plate 
up as a target on the quayside. 

I fired several of the rounds at the target at fifteen yards' dis- 
tance, and the bullets, being ordinary lead with nickel easing, 
flattened out against the Plastic Armour and scarcely made an 

"Well, I never!" said the Master, deeply moved and his eyes 
bulging as he looked at the target. "Some stuff, by gum!" 
Yes, I thought, tins story will run round the docks like wildfire. 
However, I merely pointed out that, whereas this target was 
only two inches thick, he was getting four inches on his bridge 
and two and a half inches in plates round the guns. I tacked 
around with him to see if he bad heard of armour-piercing bullets, 
but it was evident nothing like that had come his way. It seemed 
wise to leave well alone, and I left him still examining the target 
to see what magic had produced this result from black porridge. 

London was calling, and I had to leave Laurie and Lee to work 
out details and carry on, as clearly it was my duty to devote all 
my energy to organization. Before leaving I had the temerity to 
ring up Sir James Lithgow, the; shipowner, who was at that time 
Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding and a Lord Commissioner of 
the Board of Admiralty. I told him that we were experimenting 
with one of his ships, and he said he would meet me on the mg it 
train to London and we would travel together. We accordingly 
met and discussed the new invention. 

A raw Northern man, bristling with moustache and emphatic 
force, he impressed on me that we were not to play about with his 


"There's no labour and no steel," he thrust at me. 

"We don't want steel for this job," I said placatingly. Weil, 
perhaps a little bit for backing plates-but that's all. We hope to 
save you steel." 

The great businessman was immediately mollified. 

"That's good— very good. But don't complicate matters— keep 



it simple — and," he thundered, "don't delay my ships — they've got 
t0 get out." 

We parted on the best of terms, and I returned to my sleeping- 
compartment, but I had lent him my lighter, and he quite forgot 
to return it. Steel or no steel, on the exchange I was a lighter 

Upon returning to London I arranged with Captain Selby to 
start fitting a ship at Hull with Plastic Armour, and requested 
Lane to proceed there with all dispatch. Hall and the other 
officers were still absorbed in learning the chemical process of 
making the armour, and it did not seem safe to let them loose just 
yet. The responsibility of this new work made us anxious, but 
Lane was to be relied upon. Lane, not unnaturally, demurred, 

"Look, sir, at these piles of information untouched," he said, 
pointing to great stacks of papers. 

"Bother information," I replied, being on with the new love and 
off with the old. 

"It's information that got us here," was Lane's parting shot as 
he packed up for Hull. 

On September 17, 1940, the Director of Naval Construction, by 
a docket, proposed a whole series of further trials by H.M.S. 
Excellent before the new material be adopted for ships. These 
were delaying tactics, but the wheels were moving much too fast 
for any such action to be effective. Another great department, 
that of the Director of Training and Staff Duties, took a hand in 
the game, and immedia lely replied that, while he raised no objec- 
tion to further trials, Plastic Armour had amply demonstrated its 
value, and could be put to many uses in merchant ships and 
auxiliary war vessels. This was carrying the war into the enemy's 
camp with a vengeance, as war vessels meant 'white-ensign' ships 
—the exclusive province of the Director of Naval Construction. 

Meanwhile manufacture was started in London by Mr Thomp- 
son, who set up a factory for making plates for gun positions. By 
hook or by crook' — and far be it from me to say which — he ob- 
tained mechanical cookers, and work was started at King George's 
Dock in 'shuttering' the bridges of a few ships with Plastic 
Armour. Southampton came next; and then Liverpool, under the 
parental care of Hall, opened up operations with a swing. 

Captain Selby decided that for the moment we should leave 
concrete where it was fitted, and not replace it with Plastic 
Armour. The undertaking to manufacture the armour and fit it 
to ships at all ports of size was so huge that it would be all that 


we could manage, and, bad as the concrete was, it still gave some 
small measure of protection. Within a month or so we should have 
got into the rhythm, and then the project of replacement could be 

considered anew. 

The work of fitting ships with protection was normally under- 
taken by a port officer from Trade Division under the authority of 
Selby and I had to slip my newly trained officers, gently and 
eunnimvlv, into each port organization. Naval officers always hate 
Having responsible work taken from them, but in this case it was 
necessary that we, and we alone, should do the work. All went 
well except in the case of London. My officer for this purpose was 
Lieutenant Harris, of the Volunteer Reserve. He was blue-eyed 
and a colonial, who had spent most of his life on the frontiers of 
hot lands, and the seams in his face showed the eifects of hie ui 
tropical suns. Unfortunately, an Irish Commander of the Naval 
Reserve with fierce and unrelenting opposition, would not al low- 
Harris to take charge of armouring ships on their turn round. He 
claimed that, having always done it, it was still his job. 

I went down to the port with Harris and argued the matter with 
the Captain in charge of Defence of Ships, who swayed from my 
side to the Commander's side and back again as each stated his 
case Finally the dispute was patched up, and a compromise pi 
functions between the Commander and Harris was reached 
Within one day, however, war broke out again between the two 1 
was satisfied that all Harris wanted to do was to get on with the 
job as rapidly as possible. After all, he was the trained officer in 
the new art. So this time I went with Harris to Captain Selby and 
laid a complaint. . „ , 

SelbY was very angry, and I had scarcely finished befoie Ins 
lon^ right arm seized the telephone and he was talking to MS 
Commander in no uncertain naval terms and threatening mm 

with dismissal . i r i 

There was no more trouble, but I warned Hams to be caretui, 

and he and the Commander presently became good iriends- 

which is a way in the Navy. _, 

I now seemed to live on the telephone at our office. Steel nan. 

to be ordered for one ship, a cooker obtained for another, arid the 

Penlee quarry in Cornwall galvanized into more production o 

screened granite for clamouring firms. The officers responsible > 

the ports and the manufacturing firms referred to me to sol 

every difficulty as it arose, as if I could wave a * a gf ~^ 

denly and without the necessary years of training, I had becom 



managing d hector of a great and rapidly growing business, vvith 
orders pouring in left, right, and centre. 

One of the first things I instituted was a system of reports from 
jny officers as to which ships were fitted with Plastic Armour, 
when it was fitted, and what vital parts of the ship were fitted, 
whether bridge, chart-house, gun position, or wireless cabin. The 
thickness of Plastic Armour had in each case to be given. These 
reports proved invaluable. Later, in one case, Selby sent mc a 
caustic minute as to bullets penetrating the Plastic Armour bridge 
protection of a particular ship when attacked, and I was able to 
reply from ray reports that it was not Plastic Armour at all, but 
concrete, that had caused the disaster, and so silenced the worthy 
Captain's guns. 

On September 20, 1940, Captain Selby, with ever -growing fear 
of cannon attack by German aircraft on our ships, called for trials 
on Plastic Armour with a German cannon and ammunition to be 
obtained from a captured fighter. With a view to expedition, he 
personally arranged for the loan of this weapon and shells from 
the Air Ministry. 

Owing to the difficulties of obtaining the cannon and fitting it 
up into working condition after general smash- up of the German 
aircraft from which it was taken, the trials by Excellent did not 
actually take place until November 4. The German cannon was 
an Oerhkon taken from a Messerschmitt, but it had a muzzle 
velocity of only 1950 feet per second, which compared poorly with 
our own Ocrlikon cannon, which had a muzzle velocity of 2725 
feet per second. The British engineering genius had turned out a 
better and more powerful gun than the Germans from the original 
plans brought, as related, from the Sw'iss factory by Steuart 

In estimating the striking velocity of either a cannon shell or a 
machine-gun bullet we should have to add the speed of the attack- 
ing German aircraft, which, we estimated, would be about 350 
feet a second. 

An explosive shell of twenty-millimetre calibre at the speed of 
1950 feet plus 350 feet a second would take quite some slopping, 
and if the Germans used the -5 -in eh armour-piercing shot, made 
of solid toughened steel, this would be worse. But it should also 
ue remembered that in attacks it was unlikely that such an 
armour-piercing shot would strike at exactly 90 degrees to the 
bridge or gun position of the ship, and the slightest deviation from 
this angle of attack made a big reduction in its penetrating power. 


As the British Oerlikon was a more powerful weapon than the 
German, it was used for the first trials by Excellent. The trials 
proved highly satisfactory, and it was clear that four inches of 
Plastic Armour backed by three-six teenths-of-an-inch mild-steel 
backing plate would give more than immunity against anything 
the Germans could fire from their cannon in bombers and fighters. 
Excellent had already in October carried out satisfactory trials 
with small arms against Plastic Armour with brass and wood back- 
ing for non-magnetic purposes near the compass, so the resistance 
of the new material to the weapons most likely to be used by the 
Germans was now proved beyond doubt. 

The success of these trials was not entirely fortuitous, because, 
warned by my previous failures, I had taken the precaution of 
carrying out private trials with Dr Glanville's armoury at the Road 
Research Laboratory, where the diligence of Mr Markwick had 
now collected as pretty an assortment of German and British 
weapons as could well be asked for. So we knew what the results 
of the trials of Excellent would be before they took place — but I 
did not let that fact leak out; prestige was not without its impor- 
tance in life with the Navy, 

Going back to September, towards the end of that month I 
decided that the time was ripe for another state visit to the Naval 
Constructor responsible for armour at Bath. The organization for 
fitting Plastic Armour was starting to spread its wings, and it 
became very clear that we should soon want to fit ships flying the 
white ensign. But we certainly could never do so without his con- 
sent and approval, it would be a thrill to fit the first ship of the 
Royal Navy, the proudest navy in the world, with my own special 
brand of armour. So I called upon him one afternoon. 

I was anticipating a chilly reception reminiscent of our previous 
meeting. But much had happened since that interview, and, 
greatly to my surprise — indeed, astonishment — the expert on 
armour shook me warmly by the hand and greeted me with a 
genial and expansive smile. 

There was also present a Captain of the Navy, and the Naval 
Constructor said to him, "Lieutenant Terrell is the brilliant inv en- 
tor of a new plastic material for the protection of our ships." 

Ho, hoi I thought to myself. This is a bit much. What is coming 

I remembered Virgil's Timeo Danaos et dona ferenles, and felt 
more than a little cautious. 

The Captain left, and the Constructor and I fell into discussion 



u pon the merits of Plastic Armour, and he seemed to approve 
thoroughly of everything I had done. 

phis atmosphere was too good to last, and I decided it was time 
to return to London. As we were parting he caught my arm in a 
friendly gesture. 

"There's just one other thing, Lieutenant," he said. 

Here she comes, I thought. 

■'The word 'armour' in the name of your new material — such 
good stuff — but I wonder if you would drop that word. It's only 
used by the Director of Naval Construction for his real armour. 
Call yours what you like — but not that — not that," 

A light broke upon me, and I at once realized that, quite unwit- 
tingly, 1 had broken one of the strictest taboos of the Department 
of Naval Construction. The word 'armour,' in theory, was their 
sole copyright, and anyone who infringed would be treated as 
beyond the protection of the law and become an outcast. 

I also realized how important the use of that word was to the 
new invention and how it would give confidence to our merchant 
captains and seamen. The name "Plastic Armour" was already 
flying about the ports, and it was no use saying that a rose by any 
other name would smell as sweet — it just would not do. 

Phis was a time for quick thinking, 

"I should naturally be delighted to consider changing the 
name," I replied — and his face cleared with satisfaction. "But," I 
added, "the matter is rather outside my control, and it will have 
to be referred to Captain Selby." 

His countenance fell, and I tore away to catch the train. 

On returning to London I reported to Captain Selby, 

"We'll stop that one," said the Captain. Pie drew up a docket, 
stating that the name "Plastic Armour" was vitally important to 
the Merchant Navy as radiating confidence, and marked the 
docket to the Controller of the Navy, requesting approval of its 
use. The docket came back with the name duly approved by Sir 
Bruce Fraser. 

"That," said Captain Selby to me, "settles that." And it did, 
fhe name remaining all through the War. 

The letter appointing firms to manufacture Plastic Armour at 
fhe selected ports and granting them licences under the Admiralty 
Provisional patent had been duly sent out by Mr Buss ell, and I 
had arranged for these firms to have the necessary steel for back- 
Iri g plates from our stocks. The quarry at Penlee was delivering 
sufficient granite, and there were ample supplies of bitumen and 





limestone. Everything appeared to he set fair for the work [ 
progress, when, towards the end of September, I received a sharp 
telephone call from die managing director of one of the firms 
strongly objecting to the Admiral ty patent and claiming that he 
had invented a similar material in the First World War. This was 
an awkward situation, and I requested the director to write to the 
Admiralty and to put forward his contention. The firm did not 
seem, in the meanwhile, willing to go ahead and manufaeti.ire, so 
Good eve and I decided that their special allocation of steel should 
be stopped and, for the time being, their letter of instruction 

They duly wrote to the Admiralty and set out their specifica- 
tions of material. I did not, however, consider that their formula, 
which used mastic asphalt, was comparable to that of Plastic 
Armour, and, in fact, it would have been useless against armour- 
piercing projectiles, which had not been developed in 1915. They 
discussed the matter in an interview, but made so many difficulties 
that it was clear that their services could not be used. It was not 
until January 1943 that they wrote to the Admiralty and aban- 
doned any claim in connexion with Plastic Armour. They then 
started to fit ships, but it was unfortunate that this m is appreh eli- 
sion arose, although it came out all right in the long run. 

With this exception, every road-making firm of repute in the 
country set to work with a will to make Plastic Armour in ever- 
increasing qu an tides. There was in the forefront the irrepressible 
Mr Tom Marriott, of the Limmcr and Trinidad Lake Asphalt 
Company, who viewed my activities with paternal interest. As 
research progressed and I made changes in the formula he would 
say, with solemn finger upraised, "You arc taking a big risk, 
Lieutenant Terrell, a very big risk." 

Then diere were the Penmaenmawr and Trinidad Lake 
Asphalt Company, Ltd, of Liverpool, the Neuchatel Asphalt Com- 
pany working at London, Glasgow, Falmouth, and Southampton, 
and many others. In this vital work the road industries gave of 
their best to the Admiralty and the nation, and they can look hack 
with pride at the efforts made to fit ships in their rapid turn round. 

On September 30, 1940, I received a bill from Durastic Bitu- 
minous Products, Ltd — "to making thirty-one samples of Plastic 
Armour to your specification and instructions" — and asking h> r 
the sum of thirty-one pounds — a pound a target. This bill was for 
my experimental work tested at the Road Research Labor a tor)', 
and, taking it by and large, thirty-one pounds was a modest sum 

w pay for an invention which was to save millions and millions of 
pounds tor steel plate, many, many lives, and give protection to 
sailors on ten thous an d ships— a modest sum . 

But, looking at the bill, I could not quite see how to pay it. 
Mr Buckingham had paid for the cinema projector, so I did not 
feel like trying him again. 

The Director of Stores appeared to be a complaisant sort of 
gentleman, so I telephoned him and requested payment of the 
account. He agreed, and I put the bill in a docket and slipped it 
along to him. He, however, did not pay, but commented on the 
docket that no Office Acquaint had been issued defining the scope 
and function of the Inspector of Anti-Aircraft Weapons (Admiral 
Somerville again), and passed it on to the Director of Naval 
Accounts. This gentleman, with commendable promptness, passed 
it to the Head of Equipment, suggesting that vote six {whatever 
that might be) would meet the charge. The docket then took a 
different course and arrived with the Director of Scientific Re- 
search, who failed to propose any decisive action. It next reached 
the chief of the secretarial branch, who, most unfortunately, stated 
that it was very desirable that the functions of the Inspector 
should be explained. Another director stated that he "had not the 
foggiest idea of what Plastic Armour was or who the Inspector 
was," and would the Controller consider the position? The Vice- 
Controller then approved, though what he approved of no one 
knew. The docket now found its way back to mc, and I read its 
contents in silent dismay. The bill was unpaid, and half the de- 
partments in the Admiralty were clamouring to know what our 
lunctions were supposed to be. My innocent effort to get the bill 
paid looked like landing the entire Inspectorate hi disaster. 

Millar and Goodcve studied the various minutes and held long 
consultations, while I felt like the housemaid who had broken a 
priceless piece of china and could only say, "ft came to pieces in 
my hand, mum." Finally Millar wrote a minute saying that our 
duties were now to a considerable extent obsolete and "would be 
revised and submitted for approval. 

I never knew who paid the bill in the end, but I believe that it 
Was Buckingham again. 

All during October the work of fitting Plastic Armour to mer- 
chant ships continued hard, but this fitting was still largely exneri- 
mental. b } l 

Designs had to be prepared for circular fences of armour 
a round gun positions, and these were of plates made in the 



factories ashore. The plastic nature of the material lent itself [ Q 
moulding into any shape that was required, and for example, 
gun-shields for the protection of the gunlayer when in action 
agairjsjt enemy aircraft were easily designed and moulded in the 

Until the work was really under way I had no idea of the vast 
number of ships flying the red ensign. From ugly little coastal 
tramps, steaming through "Hell-fire Corner" up to East Coast and 
Northern ports," to great liners sailing to America, Africa, or 
Australia— all had to be armoured with Plastic Armour. It 
seemed that there was a life's work in front of us, 

On October 31, 1940, Captain Selby issued from Trade Divi- 
sion a directive on the subject to all shipowners, instructing them 
that Plastic Armour was to be used in all bridge protection and 
machine-gun posts: 

From tests carried out its resistance to machine-gun a ad 
cannon attack is greatly superior to that afforded by concrete . . . 
with four inches a very high degree of immunity from solid 
cannon shot may be expected, and complete immunity from 
die explosive type of cannon shell should be obtained — as 
enemv aircraft are using cannon in increasing numbers when- 
ever possible protection should be afforded against this type of 

The directive gave the names of the firms at each port to whom 
orders for fitting should be given, and the names of eight of my 
trained supervising officers. 

We still anxiously desired the right to armour white-ensign 
ships, and. as a result of the tests by Excellent and various con- 
ciliatory passages between the Department of Naval Construction 
at Bath and Trade Division in London, at last, on December 13, 
Bath issued a directive that the new invention could be used on 
His Majesty's ships. This directive was issued with die full 
authority of the "Command of their Lordships." It also stated that 
the Inspector of Anti -Aircraft Weapons had appointed officers to 
the large ports specially trained in the work of fitting ships in the 
Merchant Navy, and these officers should be made use of as 
advisers to the Naval authorities in armouring His Majesty's ships. 
"Experience has shown the desirability of careful supervision and 
testing by officers trained in this work." 

The letter went to every Admiral Superintendent and Flag 
Officer in charge of every dockyard and base in British control— 
from Chatham" to Malta, from Portsmouth to Hongkong. 


But the Department of Naval Construction at Bath in this letter 
called it "plastic protection" when applied to His Majesty's ships, 
and not Plastic Armour. They won that trick, but, in view of the 
great victory we had achieved and the right now granted to us to 
armour any British ships flying white or red ensign in any part of 
the Allied world, we could well pass on that. In any case, by now 
the original name of baptism was inch'ssolubly tied to the new- 



Lieutenant Hind, R.N.V.Th, a sturdy Yorkshireman, with no 
frills but a fund of hard common sense, was one of my most 
trusted officers, and in the initial stages of fitting Plastic Armour I 
posted him to the wide area of the London docks. lie was destined 
to share my fate most of the War. 

One day in February of 1941 ho and Harris came to me and 
reported a serious matter. They had been having a quiet drink to 
an underground hostelry in Trafalgar Square run by some Irish 
ladies, when a Royal Air Force officer, working on liaison duties 
in the' Admiralty, had started to expound on the potentialities of 
radar to an admiring audience. My two officers were upset at this 
indiscretion. I knew the officer in question fairly well, and, most 
reluctantly, I decided that it was my plain duty to report the mat- 
ter to our head, Commander Millar. He was shocked, and said, 
"We cannot have that sort of thing in the Admiralty." 

A short time later I was questioned, in the presence of Millar, 
by a security officer, the report was investigated, and the culprit 
immediately transferred back to his own Service. 

I only tell this story to illustrate the stringent security existing 
at the Admiralty. Any one of us stood !o be shot at if careless in 
speech, and there was no schoolboy code of not reporting such 
matters — it was too serious. 

fn March I wrote a book on Plastic Armour, giving details of 
manufacture and methods of fitting, and illustrating the way to fit 
the bridge of a ship and erect the zebras for gun protection. This 
was die Irst and last Naval textbook I produced, and I was not a 
little proud of it at the time. It was marked "Most Secret" and dis- 
patched by order of my Lords to every Flag Officer in com- 
mand of a port in the Commonwealth and Empire. We sincerely 
hoped that no copy of the precious volume would fall into 
enemy hands. Goodeve had criticized some of the chemical tests 
put in, but, after minor amendments, he had approved. Never- 
theless, it became clear that the countries abroad could not 
manufacture Plastic Armour without the assistance of trained 
officers, and it was necessary to send them out to those needing 
the armour. 

In the same month I was promoted to Lieutenant-Commauc.iei 
in the Service, and felt inwardly proud of my first rise. The thai 
band of gold between the two broad bands gave me an added 
feeling of confidence, and to bo promoted after eight months' ser- 
vice was not bad. As a Lieutenant when passing a sentry I was 
entitled to a normal salute— the respect paid to the King's uniform- 



jvjow I was entided to the full present arms, and I felt a litde 
grflbarrassed on receiving it for the first time. 

Norway and Richardson were also promoted, and the three of 
u s forgathered in the local hostelry in Whitehall to celebrate with 
as many of the Inspectorate as we could find at a moment's notice. 
Xlie tankards were filled and fro thing when suddenly Millar and 
Goodeve, in their gilded hats, appeared. 

"If you think we are going to be left out of this," said Goodeve, 
"you are much mistaken. Two more pints, landlord, please, and 
put it down to Lieu ten ant- Commander Terrell." 

It did not stop Lherc, and I returned to work penniless but not 

ft was in March of 1941 that there occurred the episode of the 
letter, and this was tricky and had to be handled carefully. 

Mr Tom Marriott, of the great Lirnmer and Trinidad Company, 
had gone about the task of setting his organization to work on 
manufacturing Plastic Armour with skill and zeal. There was no 
doubt lhat in his own way, which included always wearing hats of 
unusual shape at unusual angles, he was deeply immersed in this 
new product. As managing director of die firm he was a gentle- 
man of far-seeing business acumen, and one of the things he fore- 
saw was that the United States would sooner or later be involved 
in the War on our side, and would manufacture Plastic Armour 
for their ships in very large quantities. He also foresaw that when 
the States became our formal allies the Admiralty would hand 
over the secrets of the new armour, on which we had been work- 
ing since f obtained the first clue from the retreat at Dunkirk. 

The specification which had been handed to him was, as I have 
indicated, marked in large capital letters "Most Secret." 

In all patriotic zeal he calmly sat down and wrote to his con- 
freres in the United States that the Admiralty had discovered a 
new armour, gave the specification, and advised them to get ready 
to manufacture in large quantities for the United States Navy. 
This letter was written without a single word to anyone. 

Fortunately, our censorship was on the alert, and before the 
letter could leave this country it was picked up, examined, and 
considered highly incriminating — and here it was on a Saturday 
•riorning passed to me for action by a very secret branch of our 
Intelligence service. No one else knew that the letter had reached 
S*e, and I mused over its contents, wondering what to do. 

Mr Marriott was a most patriotic Englishman of the highest 
standing, and I fully understood the motives underlying his action. 


I had appointed Sub -Lieutenant Colingridge, R.N.R,, as Plastic 
Armour officer at Southampton. A tall and rangy youdi, bounding 
with spirits and impudertee, be might have walked out of the 
pages of Peter Simple. Temporary ill-health had made it necessary 
for him to stay for many months on shore. He thought that South- 
ampton would be a pretty hot spot, and it suited him admirably. 
Although he had passed through the preliminary training at the 
Laboratory with flying colours, I felt a little uneasy on account of 
his youth. Lieutenant Warren, R.N.V.R., also covered the area; 
nevertheless, I decided to go clown and see for myself what was 
going on. 

The work was progressing satisfactorily, and I thought it was a 
good opportunity to give a great demonstration of Plastic Armour 
to the senior officers of the Navy, Army, and Air Force in the area. 
I decided to fire on a manufactured plate four feet long, one foot 
wide, and two inches thick. I passed the word to Colingridge to 
obtain the services of a Marine who was a good shot We set up 
flic target, and I chalked a white bull's-eye on its centre. The Port 
Admiral, the General, the Captains, and Colonels all gathered 
round to see the show, and, upon my instructions, (he Marino: lay 
down at ten yards from the target, aimed carefully at the bull's- 
eye with a rifle, and fired, Everybody at once went to examine the 
target, while the Marine assumed the attitude of die star per- 
former at a play who had just given the audience of his best. 
There was no mark of any kind on the target: the shot had com- 
pletely missed. 

"Fine show!" I said to myself. "Good advertisement for the 

I looked at the rifleman, fingering with complete unconcern die 
next cartridge. 

"Shoot again," I growled, "and please aim carefully." 

"Aye, aye, sir," said the Marine complacently. 

The crowd of officers drew up in lines on each side of the tar- 
get, and he plumped down, aimed with a steady rifle, and fired. 

tie missed again. This time there was no mistaking the smiles 
spreading through the audience. I was not pleased and marked 
the bull's-eye in chalk so large as to cover the entire width of the 
plate — one foot. 

"Fire again," I snapped. 

Down he went, rifle steady as a rock, fired— and missed for the 
third lime. 

There was a roar of laughter. I seized the rifle from this cracK 



s hot, and fired again and again, till the target could take no more 
bullets. 1 was sorely tempted to reserve the last cartridge for the 
Marine, but, fortunately, he had vanished, and I never saw him 
again. Colingridge advanced the theory diat he was cross-eyed, 
but I was in no mood for theories, and said so in no uncertain 

The need for officers with the right education and ability to 
command was becoming more and more pressing early in 1941. 
The .Army and the Royal Air Force were in keen competition, but, 
not unnaturally, I thought that the senior Service should come 
first. It was no use looking to the Second Sea Lord's department, 
and I urgently needed more officers for Plastic Armour. Lane, who 
had proved so vital to the invention, had to be withdrawn from 
Hull to carry on the sadly neglected information section. Every 
otfier officer in our Hock was engaged on urgent scientific research 
under the drive of Goodeve, so 1 east around among pre-War 
friends and remembered Gordon Huntley, now farming in the 
soft hills of Kent. Pie had always wished to be a sailor, but 
eyesight trouble had broken his sea career, and he now lived with 
his mother. 

A telephone call, answered by the gentle voice of Mrs Huntley, 
brought him to our office within a day. He was thrilled with the 
idea of joining the Navy, and so he came before Admiral Potter 
and joined my band, leaving his m other in the care of a brother. 
After training I was obliged to send him to Cardiff, from which 
one day he phoned to ask for leave to go to his mother, as she was 
dying. I was tormented with remorse at my action in taking him, 
and later, when he went to sea, we lost touch, until, years after, 
I heard of his death. 

Early in 1941 Goodeve came to me and asked for some film 
shots of dive-bombers attacking our ships. It appeared that 
Mitchell, who had gone to the United States to start up the manu- 
facture of the Oerlikon gun, needed some form of propaganda to 
convince manufacturers and workpeople of the urgent need for 
these guns for the defence of our convoys. Further, there was 
serious labour unrest in our home factory making the gun, and, 
remembering the result of my film-showing to Captain Selby and 
other officers of the Admiralty, Goodeve asked me to produce 
some of the films taken at "PI ell- fire Corner." I considered this 
proposition and duly acted. How I became a film producer, turn- 
ing a good deal of the Admiralty upside down in the process, will 
De told fully in the next chapter. It was a varied life. 


Selby readily agreed. Never was the need for trained officers mo re 
el early shown than in this work of replacement. Frequently the 
entire bridge structure of the ship had collapsed under machine- 
gun or cannon attack, and, apart from the inherent defects of 
concrete as a bullet-resisting medium, it was clear that the fitting 
had too often been done badly and in unseamanlike manner. 

I had taken early steps to inform the Ministry of Supply of the 
new invention of Plastic Armour. The Ministry were responsible 
for the armouring of all vehicles to be used by the Army, and I 
realized as soon as the invention was made and tested that, apart 
from its uses on ships, there would be many uses on land both for 
strong positions and armoured cars. The capacity of the road 
industry for turning out Plastic Armour was almost unlimited, and 
the shortage of steel plate in all Services was acute. Besides, there 
was the question of cost to be taken into consideration. There 
were no factories to turn out steel plate in the quantities required 
by the Army, and if there had been the cost of heat-treated plate 
was very high — -and cost represented hours of labour as well, a 5 
capital expenditure. Heat-treated plate cost at that time about 
one hundred and fifty pounds a ton before being fitted, and the 
extra cost of machining and fitting was very high. Plastic Armour, 
on the other hand, was costing the country, when fitted to a ship 
and ready to face attack, about, twelve pounds ten shillings a ton. 
The enormous difference in cost between heat-treated plate anil 
Plastic Armour made the latter a most attractive proposition. True 
that weight for weight against armour-piercing bullets Plastic 
Armour "was not quite so efficient as plate, but, as will be related, 
against oilier forms of attack it was to prove weight" for weight 
actually superior. We were to discover these intriguing qualities 
as the experiments proceeded. 

Meanwhile in December Dr Glanville at the Road Research 
Station armoured the first fighting vehicle for the Ministry of 
Supply. This was a Vauxhall lorry, and it was specified that the 
weight of armour should not exceed thirty pounds per square foot. 
This was accomplished, and gave immunity against all rifle 
bullets, whether armour-piercing or normal. For the first time we 
used electrical vibration to consolidate the Penlee granite, and the 
percentage of tin's was raised from 55 to 60 — the highest it had 
ever bceu — which would have caused Mr Marriott, had he known, 
to shake his admonitory finger at the risks taken in changing the 
composition. The armour was poured into thin steel cases shaped 
to line the sides of the vehicle. 



So 1940 drew to a close, and it was perhaps the most eventful 
year of my life. I had joined tire Navy, invented a new armour, and 
seen the horrors of unrestrained bombing on a great open city. 
The Battle of Britain had been fought and won, and never had the 
name of England stood so high in the world. The lion had fought 
with tooth and claw, and fought with effect. We could face the 
New Year with quiet confidence, and, though the future was still 
dark and unforeseen and great perils would lie in wait, the nation 
had emerged from the ordeal of fire with courage high. 

Christmas was spent in London. We had for years purchased a 
turkey at Hart's in the Farringdon Market, and they did not let us 
down, but once again supplied a Norfolk bird. On Christmas Eve 
I arrayed myself in civilian clothes and, trudging through sleet 
and rain, triumphantly brought home the prize. As I went to 
church at Christmas there fell a peace and stillness on old grey 
London, and men and women gave thanks on then knees for being 
spared, praved for those who had died, and fervently hoped for 
the future. But there were no church bells to ring out the glad 
tidings of the anniversary of the birth of Christ, for the sounding of 
these was to be the signal of invasion; and Christmas without the 
peal of the bells was not quite Christmas. 

In the New Year the work of armouring the ships proceeded 
steadilv, and, while research went on at the Laboratory on the 
Colnbrook Bypass, all our main ports fitted ships as they came in. 

There was still a great deal of scepticism in the Merchant Navy 
as to the merits of the new armour, and it was understandable 
that doubts should arise. After all, concrete and steel looked 
capable of resistance to bullets, but [his was just a liquid treacly 
mess poured on hot. So, in order to give confidence to the men of 
die Merchant Navy, I gave instructions to my officers that, when 
the armour was fitted to ships, from time to time they were to fire 
on it from point-blank range with armour-piercing bullets and let 
the sailors see for themselves. This my officers did, and it gave a 
sharp jolt to the wave of criticism. There was nothing like visual 
demonstration to restore shaken morale. From time to time I went 
to the London docks and indulged in a little fancy shooting, much 
to the pleasure and edification of Harris. It also gave me a little 
light relief from the burden of administration and research. A port 
is a whispering gallery, and the whispers went round with the 
rapidity of an express train. Captain Selby was delighted with the 
restoration of morale, and told me so in no uncertain terms as his 
arms brushed aside the usual mass of papers on his desk. 







grinned a bit crookedly and went back to his cable experiments, 
During this period he was also engaged on trials for a balloon 
barrage floating freely in the sky, with long wires dangling, which 
would lie in the path of the enemy bombers. A little yellow canis- 
ter containing an explosive was attached by wire to each floating 
balloon. When the aircraft became entangled with the wire, 
which had a parachute at the lower end to steady it, the wire 
would become taut, and thus cause the canister to hit the aircraft 
and blow it up. This was the theory, but when in December the 
time came lo use the barrage during the raids, the velocity and 
vagaries of wind caused the balloons to disperse in all directions 
and far afield. Many times I followed up reports of a balloon 
coming down miles away on sonic unfortunate householder's 
property and reassured him that it was not really dangerous. I 
never heard of the free-balloon barrage bringing down any air- 
craft, but it may have frightened the German pilots; anyway, it 
terrified a lot of our own people, ft was, however, a considerable 
scientific effort on the part of Richardson, and might well have 
proved its value when perfected, had the mass raids on London 
continued. Such an attempt at defence against bombers had never 
been made before, but the gods were not kind to it, and, despite 
the powerful advocacy of Churchill at its inception, it was 

In the meanwhile Norway and his team were bending their 
energies to the development of unrotating projectiles, which was 
merely another and more difficult name for rockets, 

Dr Alwyn Crow 1 had founded an experimental station for 
rockets at Abcrporth, on the rocky coast of Wales, where he was 
seeking to create a weapon which would to some extent supplant 
the gun-propelled shell. Not since the clays of "the Iron Duke" 
had rockets been considered seriously for war, and then all they 
had done was to frighten the horses. Now, with the use of cordite 
as a propellant, Crow was steadily pursuing his ambition to pro- 
duce a new weapon to attack the bombers. In this he succeeded, 
and laid the foundations for all our modern rocket weapons. 

Norway devised a weapon firing some fourteen rockets lor the 
defence of a ship against attacking aircraft. This weapon pro- 
duced serious trouble with the fuses, and whenever J saw him he 
was engaged in much highly technical discussion. He was learn- 
ing by painful experience a lesson that we all had to learn in turn 
— namely, that it was one tiling to produce a prototype that funic- 
1 Afterwards Sir Alwyn Crow, Kt. 

tioned on land, but an entirely different thing to make it, with all 
the varied movements of the ship, work at sea. The toss i no- and 
rolling of a ship upset all calculation, and wind and salt water 
could penetrate almost anything. Nevertheless, with dogged 
determination, as soon as one rocket weapon failed to show- 
enough promise, he started designing and developing another, 
and went, from projectors based on land for defence against in- 
vasion, to yet another system of rockets for the defence of ships. 
Although at first promising, once again the result was failure. Still 
he went on testing, trying, and failing. But, as a result of the 
groundwork of research carried out in these first months, the 
Rocket Landing Craft, with its devastating power of attack on a 
hostile shore from hundreds of rockets with explosive heads, was 
ultimately produced and successfully used both in the Mediter- 
ranean and the Normandy landings. 

Goodeve was continually active in finding and seizing upon 
scientists who were not engaged in other war work and bringing 
them into the Inspectorate. In the evenings Jefferis would some- 
times come and discuss the day's progress with "Hedgehog," 
which was in its initial stages at Whitchurch. 1 can see the two 
now, with the room empty of officers save for ourselves, the sirens 
wailing, and their heads bent in deep concentration on techni- 

Finally Goodeve would grab his cap and vanish into the dark- 
ness, and the bombs would begin to crash and the guns thunder. 

One night I was taken by a Colonel of Marines to Hyde Park to 
study our barrage of guns firing at the bombers. There was no 
radar, and the course of the plane was carefully plotted in squares 
from searchlights and acoustic reports — a little primitive perhaps, 
but these were very early days, and the Army also had to learn 
the hard way and wait for the scientists to produce the answers. 

Nevertheless I was thrilled by the great guns flashing at the 
invaders, and their roar made the ground tremble. 

I was now able to start work on fitting ships with Plastic Armour 
at more ports, and hy the middle of December Devonport, Ply- 
mouth, Manchester, and Sunderland were all churning out the 
armour in road-mixers. The process of fitting a ship with her 
armour in the turn round was going extremely well under the 
Watchful eyes of my band of officers, and the reports of ships fitted 
Were beginning to flow in from the clocks, 

1 felt that the time had come; when we might start replacing 
concrete with the new armour, and, when approached, Captain 


The Close of the Battle of Britain 

The official elate when the whistle blew for the close of the Battle 
of Britain was September 15, 1940. In fact, raids went on day and 
night much the same after that date, but by then the great attack 
of Goering's Luftwaffe had taken place and failed. Never since the 
clays of the Armada had England stood in such dire peril, and 
with her stood all that was left of the free world. All over the 
Gelds and towns of the Southern counties the debris of enemy 
aircraft was strewn, and yokels proudly displayed trophies in 
hamlet and cottage. Once in Essex I watched a German bomber 
glide smoothly to earth like a tired bird and, reaching there, burst 
into crimson flames and black smoke— journey's end, The stakes 
laid upon the issue were great, but we carried on unthinking with 
the tasks that lay ahead from day to day. Tt was Churchill in his 
immortal phrase who reminded mankind of the debt due to " the 

In our room at the Admiralty Block whenever the ominous 
whistle of a bomb was heard we involuntarily took shelter under 
desks. When die explosion took place a few hundred yards away 
we rose, looked a little shamefaced, and then laughed. 

One night the street outside was lit by a line of incendiaries 
merrily burning away and forming a long white mark for the 
droning bombers. I hastened to help in pouring on buckets of 
sand, but warning was afterwards given that some of these incen- 
diaries were of an explosive nature, which made thern very 

I stayed one night at Brentwood, in Essex, and during a raid a 
hayrick caught fire at the County Lunatic Asylum, causing a 
blazing beacon that could be seen for miles. 1 trudged across two 
fields and a road and, with the help of some gallant soldiers, ea 
whom I took temporary command, I was able to extinguish thtj 
mounting flames. Meanwhile the inmates of the hospital gathered 
round in the best stall seats, giving the most friendly advice. 

The soldiers, one and all, asked me to sign papers to the effect 
that their delay in returning to billets was due to enemy action, 


a nd this I was only too pleased to do. The last I saw of them they 
v/ere making a bee-line in the direction of a well-known hostelry 
where the ale was really potent. 

A few nights later a full-scale raid was in operation when I was 
returning from a hurried visit to an East Coast port. My train, 
with singular selfishness, refused to go any farther than Stepney. 
As a result 1 had to walk five miles through the East End of Lon- 
don to the Admiralty, more or less dodging from one shelter to 
another in between attacks. Glass and debris were strewn all over 
the pavements, and fires had broken out everywhere. Arriving at 
Bow Bridge, I took shelter under Charrington's Brewery, where 
hundreds of men and women were assembled in quiet unconcern. 
A girl next to me suddenly started to have hysterics, and the fear 
arose that she might set off a wave of panic among the packed 
crowd. The medical advice given in air-raid training was to smack 
the patient's face, and, although there was some doubt as to the 
result, it was decided, after consultation, to try the experiment. 
Fortunately, the effect was instantaneous, and the crisis passed, 
but I thought that it would not look well to he in the dock as party 
to an assault on a good-looking young girl. 

A short distance away from the building a man had his leg 
broken through the blast of an explosion, and we were able to get 
him to a warden's post for medical attention. 

Incidents such as these were nightly occurrences in the lives of 
the people of London, and, while the newspapers of the United 
States and neutral countries were filled with headlines on the 
battle and its progress, our citizens went to their work by day and 
at night dossed down, beds and all, in Underground stations or 
any other shelter available. No one knew what damage the new 
morn would show, or who would have been killed or injured. 

The officers of our Inspectorate were each and all straining to 
produce new inventions or devices for defeating enemy aircraft, 
hut this was by no means easy work, and often led to disappoint- 
ment and failure. If one invention out of twenty was successful 
good work was being done. 

Richardson, with careful mathematical calculations, produced a 
s mall instrument which would enable a gunner to tell the approxi- 
mate range of an approaching aircraft and lay his gun on the 
target with greater accuracy. Just as he had perfected the device 
and it looked as if it would be useful. I had to tell him that H.M.S. 
Vernon, the Navy's mine and electrical establishment, had pro- 
duced exactly the same thing a few weeks earlier. Richardson 


He thought lie would be speeding United States assistance when 
they came in officially on our side, but he failed to appreciate 
the trouble his rash action might cause. 

I picked up the telephone and spoke to him at his house at 
Putney, where, no doubt, he was enjoying a well-earned rest after 
the labours of the week. 

"Would you come and see me this afternoon, Mr Marriott?" 

"Certainly, Lieutenant-Commander," said Mr Marriott briskly, 
and at four o'clock there he was in the office, puffing at a large 

"What can I do for you, Commander Terrell P" he said, raising 
me in rank, and with all the antieipatory relish of being given 
another port in which to manufacture. 

"Do you often write letters to the United States, Mr Marriottp" 
I asked gravely. 

He looked a little shaken at such an unusual question. 

"Is this your letter?" f proceeded, handing him the unhappy 

"Hum — hum — yes, certainly," said poor Mr Marriott, no longer 
expecting an additional area. 

I felt much as though admonishing a genial malefactor who 
had pleaded guilty, and I sought for a special plea in mitigation. 

Clearly Mr Marriott was shaken to the core at the efficiency of 
the Admiralty in seizing his letter, and he seemed to have a great 
feeling of guilt because he had written upon such subject-matter 
to the States, As obliged, I delivered a homily on the dangers of 
giving away Admiralty secrets, and he gave his solemn undertaking 
never to do such a thing again. I knew the great value of his work 
for the country, and it was clearly undesirable either to pain him 
unduly or to take die matter further. So what might have proved 
a very ugly situation and have aEectcd the rapid production of 
Plastic Armour was smoothed over, and he returned to Putney no 
longer smoking a cigar, but pondering upon the pitfalls that 
awaited those serving the Admiralty at a time of intense war. Wc 
remained great friends, and years after, when entertaining me to 
dinner at his charming house, he confessed that he had expected 
to be put behind iron bars. 

The invention of Plastic Armour, and the fact that we were 
armouring all merchant ships and a good many of His Majesty s 
ships as well, and that other intense activity, from rockets to 
"Hedgehogs," was emanating from our room, forced their Lord- 
ships of the Admiralty to interest themselves in die subject of our 




future. It must have dawned upon their Lordships that Admiral 
Sornerville could not be exerting much supervision from his Task 
Force in the Mediterranean, and, while Goodeve was maintaining 
liaison with Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, the Controller, very little 
was known about our actual work. We had won the right to exist, 
and powerful departments had been foiled in their attacks, 
but the time had come to place matters upon a more regular 

Goodeve came to us with the news that action had been taken, 

"We are going to be made into a department," he said to 
Norway, Richardson, and me. 

"Splendid," we replied in chorus. "We have won our spurs." 

"But," added Goodeve, "a director is to be appointed, and he 
will be a Naval Captain." 

Our faces fell, as this prospect did not sound nearly so good- — ■ 
the hand of authority was looming. 

I said bluntly, "They might have appointed Commander Millar, 
sir, and then we could have gone on with our work as before." 

"It is to be Captain Davies, now working at the Ministry of 
Supply," said Goodeve. I could see that he was as upset as we 
were at this news. Nevertheless, we all determined that we were 
bound to accept the situation and give loyal support to die new 
Director, A few days later Captain Davies arrived and took com- 
mand, and I was introduced. He rose and shook hands, and was 
charming, but, to be frank, I was left with a slight feeling of 
uneasiness as to our future relations. 

In the spring of 1941 I received a very personal testimonial as 
to the efficiency of Plastic Armour. One of the ships fitted with the 
armour was H.M.S. Patia, an ocean boarding vessel, also equipped 
with the latest of Norway's rocket weapons, the Harvey Projector. 
She was a new ship, and the Harvey Projector was taken for pur- 
poses of experiment. Lieutenant A. Menhiniek, R.N.V.R., one of 
Norway's team, was on board when she sailed one Sunday even- 
•ng on her maiden voyage from South Shields. Menhiniek was in 
charge of the Projector. On April 27, at dusk, she was attacked by 
a Heinkcl bomber, which raked the bridge with machine-gun and 
cannon fire. The aircraft then circled and dropped three bombs in 
Hue, one of which exploded in the ship and ultimately caused her 
™ sink. The bomber also met its fate from die ship's fire with the 
"rejector and crashed into the sea. Menhiniek told me afterwards, 
111 his quiet, unassuming way, that he had had a miraculous 
e scape. He had crawled on to a Carlcy Float, which had been 



sucked down the funnel as the ship sank, but, when he thought 
all was over, sea water had entered the hull and forced the con- 
tained air in the ship to belch him out again, much as Jonah was 
ejected by the whale. Following this divine act of providence, 
Mcnhinick survived the intense exposure of the cold of the North 
Sea, although many of his companions died. There he was, back 
in our office, relating to mc his experience, and I looked at hirn 
with reverence as one who had entered the jaws of death and 

"They fired everything they had on that bridge armour f 
yours," he added. "I heard the shots smacking on the outside. 
Nothing came through to us — bloody good stuff." 

I felt a little proud that the new invention had saved one of our 
own team. Mcnhinick, with a courage that I could only hope to 
emulate, made light of his terrible experience. 

The work on Plastic Armour had now been printed as a con- 
fidential book, and I had the pleasure of presenting Captain 
Davies with the first copy. He thanked me for it, opened it, 
glanced at one or two of the technical pages, and then said ho 
would put it on one side for future study. I could but wonder if 
he would ever read it. 

In the first three months of 1.941 our losses at sea were very 
heavy. Three cruisers — Southampton, York, and Bonavenlure— 
were sunk, one by U-boat attack and the other two by aircraft. 
Three destroyers — Gallant, Dainty, and Exmoor — were lost. A 
monitor — Terror — was also sunk by bombing. Twenty-nine 
smaller naval vessels were casualties. But these losses were as 
nothing compared with those suffered by die Merchant Navy. We 
had not nearly enough escort ships to guard the convoys. 

In January the U-boats accounted for twenty-one ships, in 
February for thirty- nine; in March the figure had risen to forty- 
one. The losses from aircraft attacks were on the same scale. In 
January we lost twenty ships, in February twenty-seven, in March 
forty-one. Mines laid by U-boat and aircraft accounted for many 

The loss of life was tragic, and altogether dining these three 
months the frightening number of 317 merchant ships were sunk. 
This was a total tonnage of a million and a quarter tons, and, in 
addition, costly and precious cargoes went down with the ships. 

The high figures of the losses due to aircraft attack indicated 
the urgency of the problem, and Sir Bruce Fraser officially r e ' 
corded in the minute which created us into a department: 



They shall from now on take over intensive investigations of 
the problem of close-range defence by His Majesty's and mer- 
chant ships against aircraft. The latter aspect of the problem is 
vital, and every step towards a solution must be taken forth- 

Plastic Armour was defence against air attacks, and it was clear 
by our new terms of reference that we would retain control of all 
manufacture and fitting. So I proceeded with my work, knowing 
that it was now enshrined in statute. 

I started organizing the manufacture of the armour in other 
countries, and the United States came first on the list, as, although 
not at war with Germany, they were building many ships for our 
service. Lieutenant Warren, E.N.V.K., a tall, pleasant officer 
hitherto employed on the South Coast in armouring ships, Hew 
the Atlantic to open up operations. This flight was arranged by 
my old friend R. C. Vaughan, back in the Air Force as a Squad- 
ron Leader, who was in charge of such transport. Upon Warren's 
landing in the States I immediately telephoned his wife, who was 
anxious to hear of his safe arrival. 

I also sent Lieutenant Jerrard, R.N.V.R., to the Middle East, 
as there was great need of our armour for ships in the Mediter- 
ranean, and also for our armies fighting their desperate battles to 
save Egypt and drive out Rommel from the desert, Jerrard made 
great progress in the development work, and his first step was to 
find a suitably hard granite. He discovered this in the old quarry 
near Cairo where the ancient Egyptians worked and won purple 
porphyry for the royal tombs of the Pharaohs. The purple por- 
phyry was as hard as Penlee granite, and, to bring it to the port, 
Jerrard drove a new road to the ancient workings. 

He also sent mc a signal demanding a new and up-to-date 
cooker in which to make his Plastic Armour, which was much in 
demand. Mr Bussell arranged the purchase of one from Limmer 
and Trinidad, who gave it up somewhat reluctantly. I dispatched 
it to the Middle East, hoping it would not finish up at the bottom 
°f the sea. However, it arrived safely at i ts destination, and Jerrard 
proceeded to churn out Plastic Armour for the three Services all 
during the War. 

I tried purchasing another cooker from Limmer and Trinidad to 
hand over to a 'cooker-less' firm working in the North of England, 
pt this time I received an infuriated visit from dark-moustached 
Mr Bond, one of then directors, who asked if I intended taking all 





their equipment and leaving them destitute. Mr Tom Marriott 
kept out of the way on this occasion. I .soothed poor Mr Bond's 
possessive instincts by assuring him that it was the last cooker that 
1 should take from Limmer and Trinidad, and that a firm with 
such a great name could afford to be generous, 

"All "right," said Mr Bond, "you win this time — but I never 
could abide soeialism even when at war." 

He went quite happily back to his office, where, no doubt tiiy 
cock-hatted friend Mr Marriott was waiting to hear the result of 
the interview. 

The Department of Naval Construction at Bath evidently con- 
sidered that Plastic Armour was making far too rapid a progress. 
The conservative qualities of this admirable department had been 
rudely shaken by my intrusion, and they decided that it was again 
time that they took a hand in the game. I was not going to be 
allowed to have it all my own way — that would never do. 

They proposed that trials of comparison between heat-treated 
steel, mild steel, and Plastic Armour should be carried out with a 
500-pound bomb. This was a serious test, as the initial velocity of 
fragments from such a bomb was about 5000 feet a second, 
whereas the initial velocity of a -303 bullet was about 2300 feet a 
second. It was also true that air would oiler heavy resistance to 
the irregular shape of a bomb fragment, which would, therefore, 
lose velocity much more rapidly than a streamlined rifle bullet or 
cannon shell. But 5000 feet a second was no joke. 

Bath evidently considered that the plastic nature of the armour 
would not lend itself to much resistance to bomb fragments, but 
we had foreseen that such a test of Plastic Armour would be made. 
Mr Markwick had installed a pretty little weapon called a 'splin- 
ter gun' at the range at the Boad Research Laboratory, and the 
weapon, when fired, would hurl fragments of metal at the speed 
of 5000 feet a second into a selected target These fragments of 
metal simulated the pieces that might be expected from an ex- 
ploding bomb. Not unnaturally the 'splinter gun' had been used 
in trials against Plastic Armour with its thin steel backing plate. 

An astonishing result had been obtained from these tests. 
Against fragments travelling at a speed of 5000 feet a second 
Plastic .Armour, weight for weight, was actually superior to heat 
treated plate. It will be remembered that against bullets and 
cannon shell, weight for weight, it was somewhat inferior to tb«s 
plate. Why this phenomenon should have been I do not pretend to 
know, nor do I think anyone else knew, but undoubtedly it was *°- 

Dr Glanville had kept me fully informed as these tests at the 
Laboratory were carried out, and so when the Director of Naval 
Construction proposed his trial of strength 1 was not entirely 

Large targets were to be set up all around the 500-pound bomb, 
which was to be exploded at the testing- ground at Shoeburyness. 
The Department of Naval Construction specified targets of Plastic 
Armour of a thickness which, in the light of the 'splinter-gun' trials, 
I considered entirely unnecessary. I discussed these thicknesses 
with die experimental staff at Bath, but the expert in armour was 
adamant. It was evident that the Department took a poor view of 
the possible resistance to bomb fragments of Plastic Armour in 
comparison with heat-treated steel plate. 

"Very well," I said, "have it your own way. I'll make up the 
Plastic Armour targets to any thickness you'' like, but this is a 
comparative trial of armour, weight for weight." 

This was agreed to, and I arranged for Limmer and Trinidad to 
make up the samples. Not wishing to take any chances, 1 tested 
with rifle bullets plates taken from the mixes from win" eh the 
samples were made. But manufacture in accordance with the 
specification was by now well established, and, providing the for- 
mula was strictly adhered to, there was little risk of anything 
going wrong. 

The Plastic Armour samples were duly dispatched to the testing- 
ground at Shoeburyness, and I was happy to find that the report 
on the result was to be made by the officer in charge, the Super- 
intendent of Experiments and Research, Two bombs were to be 
fired, one after the other, and the results evaluated by the scientific 
staff of the establishment. The Ordnance Board were to be repre- 
sented by Captain A. C. Goolden, B.N. 

I invited Captain Davies, my new Director, to witness the trials, 
which invitation he accepted with alacrity, and we travelled down 
to the East Coast by car. 

At the testing- ground we found that the targets had been set 
"P all around the bomb, which was sitting on the ground like a 
«t black pudding. The Director of Naval Construction had sent a 
number of representatives from Bath. I protested that the Plastic 
Armour targets were set up farther away from the bomb than the 
heat-treatcd-plate targets, and indicated that Plastic Armour 
Would stand up as well as the plate to flying bomb fragments. 

There was such an incredulous smile at this from the Bath con- 
sent that I shrugged my shoulders and let it go. I was not at 



this stage imparting the information already obtained from the 

The Superintendent was a most friendly officer and very proud 
of an ancient mulberry-tree standing in the grounds of Ins official 
residence. I was satisfied that he would be completely impartial. 
The scientific assessment was to take into account the thickness 
and weight of targets and their- distance from the bomb— so that 
was all right by me. 

The wires were attached, so we took cover behind concrete but- 
tresses about two hundred yards away, and the bomb was deto- 
nated. I must say it was a beautiful explosion. 

We went to examine the results. The young men from Rath ran 
from target to target and cries of astonishment were raised. The 
fragments of bomb had penetrated through and into the targets, 
and as examination proceeded it became clear that Plastic Armour 
had come out on top. The cohorts from Bath seemed to be in- 
credulous about the entire proceedings, and began to make com- 
plicated mathematical calculations involving thicknesses, dis- 
tances, and weights. 

"Bless the Laboratory," I said to myself, and wandered casually 
among the targets, taking care to point out to Bath enthusiasts 
various penetrations of bomb fragments through the heat-treated 
steel plates which they might have overlooked. I cannot honestly 
say that I was popular, 

I wished to stay and observe the results of detonating the 
second bomb, but, as Captain Davies showed no inclination to 
wait, I strolled from the field with much the air of a victorious 
gladiator, and returned to London, 

The trial with the second bomb was equally successful, and a 
few days later we received a full report from the Superintendent 
at Shoeburyness. 

When the inevitable docket on the great experiment was re- 
ceived from the Department of Naval Construction at Bath it 
paid all due and proper honours to Plastic Armour, and in this we 
concurred: then flag was hauled down in final surrender. 

In April I paid a visit to Falmouth and the Penlee quarry, stay- 
ing at the home of Gerald Nalder. Lieutenant Furze, R.N.R., was 
in charge of the manufacture and fitting of the armour at the port 
A firing trial was suggested for the benefit of local officers, and 
once a gam a plate of Plastic Armour was set up as a target. This 
time, remembering my cross-eyed sniper at Southampton, 
selected the best petty-officer marksman in the area. 

This quarry supplied :hu- granite lo armour the sbipi uf England. (See p. 53.) 

■ ■■■'. (See pp. 123-124.) 



(SSSe Clwpler 9.) 

A timh-ahy piwlograpk 



{Seem 121-122.) 
From the Admiralty film "The dun" 




He took the rifle, loaded with an armour-pier ring cartridge, 
ai id, aiming at the bull's-eye marked on the target, fired. There 
■vvas a click, but no crack from the rifle. 

"Never known a cartridge misfire before, sir," he said, as he 
extracted it and reloaded. He again aimed and pressed the trigger. 
Click — it misfired again. He tried a third time, and again failed. 
In despair we examined the weapon and found the reason. It was 
a Canadian rifle sent over for the Battle of Britain emergency, and 
had a very weak striking-pin spring — too weak for the pin to 
detonate the percussion cap. For the moment there was no other 
rifle at the range. This, however, proved the last of my misfortunes 
at demonstrations. 

N alder's daughter, serving in the Wrens, drove us next morning 
to the quarry, where I was able to tell the Cornish miners of trie 
valuable service they were rendering the country. They were most 
proud of their Pcnlec granite, and rightly so. Later I also used 
Cray River flint, which gave an equally good result in Plastic 
Armour, but Penlee continued to be used all during the War. 

That afternoon I dressed in old flannel trousers, and sailed with 
Nalder and his charming wife and daughter in Falmouth Bay and 
up the river Fal. Tacking against a light breeze, we wandered 
from bank to bank up the stream till, drenched in sunshine and 
the soft air of Cornwall, we landed by the quayside, where the car 
was waiting. London and devastation seemed a long, long dis- 
tance away. 

About this time I was keeping a very watchful eye on the Plastic 
Armour fitted to ships that had sailed to the tropics and returned. 
I noticed that the fierce sun had burnished the top sides of the 
armour, and, despite Dr Glaoville's careful heat tests at the 
Laboratory, I came to the conclusion that it was a near thing. It 
gave me a slight shiver to think what would have happened if 
melting or creeping had occurred, but, as it was, we were on the 
right side of the ledger. 

A report reached us that two Ships armoured with Plastic 
Armour bad returned from the tropics to a North-eastern port 
With their armour melted all over the decks. I was seriously 
alarmed and telephoned my officer at the port at once. His ex- 
planations did not satisfy me, aud, as it was not possible to leave 
London for a few days, I dispatched my trusted Lieutenant Hind 
to make a full investigation. Pressure of work kept me fully occu- 
pied for three days, and then anxiety caused me to drop every- 
thing and speed to the port in question. Hind had a very bad 




report to make. The Plastic Armour officer had been neglecting 
his duties, and the contractors who had made the armour had 
failed to adhere to the strict specification and gone their own way. 
I was furious with the offending officer and ordered him back to 
London at once, I further discharged the contraclors from their 
contract with the Admiralty, telephoned Mr Tom Marriott, and 
installed Limmer and Trinidad to make and fit all Plastic Armour 
in the area. After taking these dictatorial actions I reported to 
the Port Admiral. He seemed perturbed, but I pointed out that we 
could never trust the officer or the firm (who were a local power) 
again for this work, and that sailors' lives were at stake. He agreed, 
but nevertheless sent a report to our new Director, Captain 
Davies, who questioned me on my return. I told Captain Davies 
what had been done and why, and finished, "That's my story, sir, 

and " 

"And you stick to it," said Captain Davies. 
"Yes, sir," 1 replied. 

1 was upheld, and several ships fitted by this firm were stripped 
of their faulty armour and refitted with good material as they 
came into port. Hind took over temporary control of the area and 
saw to it that the work was done— and done properly. As for my 
grossly negligent officer, he disappeared from the fold. 

1 let all my officers at the ports know what had happened, and 
that no excuse would be accepted for faulty Plastic Armour fitted 
within their respective areas. Hind and Harris thoroughly ap- 
proved, and both went about their duties looking like saints. 

Towards the middle of April 1941 1 arranged yet another 
demonstration of Plastic Armour, and this time for the United 
States Naval Attache and his representatives. This was to take 
place at Excellent'^ range in Portsmouth, 1 had planned to spend 
the nmht before the trials in Pctersfield, at the country bouse 
where Lieu ten ant -Commander Smith had made the first glowing 
report on (he merits of the armour. 

Unfortunately, I went down with influenza that evening, and 
by the morning' developed a high temperature. The demonstration 
was a great success, hut I was not there to share it, having been 
transferred to Plaslar Hospital, at Portsmouth, and put on the 
danger list. 

I was cared for by a pretty, browivcycd nursing sister, to whom 1 
lost rny heart; she was very kind and efficient and understood that 
all officers when ill suffered in the same way. 

After a week of careful nursing I had sufficiently recovered W 



go out and watch the movements of warships and submarines in 
the bay. 

On the night of April 27 the Germans delivered an all-out air 
attack on Portsmouth and Southampton. We moved all the very 
seriously ill patients on stretchers into an underground shelter, 
and then we waited, officers and nurses, in a blacked- out ground- 
floor room. The attack was fierce, and I heard one bomb appar- 
ently falling on our heads. In fact, it. struck a few yards aw T ay on 
the hospital museum, but all our windows were shattered, the 
blast nearly knocked us over, and the reek of tfie explosion swept 
through the room. There must have been six or seven nursing 
sisters with us, but there was not a whimper or a murmur, 
alUiough death had struck very near. 

Next morning, after examining the wreckage, I decided it was 
safer to be ill in London, and thanked and tenderly parted from 
my pretty nurse, who smiled so sweedy The medical officer gave 
me three weeks' leave and suggested a seaside resort, but I 
decided to return to the Admiralty for a rest. I crossed by water 
to Soudrampton to catch a train, and passed the blackened Town 
Hall still burning brighdy in the daylight. 




Film Producer/ 

As mentioned earlier, Goodeve in March of 1941 suggested that 
films of German dive-bombing attacks on our ships would be good 
propaganda for Steuart Mitchell, who was urging the Americans 
to make Oerlikon guns. 

The request bad, in fact, come from Mitchell to Commander 
Oswald, R.N., 1 who was then the London Representative of the? 
Director of Naval Ordnance stationed at Bath. 1 considered the 
proposal and went to see Oswald to discuss ideas on the subject. 
Oswald, dark and comely, was the beau-ideal of the naval officer. 
But underneath the charm there lurked a resourceful and auda- 
cious intelligence. 

I suggested that it was not of much use sending over a few 
shots of dive-bombers to the States. The Americans were film- 
minded, as, after all, the cinema industry was largely their 
creation. We could not in the time produce an epic, but we could 
create a story of the present life of the Royal Navy, the odds and 
dangers it was facing, and how it was fighting in well-nigh every 
ocean of the world. This part of the film would be taken from the 
existing libraries, and the heart-throb story of a merchant captain 
and Ins crew, who went to sea in an ill- armed ship, could be skil- 
fully interwoven. Attacked by bombers and fighters and defended 
only by machine-guns, the gallant Captain and his crew would 
lose then ship, but escape in their boats. The Captain would he 
interviewed at the Admiralty in Commander Holbrook's room 
after bis ship was sunk, and plead with the olficcrs for more and 
better guns. We would then switch to the factory in England 
making Oerlikons, and show the men at work, day and night turn- 
ing out the guns. This was the short outline of a simple story I 
put to Oswald. It was not only simple, but had the grace of being 
true. I proposed that the parts to be played should be acted by 
ordinary people — officers and seamen, I had seen several propa- 
ganda films produced by the Ministry of Information where the 
parts had been played by professional actors, but felt that the 
story would be far more convincing if people played their own 
"Afterwards Captain G. H. Oswald, R.N. 

roles, although their performance might not be so polished as if 
actors took the parts. 

Oswald drank all tin's in and became more and more enthusias- 
tic. We talked and I elaborated on the plot as we went along. 

"It might be a good idea to call in professional assistance," I 
said, having no idea how to produce a film. "Mr Cummins, editor 
of the Paramount Newsreel, would be a good man. He's got some 
first-class shots of the Navy in action stored away." 

"Right," said Oswald, striking his desk with clenched fist. 
"We'll do it, and all become film stars." 

I could but admire the ease with which a naval officer, after 
years of training in his profession, was prepared at a moment's 
notice to switch to a new and strange vocation. 

Oswald there and then wrote a minute on a docket, setting out 
the proposal in the barest oudine, and told me to wait while he 
went to see the Controller of the Navy, Sir Bruce Fraser. In taking 
the docket straight to the Controller he displayed considerable 
tactical skill, for if the docket had gone through other interested 
departments in the first instance the project would most probably 
have been killed at its outset by adverse minutes. As it happened, 
he returned in a quarter of an hour with the project a p proved in 
writing by Sir Bruce Fraser, and there I was a fully fledged film 
producer with unlimited scope for expression of any hidden 

"We've got to act quickly." said Oswald. 

"The question is whether we can act at all," I replied, and sped 
back to Goodcvc with the tidings. 

I outlined the plot of the film to Goodeve, who expressed sur- 
prise and satisfaction: he had asked for a sprat and was going to 
get a whale. 

Our first step was to obtain the services of Mr G. T. Cummins, 
who had won the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the First 
World War, and that night he and I dined at the Hung aria Res- 
taurant. The plot was agreed, and we decided to conclude the 
film by sending the Master back to sea with the same crew in a 
new ship, but this time armed with Oerlikon guns from the 
British factory. 

"Yes," said Mr Cummins. "And the ship will be attacked by a 
German bomber, the guns will open fire, the plane will be hit by 
shell, plunge into the sea to a watery grave, and the ship wil! 
steam on. t have shots taken of just such an incident, and we'll 
raise the audience from their seats." 



This suggestion caused a new idea to enter my head. We would 
make a film not just for the factory workers, but for the entire 
world. If I was to be a film producer I might as well spread my 

We started to discuss dialogue, and wrote on pieces of paper 
between courses; drama filled the air. 

"This film is going to be primarily for the Americans," I said to 
little Mr Cummins." "Therefore the story must be told by an 
American commentator. Mr Edward Murrow is in London, broad- 
casting for [he Columbia System to the States, and I'll ask him to 
be the commentator. We will picture him coming to the Admiralty 
to see a captain in Trade Division who'll toll the story of our 
merchant ships and their perils. We'll bring him to the Admiralty 
in die middle of a raid, which will give local colour." 

"Fine," said Mr Cummins, clapping his hands. "Who is your 

I thought and said, "Captain Selby. He looks every inch a real 
captain — and maybe he is photogenic. We'll try him out." 

I do not know how script- writers create scenarios, but by eleven 
o'clock that evening the plot had been worked out between us in 
considerable detail. We knew our characters and the story, and 
added incident after incident. For example, a scene would be shot 
of a telegram being sent from the Admiralty to inform a mother 
that her son was lost at sea; the delivery of the message would he 
left to the imagination. Many others were introduced, and we 
finished the film with the triumph of die stolid English Master and 
his crew. 

I insisted that nothing was to be written that was not strictly 
true, and that roles should be played by the real people. The 
Master would have to be plain spoken, and we decided to ask 
Commander Campbell, a retired "Reserve officer, to play this role. 

Next day I indicated to Coodeve that a certain amount of 
entertainment money would be needed, and he placed our small 
fund at my disposal. I exhausted it in a week, and before the film 
was finished this fund had to be replenished three times from 
some mysterious source I could never trace. Norway came for 
some money, and was indignant when he found that the till was 
empty, and pledged for several weeks ahead. 

Next I had to enlist the sympathies and assistance of Mr 
Edward Murrow, the great commentator. We dined at his flat near 
Broadcasting House; one wall seemed to have been sliced olf by 
a bomb. He" talked and talked on the attitude of the American 

film producer] 


people, and he was speaking about what he knew. He, of all 
civilians from the States, had done the most effective propaganda 
for our cause, and his views demanded respect. He agreed to play 
fiis part, and I then approached Captain Selby. He, with a happy 
laugh, announced that he had always wanted to be a film actor. 
Commander Campbell came in answer to a telegram, bubbling 
with enthusiasm at the role he was to play; so my principal 
characters were filled, and we could gather others as we went. 

Mr Cummins explained diat, having setded on the plot, we 
could film any part of it at any time, and the films taken could be 
fitted together at his studios. 

So we started by filming the scene when the Master, after the 
loss of his ship, was being examined at the Admiralty by Captain 
Selby. Most of my friends came to take their parts. Commander 
Millar asked a question of the Master, and it came out beautifully: 
never had he looked so fine as in the film. For this scene the 
officers had to use greasepaint, but there were no objections. 
Captain Selby went down to dinner looking positively bilious. 
Spectators, seeking a little light relief from the business of war, 
kept pouring into the improvised studio, but Sea Lords discreetly 
kept out of the way. During this filming we were obliged to invade 
the sancium of Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander Douglas Miller, 
R.N.V.R., 1 a specialist from Harley Street, who, two years later, 
was to prove his valour on the bloodstained shores of Dieppe. He 
took a professional interest in the proceedings, and from that 
night became my great friend. 

Mr Cummins, in the middle of confusions caused by his own 
assistants, suddenly rapped out, "I want less talking. I've come to 
take pictures," This exertion of authority at the right moment was" 
received with much approval by Selby. 

A few days later we had to take a scene of soldiers marching 
outside the Admiralty Arch at night, and this involved serious 
considerations, as we had to film the soldiers by the glare of arc- 
lights and the blackout was being strictly enforced. I decided 
that die best plan was to go ahead, providing that there were no 
air-raid warnings; explanation and excuses, coupled with pleas of 
ignorance, could be offered afterwards if high authority descended 
u pon me. One of the lessons learnt in the Service was to take 
action on your own initiative and present a fait accompli; it would 
then be too late to do anything about it, and you might even 
receive approbation, 

1 Af terwards Surgeon Captain Douglas Miller, R.N.V.R. 



So we organized the lights, and called in the Home Guard to 
be soldiers. The section was commanded by a Sergeant, who had 
held the rank of Brigadier in the First World War and had a voice 
like a trumpet. 

There were no enemy aircraft approaching, so 1 ordered the 
lights to be switched on— the Home Guard marched and the 
cameras began to turn. Imagine, after a year and a half of rigid 
blackness, suddenly floodlighting the heart of London. The crowds 
came pawing in from all four corners of Whitehall, and were 
curious fascinated, and intensely interested in the proceedings. 
Life at night in the city was one dull, dreary blackness, only re- 
lieved by Incendiaries and bombs, and now some magician had 
waved his wand and produced light and brightness. The crowd 
grew larger and larger, till there must have been thousands of 
people, and I hastily called in the police to keep the spectators 
back while the filming was going on. 

"Hurry up," I said to Mr Cummins. "This cannot go on, but 
the little man was not to be hurried; he bad a job to do and meant 
to do it properly. 

The War Office sent over an apoplectic Lieutenant ot LmaMs 
to inquire why the emergency regulations were being flagrantly 
broken by the' Admiralty and into the cause of the popular corn- 
motion As I was senior in rank to this officer I found him fairly 
easy to soothe, and, in order to keep him from reporting to Ins 
superiors until our filming was completed, I took him into our 
adjacent office, where we split a large bottle of beer to our mutual 
satisfaction and comfort. 

Meanwhile Mr Cummins ordered everybody about like a minia- 
ture Napoleon, upbraided his assistants, who loved him and 
generally had the time of his life. Hitherto his war work had con- 
sisted of stealing pictures where and when he could, and now be 
was armed with the authority of the Admiralty and could brcaK 
the laws of the land with impunity; it was delicious. ,-.,.+ 

After tins business had gone on for about an hour I decided that 
enough was as good as a feast and, to the regret of one and ah, 
closed the show for the night. Even the Lieutenant from the War 
Office, having drunk all the beer available, was taking a critical 
interest in the marching of my poor Home Guard 

Next day we studied the developed films and decided that < 
repeat performance was not necessary— not even love of cellule* 
art would induce me to run such risks again. 
The day after, however, I turned my attention to the great m^ 



hall of the Admiralty, Here stood the vigilant messengers to in- 
quire into die business of visitors. Here stood the lifesize replica 
of Nelson's great monument in the Square. In an adjacent room 
stood the very tabic upon which his coffin had lain in state after 
the battle of Trafalgar, before wending its way through hushed 
multitudes to the final resting-place in St Paul's Cathedral. 

Mr Edward Murrow was to enter this hall at night straight from 
an air raid, go to the long desk, and inquire for Captain Selby, and 
the messenger was to telephone through and then escort the 
American upstairs to the Captain. As Mr Murrow passed the 
statue of Nelson he was to pause and look on it, as if to say, 
"Here is the glory of England still watching." 

This scene appeared to be a simple little episode in the whole 
film, but, in fact, with rehearsals and interruptions, it took over 
two and a half hours to make to the satisfaction of Mr Cummins. 
We started at seven-thirty in the evening and did not complete 
untd after ten. To play the part of the attendant we selected the 
most benevolent of them in appearance, and he spoke the lines 
with all the fluency and poise of an accomplished actor — which 
was not surprising, as he was playing at being himself. Then the 
lights gave trouble, and had to be constantly adjusted to obtain 
the right effect. Nelson's statue had to be illuminated, and Mr 
Edward Murrow made no less than five entrances into the hall 
from outside before wc got it right. The Admiralty crowd of 
officers and civil servants decided that it was a free entertainment 
and stayed to the end. 

Goodeve hovered on the outskirts, oll'ered coffee to anyone 
wantinc sustenance, and Commander Millar smiled benevolently 
on the entire proceedings. 

I was obliged to shut and bolt the great front doors leading on 
to the courtyard, and bring Mr Murrow in through a litde side 
entrance. This was the only time, except for raids in 1940, that 
these great doors of the main entrance to the Admiralty were 
closed during the War. I had placed a sentry outside to warn and 
direct visitors to another entrance, and I heard one voice roar, 
"Why are these doors closed?" 

"Lieutenant Terrell's orders," replied the sentry. 

^ "Lieutenant Terrell be d d," bellowed the gentleman of the 

foghorn, and stamped away into the darkness. 

'Sentry," I whispered cautiously. "Who was that?" 

"An admiral, sir," said the sentry. 

Finally we completed the work and cleared up the mess, 


leaving everything so spick-and-span that even Nelson's solitary 
eye appeared to beam approval. 

The next step was to film the interview between Captain Sclby 
and Mr Murrow in which the Captain made a speech explaining 
the vast problems facing the Royal Navy in protecting our mer- 
chant ships throughout the oceans. He was to conclude this 
speech by pointing with his long arm at the map of the world on 
Hie opposite wall and saying, "See that map!" The camera would 
then turn from Captain Selby and Mr Mnrrow to the map, and t be 
Mm fade into sea scenes of the Royal Navy at war — great battle- 
ships firing broadsides as they plunged through deep seas throw- 
ing masses of spray over the bows, escort ships steaming through 
the frozen seas of the North, corvettes attacking U-boats with the 
plumed explosions of depth-charges, cruisers firing their multi- 
pom-pom guns as attacking aircraft sought to sink them with 
deadly bombs. The pictures would tell the story of the peril from 
magnetic mines and how this great danger was overcome. They 
would show stricken ships sinking slowly after being torpedoed, 
and pin-point the grim struggle of the merchantmen to bring 
food, guns, and other vital stores across the Atlantic. 

By and large, these films, all taken from the celluloid library of 
Mr Cummins, when strung together would produce an inspiring 
history of the sea war. 

Meanwhile I coached Captain Selby in his speech until he was 
word-perfect. He did mutter something about teaching grand- 
mother to suck eggs, but appeared to be grateful for my assiduous 

Following several rehearsals the picture was taken, and, alter 
being developed and screened, wc voted that it would pass. 

Our next action was to go on location, find a suitable ship, and 
sink her. Naturally I would not be allowed to open the sea-cocks 
and really sink her, but Mr Cummins had a large store of fireworks 
which he was prepared to ignite on the ship to simulate the 
explosion of a 500-pound bomb. 

Ships, however, were not so easily obtainable, and we were 
seeking a ship with only one funnel. The pictures taken of her 
would have to be fitted in with an existing film taken of a real 
action when German dive-bombers attacked and sank a single- 
funnel coaster at "Hell-fire Corner." So f went to see Commander 
Oswald and laid my requirements before him. After all, he had 
started the whole show going, and it was high lime he did some 
work on it. 



Commander Oswald, with Machiavellian ingenuity, called upon 
Trade Division, which was full of ships at beck and call, to find 
one that fulfilled my requirements. By now Captain Selby was 
very much the film star, so he devoted great energy to locating the 
ship, which he found in dock near Southampton ready to sail at 
short notice. 

So to Southampton I proceeded, accompanied by Mr Cummins, 
his assistants, cameras, cables, and a great packing-case of fire- 
works — labelled for the train as "Fragile." 

The Captain of the Port was a retired naval officer, who was 
also local Justice of the Peace. After he had discovered that in 
civilian life 1 was one of His Majesty's Recorders he was heard to 
say to the Admiral's secretary with unconcealed glee, "On the 
-Bench I'd have called him 'Sir,' but now he's got to call me 'Sir' " 
— and quite right. 

My filming circus was not received with any great elation, as 
local naval forces were at that moment engaged in an anti- 
invasion exercise which appeared to involve much turmoil. 

Nevertheless, we boarded our ship. At the port I had selected a 
Lieutenant, who had been promoted from Chief Petty Officer to 
commissioned rank, as having a likely appearance to play a role 
in the film. Mr Cummins, witli uncommendable foresight, had 
brought a precious bottle of real Scotch whisky to oil the wheels. 
Two hours after we sailed, to our dismay the Lieutenant was 
found fast asleep in a bunk with the empty bottle on the floor. 
After we roused him with sailor-like emphasis be stared wildly 
around and assured us that he was a strict teetotaller, and had 
been all his life. 

We proceeded to take pictures, and filmed a pretty good explo- 
sion of fireworks on the stern where the bomb was supposed to 
hit. Scenes were taken in the engine-room, with men clambering 
up the vertical ladders and steam hissing all round them — it was 
very realistic. 

Wc filmed Campbell having breakfast in the saloon when the 
alarm was given "Enemy aircraft in sight." The crew were taken 
rushing to their machine-guns and opening fire, and finally we 
placed the rotund Campbell in an open boat, and fired shots all 
around him as the cameras were operated. 

In one of the scenes the sailors were leaving the doomed ship 
J n their open boats, when a seaman suddenly remembered that the 
ship's cat had been left aboard, and went back at the risk of his 
"fe, triumphantly returning down a rope with the cat fondly 


Bernstein laughed, but we got no further to a public release. I 
asked him to dinner at the Savoy, after counting what was left i Q 
our precious entertainment fund. The dinner was not, however, a 
success, as he had to greet so many friends among the diners that 
we failed to talk for long. 

Captain Davies finally called a conference with Bernstein, and 
we all argued the matter out hammer and tongs. In the end Bern- 
stein gracefully surrendered and agreed to put the film out for 
public viewing, and on that basis we handed over the copyright to 
the Ministry "of Information. The Ministry gave Paramount a 
three-year contract in which to distribute it. It had cost about two 
thousand pounds to produce, and was shown to millions and mil- 
lions of people. The film was 'dubbed' — that is, translated captions 
were inserted in place of the English dialogue — in no less than 
nine languages, including Russian. In the United States Mitchell 
reported in glowing terms. 

Several times I went to watch it in a cinema, and the dramatic 
conclusion never failed to draw cheers from the audience. 

One other incident remains to be related. On a Sunday after- 
noon we showed the film without comment to our Oerlikon factory 
workers— and there was no more labour unrest in that quarter. 

Thus ended The Gun. Its effect was like throwing a great stone 
into still waters; there was a large splash, with waves and ripples 
spreading out to distant shores, and no one could gauge the final 
result A stream of films now issued from the Ministry of Informa- 
tion, using much the same technique as was used in our own 

I had finished with the role of author and film producer. 




CONVOY. 1941 

(See Chapter 13.) 

I in peri at War 


(See Chapter 13.) 

Imperial War 
Muse iwi 



Wrens plotting the 

courses of U-boats. 

(.See pp. 149-150.) 

Imperial War 


show The Gun to the Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, and 
the War Cabinet in two hours' time. 

Captain Davies and I dined, and then proceeded on our way to 
a secret room under a building in Whitehall. Coering had chosen 
that evening for a hymn of hate, and the searchlights were busy 
weaving their patterns in the dark sky, while guns thundered from 
the London parks. As we hurried through the street I clutched 
under my arm a case containing my precious reels of film, We 
found members of the War Cabinet assembled, and several rows 
of chairs, with an empty seat in the middle of the front row. Mr 
Alexander welcomed us, and I gave up the reels to the operator 
of the projector, I told him that some of the strips were taken 
from captured German pictures, but these had been reproduced 
on standard film. Several Admirals, Generals, and Air Marshals 
were present, as well as the Ministers. We were introduced to Sir 
Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air, L and he was ch arm- 
ing. It vvas clear that the company present included a great part of 
the fighting brains of England and die Commonwealth, I looked 
at my two and a half golden stripes, and they did not appear 
much, although wavy. There was an air of relaxation and festivity 
about the entire proceedings. 

A little figure dressed in a zip-fastened boiler-suit came beam- 
ing into the room, smoking a luxurious cigar. It was Winston 
Church 01, and, although the civilized world was tumbling about 
his shoulders, he did not appear to have a care. He took his seat, 
and Sir Archibald filled a glass with whisky, fizzed in a little soda, 
and passed it to him, saying, "Drink this up, Winnie." 

The Prime Minister took a good long pull at the whisky-and- 
soda and settled down. The lights went off and The Gun flicked 
on to the screen, starting with my foreword, and ran for over an 
hour and a half. I watched anxiously, but the performance went 
duo ugh without a hitch. At the end the First Lord of the Admi- 
ralty stepped up to the Prime Minister, whose glowing cigar 
circled up in fragrant white smoke. Mr Churchill gave a grunt 
and turned his head. 

"Better show this to the Ministry of Information," he growled, 
stubbing out the remains of die cigar in an ashtray, "It ought to 
be shown everywhere." 

Yes, I thought, and that is where my trouble is going to be. 

We resumed our seats, and some films of a glider-plane inven- 
tion were shown which interested Mr Churchill. From what I saw 
1 Afterward:, Viscount Tliurso of Ulster. 



ft did not seem a very good idea, but the Prime Minister, in 
between sips, kept saying, "Beautiful — beautiful." 

Mr Churchill beamed once again at everybody, took another 
long drink, lit another fat cigar from his case, which appeared to 
come from a special pocket in the boiler-suit, and bade us "Good 
night." When he had vanished from the scene we all gathered 
round the decanter and siphons. 

"A great evening," smiled Sir Archibald. "A splendid evening. 
Thank you for coming." 

We shook hands, and as I wended my way back to the Admiralty 
the all clear sounded. 

Next morning I received a call asking for another showing of 
the film — this time for Mr Averell Harriman, the special envoy of 

Once again I requisitioned the Paramount studio, invited a 
party to assemble, and welcomed Mr Harriman. He showed deep 
interest, and I shall never forget the fine courtesy he displayed. 

One show followed another; Every one assumed that my profes- 
sion was that of film producer, although naturally I always pre- 
sented Mr Cummins as the director. 

The Gun was, frankly, propaganda, but at the same time it was 
real and true, and would have a far-reaching and subtle effect on 
those who saw it, however high their rank and responsibilities. 

We decided that the film should be shown in countries support- 
ing our cause, and now real trouble started with the Ministry of 
Information, a war-time creation with Sir Walter Monckton 1 as its 
director, Mr Sidney Bernstein, who was responsible for film propa- 
ganda at the Ministry, had been watching the progress of The 
Gun from the wings, I had invited Sir Walter, who was an old 
friend at the Bar, to fie present at the first showing, but, maybe 
for reasons of discretion, he had been unable to accept the invita- 

A battle royal ensued between the Admiralty and the Ministry 
of Information. The Ministry w T anted cuts in the film, so the film 
Was cut. It was not the province of the Admiralty to produce films 
— this was the particular business of the Ministry. 

What would you say if we produced a battleship?" said Mr 
Bernstein to me. 

It depends," I said cautiously. 

On what?" said Bernstein, 

Whether it was any good or not," I replied. 

1 Afterwards Viscount Monckton of 13 ranch ley. 



clinging to his coat. In all that we did there was no exaggeration 
of the true things that were happening to our ships every day. 

Meanwhile, as wc were open to enemy attack all the time, a 
guard ship kept constant watch, with her guns manned for either 
U-boat or bomber. The signal station ashore was nervous, and 
kept flashing that we should conclude our work with more dis- 
patch. In the interests of art we naturally took no notice of these 

On returning to the quay that evening I went ashore to meet 
Lieutenants Hind and Colingridge, who, with one voice, asked if 
I'd finished playing games and would return to the serious busi- 
ness of Plastic Armour. 

Next morning I was stopped by the Lieutenant who had soaked 
up the whisky. He was woebegone and contrite and begged that 
ho should not be reported for being under the influence of drink- 
so I let the matter rest, but dispensed with his services. I selected 
a good-looking young Leading Seaman from the depot to play his 
role of receiving an Oerlikon gun on the new ship, and I took over 
from Mr Cummins the direction of this incident. As it happened, 
the boy was a splendid actor, and, to the surprise of Mr Cummins, 
the scene turned out one of the best in the film. 

We returned to the Admiralty, after I had bidden farewell to 
the Captain Justice of the Peace, and took scenes of Captain 
Selby, Millar, and Oswald discussing the armaments of ships. 

The next episodes were 'shot' in the Oerlikon factory, and 
showed the making of the gun from beginning to end. It was 
astonishing how anxious workpeople were to be pictured on 

Mr Edward Murrow then had to make his final appeal to the 
Americans, and time and time again he re w- rote his script in order 
to get exacdy the right words. It was clear that in his own medium 
he was a true artist. 

All the bits and pieces were put together to form a coherent 
story, and I was personally filmed in a few w 7 ords of foreword. It 
was decided to call the film The Gun, and when all was ready we 
brought Commander Millar down to the studio to see the result. 
He was thrilled to the core to sec the great warships ploughing 
through the seas, and all the other craft of the Navy going about 
their hazardous tasks. I was satisfied that, although the film might 
need cutting, it could now face its first public view. 

The Flag Lieutenant to the Board of Admiralty, Lieutenant- 
Commander Hardy, E.N.V.R., took great interest in our scientific 

film producer! 


work. We discussed the film The Gun, which was now ready for 
private viewing before being dispatched to Mitchell in the United 
States, and he offered to bring the First Lord, Mr A. V. Alexander, 1 
to see it. Commander Oswald, upon being informed of this event, 
decided, with his usual flan, that we should have a party for the 
occasion. I could but wonder who was going to pay, but Oswald 
wandered off with the inevitable docket to Sir Bruce Frascr, and 
as a result of Ms signature the bill was honoured by the Admiralty 
Accounts Department. 

So a day or two later we laid on a lunch, with plenty of liquid 
refreshment to produce indulgent and sympathetic viewing at 
the Paramount film theatre. The First Lord attended with the 
Flag Lieutenant, his Admiral Secretary, and other distinguished 
naval officers, including Rear-Admiral Tom Phillips, who was 
doomed to go down with the Prince of Wales at Kuantan on 
December 10, 1941. I had arranged for the Leading Seaman from 
Southampton who had acted so brilliantly to be present. Captain 
Davies, who had been appointed our Director by then, bowed 
them all in. After the soda-siphons were drained we settled down 
to watch the film, and I sat next to the First Lord, who appeared 
to be wrapt in attention. 

The audience seemed to enjoy themselves enormously, par- 
ticularly when well-known characters at the Admiralty came on. 
At the conclusion Mr Alexander turned to me and said/" Splendid' 
Commander Ten-ell. Some of the language could, however, pos- 
sibly be a little modified— a little strong perhaps." 

The language used in the film was really very milk-and-water 
stuff— the First Lord seemed to have little knowledge of the basic 
facts of life in the Merchant Navy— and one or two mild expletives 
were not out of place. He little knew about one scene at the fac- 
tory, taken when my back was turned, in which a foreman and his 
mate really let go. While I had secretly admired the rich flow, 
there had been no alternative but, reluctantly, to expunge it from 
the film. & 

Oswald, Millar, and Goodeve were full of congratulations, and 
that afternoon I showed the film to the entire naval staff of the 
United States Embassy. There was a fair amount of whisky left 
trom the lunch, so by the time the film opened the American 
officers were well primed, and when the lights went on they 
Unanimously put then thumbs up. 

The same evening I was sent for by Captain Davies : I was to 
1 Afterwards Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough. 

™p T RIM\11 K r c 

PANEL ax d 

US7Q (n. M4 _ 


Tli is shows i he lrf : 
machinery which Q 
[he idea thai lw , 
millimetre Ginns^! 
holes tVom airccin „*■"' 
not he repaired at . 

Imperial Wai Mir: eu „ 


l.iY li.VI.S. "HL'RWFlLL" 


AUGUST 1941 

(See pp. 140 142.) 

Imperial War ;\4(iscitm 


-»»;'. " 


OF U570 I EAV» 

GERMANS l' f ' 0> 





R.A,F' Ar 




In April of 1941 I returned to control of the manufacture and 
fitting of Plastic Armour, In my absence Hind and Harris had been 
in charge of this work, and it was proceeding with the utmost 

Hundreds of merchant ships and many of His Majesty's ships 
had been satisfactorily armoured, and the records were piling 
up in the office with encouraging rapidity: confidence in the 
armour was being established. The Middle East was commencing 
production upon a substantial scale, and Warren was winning 
over the Americans to the value of the new material. I arranged 
for one of the team to proceed to South Africa to start manufac- 
ture and fitting in the coast ports. 

An unfortunate episode occurred about this time, when one of 
my officers thought that he could reorganize the entire business on 
better and more efficient lines, and with this object in view pre- 
pared a full and detailed report. Had I known of this I would not 
have raised any objection, but, on the contrary, would have en- 
couraged such initiative. Unhappily, instead of passing me the 
report for my consideration and comments, in accordance with 
normal Service procedure, he sent it. straight to Goodeve. I 
strongly objected to this action, which I considered not right. 

My protest was not readily accepted, but finally Goodeve gave 
me the report to consider, I came to the conclusion that the new 
proposals, if put into effect, would not be nearly as good as those 
already established, and the suggested reforms were dropped. The 
officer in question shortly after took another appointment, but the 
incident left me somewhat uncomfortable as to my relations with 

In fact, the original system used for armouring our ships went 
on. substantially unchanged throughout the War, although in 1942 
there were in some cases amendments of the composition to pro- 
duce special lightweight armour. 



On April 17, 1941, the Admiralty was hit by enemy action. At 
3.45 in the morning a German bomber dropped a stick of three 
bombs across the building. The first hit South Block and exploded 
in tire signals room, the second fell in the courtyard, can sin a 
damage to walls and windows, and the third fell in the parade 
outside. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but we considered 
it an impertinence on the part of the Luftwaffe, 

In May the need to defend our airfields arose sharply in pay 
mind. I had not forgotten the talks with Captain Woodhouse, and 
although the risk of invasion on the South Coast had definitely 
receded, nevertheless the Navy had to guard its airfields in every 
part of the globe. 

1 devised a mobile machine-gun nest, which, camouflaged from 
attack from the air, could be moved rapidly from one place to 
another. This machine-gun nest was to he heavily armoured with 
Plastic Armour, and two or more were to be allocated to every 
naval airfield operating the Navy's planes. 

First I designed a very rough outline of the machine, and for 
this purpose called in the services of young Sub-Lieutenant 
Francis, who proved a willing ally. 1 decided to divide the nest 
into two compartments, one for the gunner and the other for a 
companion, who would assist in loading and give moral support. 
The next step was to get a mock-up made, and a docket 
was duly submitted to Sir Bruce Fraser, who gave his approval. 
The Deputy Director of Naval Air Material, Captain B. L. Hus- 
kisson, R.N., urged that speed was the essence of the contract. So 
we enlisted the aid of a construction engineer at Chatham Dock- 
yard to make up a prototype in wood. 1 explained precisely what 
was required to our designers in the office, who produced the 
necessary drawings with tl? utmost dispatch, and these we imme- 
diately sent on to the dockyard. Within a few days we had a 
mock-up ready on which to work and make adjustments. 

The next step was to provide wheels, and this was not so simple 
as would at first sight appear. The nest would have to retain its 
mobility even under fire from an attacking enemy. Tyres would 
undoubtedly be punctured in action and rendered useless. The 
problem was solved by the discovery that the Dunlop Rubber 
Company had, with great ingenuity, produced a heavy, bullet- 
proof pneumatic tyre, and upon learning of this I took the respon- 
sibility of ordering four to be made up at once for the final 

The next problem to solve was the mounting for the machine 

"scorpion" 131 

guns. I should have liked to put in an Oerlikon gun, but felt that 
w e should never be allowed to take any of these precious weapons 
from the ships; so we had to he content with Lewis guns, which 
would be most effective at short range, and of which there were 
to be two in each nest. A suitable mounling was essential, as the 
guns would have to be fired at either ground troops or aircraft, 
which meant at all sorts of angles. Further, they would have to he 
swivelled in all directions. We were fortunate in finding that just 
such a mounting had been invented by a Mr Motley, so I went to 
his works and, after examining one, ordered it to he delivered to 
Chatham Dockyard. I obtained the necessary guns from the 
Director of Armament Supply, and the problem of armouring was 
easy: Mr Thompson, of Durastic Bituminous Products, prepared 
Plastic Armour three inches thick in steel cases to be fitted round 
the chassis, and the gunner was also to be protected by shields 
moving around with him on the; Motley mounting. 

All the necessary components were ready to be assembled at the 
dockyard, and the work proceeded apace. I reported my action to 
Captain Woodhouse, who gave a grim smile of approval, and one 
of his stall, a Major of Marines, took me to see Rear- Admiral A. J. 
Power,' the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff. Admiral Power listened 
to the Major of Marines, and then turned to me and said, "Tell 
me about Plastic Armour. 1 want to hear all there is to know." 

So I gave him a short account of its history and its capacity for 
resisting projectiles. He listened with keen interest and made a 
note. Pie informed me that I should receive his full support. 

Paymaster Captain Jerram, his secretary, next day showed me 
privately the cryptic note. It said, "A Major who knows nothing, 
and a Lieutenant-Commander who knows something." 

I told Commander Millar of this interview, and he said of the 
Rear-Admiral, "Watch that man — he is going very far." 

I requested Lieutenant Currie to camouflage the machine, and 
he fell to work with all the ardour of a young man wooing a fair 
maid. He produced a wonderful net that completely concealed 
the nest from air and land observation and could be rolled up 
when not in use. 

Thus, we had the guns, the mounting, the armour, the chassis, 
the wheels, and the camouflage. There was one thing missing — a 
name. After due consideration and consultation f solemnly chris- 
tened the nest "Scorpion," hut there was no bottle of fizzing cham- 
pagne to break on her 'bows,' and if there had been we should 
1 At ter wards Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Power, G.C.B. 



never have allowed the precious liquid to be so wasted. "Scor- 
pion," however, had a first-class sting. 

The next step was to demonstrate this new weapon, and we took 
steps to inform the Army as well as the Navy that the first proto- 
type of "Scorpion" was ready for action. I sent photographs of it 
to Sir Bruce Fraser, and he marked them back to me, "Well 

I arranged for a demons tration of "Scorpion" on the Horse 
Guards Parade, and Rear -Admiral Power, accompanied by Cap- 
tain jerram, came to give his full weight and support. Captain 
Davies also came to speak the right word in season. 

The next day I was requested by the War Office to display 
"Scorpion" to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir- 
Alan Brooke. 1 The War Office brigadiers and colonels were sitting 
down to a large tea, when the news came through that Sir Alan 
Brooke had emerged from his lair earlier than expected to make 
the inspection. These red-tabbed officers fell over one another in 
the scurry to arrive on the parade-ground, which spoke well for 
the influence of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. 

t showed Sir Alan, who walked fastidiously around, the salient 
points of "Scorpion," and he was most polite and interested. Then 
he asked about Plastic Armour, so I gave him all the necessary 
information. I had him all to myself, for his officers kept some 
distance away. 

"Has the Army tested Plastic Armour?" 

"No, sir," I replied, and he called up his colonels. 

"The sooner this armour is tested the better," he said acidly. 

I observed the frosty look in the blue eyes of the armament 
Colonel present, but no one dare say a word. The great man had 
a way w i th h im , al th o u gh e n e ver rai s c d h i s v o i ce . 

"Trials can be put on at once, sir," I replied, 

"Let it be done," said Sir Alan sharply. 

A test was arranged there and then, under the frowning eye of 
the General. I continued discussions with Sir Alan on the wide 
problems of defence, and, after saluting the Army, decided to 
leave in bis company. Walking from the parade-ground, 1 could 
but think that here was a man of instant decision and action. 

Meanwhile the naval department responsible for the protection 

of our airfields ordered one hundred "Scorpions" to be made with 

the utmost dispatch, and, with the approval of Captain Davies, we 

undertook their manufacture. It was the second invention I had 

1 Afterwards Field -Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke ol Erookebo rough. 

"scorpion" 133 

succeeded in 'selling' to the Navy within a year, and I was not a 
little proud of the fact. 

At the same time the Major of Marines, who, after all, did know 
something, had been stirring up the pot, and had organized a 
great demonstration of all available weapons for the defence of 
aerodromes at Worthy Down Airfield, in Hampshire. 

The Navy, Army, and Air Force joined in this great array of 
forces. There were present an Admiral, two Generals, and an Air 
Marshal, and in the fleeting distance I saw Captain Davies. 

A mimic attack on the aerodrome by troops took place at dawn, 
and the staff stood on a hill to watch the battle being waged on 
the perimeter of the airfield. 

The Royal Air Force sent a squadron of Spitfires to fly over our 
heads. We watched with some trepidation the planes skimming 
the ground at top speed towards us. They actually roared past 
about a foot higher than we stood, and I could have stretched out 
a hand and caught the under-carriagc of one plane as it flew by. 
We were all a little scared, but not a man moved. 

"We die but do not duck," I muttered to the Major of Marines. 

"They'll hear about, this joke," he replied tersely. 

A few weeks later a similar exercise took place in another 
Southern county, and a Polish pilot flew straight at a group of 
staff officers watching the manoeuvres, mistook them for target 
dummies, and opened fire with his guns, leaving a trail of dying 
and wounded behind him. The disaster was hushed up. 

The exercise was a great success, and Mr Motley was much in 
evidence astride a "Scorpion," wielding the Lewis guns on his 
mounting. The Admiral, with great gusto, fired one of the new 
Sten guns just emerging from the Ministry of Supply. I kept well 
behind him during this effort 

That evening we assembled in the mess with throats like lime- 
kilns. With my own hands I passed a tankard filled to the brim 
with nut-brown ale to my old enemy the Colonel of armaments. 
Words being out of place, we pledged each other silently, and he 
emptied the tankard with one long, vast draught. 

Iu the autumn I obtained permission from Rear- Admiral Power 
to offer Plastic Armour to the Russians. A direct approach was 
inadvisable; so I communicated with Sir Stafford Cripps, lately 
returned from Russia, who immediately wrote to Mr Mai sky, the 
Ambassador. T saw Mr Maisky at the Emba.ssy, a poker-faced 
tittle man who gave nothing away, and within a day or two I bad 
Arranged a demonstration for Russian officers. I gave them all the 



secrets— how to manufacture, the plant needed, and the resistance 
of the armour to bullets and shell splinters. They took careful 
notes and copies of the specification, and then returned to their 
Embassy, We never heard another word on the subject from them, 
and received no information as to whether manufacture was 
initiated. They were desperately short of steel plate, and the 
armour would have proved a great boon, but there was no word 
of thanks — the Iron Curtain had descended. 

Towards the end of 1941 f felt unhappy in the new set-up of 
the department, and when that happens in the Navy it is much 
better to part 'brass rags,' I indicated that f was seeking other 
employment, and Lie uteri ant- Commander Robert Loelmer, 
R.N.V.R,, was appointed to replace me. He was destined to do 
admirable work on the artificial harbour for the invasion of 
Europe, When I announced the replacement to my officers there 
was much discontent — Tlind and Harris being particularly indig- 
nant—but 1 asked them to give Loelmer the same loyal support 
that they had given me, and this naturally they were prepared to 
do, A few months later Hind also left and rejoined me at his own 

On November 25 Mr C. W. Malhewman, managing director of 
the Penmaenrnawr and Trinidad Lake Asphalt Company, wrote 
from Liverpool: 

Having been advised by Lieu ten ant- Commander Hall that 
you are about to give up control of Plastic Armour, f am writing 
on behalf of the Company to record our appreciation of the 

courtesy and consideration which you have shown to us 
throughout the development of this armour. Rs rapid develop- 
ment brought oomph nations and difficulties — with your help 
we have attained rr. t e than a modicum of success — we will 
continue to maintain the high standard which has been 

Mr F. W. Bond, director of the Limmer and Trinidad giant, 

wrote to similar effect. 

My cock-hatted friend Mr Marriott was not behindhand in 
tendering his praise, and these and other tributes, coming from 
highly placed and tough business leaders, warmed my heart. 

I was leaving the organization of Plastic Armour 100 per cent 
efficient and running smoothly, but it was not without pangs that 
I left my first brain-child. 

While 1 was still clearing up the details of handing over my 
command the telephone rang. 



"This is Admiral Usborne speaking — Naval Adviser to the First 
Sea Lord. I would like to talk to you about joining the personal 
staff of the First Sea Lord. Come and see me." 

I laid down the telephone and looked at Harris and Hind. 

"Well — well — well " I said.