Weapons Technology


Destroyer of Worlds: the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

‘I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’ So spoke J Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist who developed the atom bomb. Marking one of history’s most terrible anniversaries, Stephen Roberts explores the arguments around the atomic destruction of two Japanese cities in August 1945. On 6 August 1945 an atomic bomb, given the inappropriate name […]


Back to the Drawing Board – Aunt Jemima

The brief was simple: create an explosive device which is easy to carry and innocent in appearance. No sticks of dynamite, no ticking time-bombs. As part of an attempt to supply arms to the Chinese to aid resistance against the Japanese during WWII, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) developed an incendiary known as ‘Aunt […]

5. Daimler Ferret Scout Car


Eric Bryan recalls a long-serving stalwart of British military reconnaissance. In 1949, the British Army approached Daimler to upgrade its World War Two light armoured vehicles. Having previously designed the Dingo Scout Car, Daimler created the Ferret. The Ferret was a development of the Dingo design, but it had more interior space for the crew, […]


Back to the Drawing Board — EXPLODING RATS!

Exploding Rats By 1941, Germany had already subjugated half of Europe, the Luftwaffe was raining bombs down on the cities of Britain, and U-boats were inflicting terrible losses all along the Allied shipping routes. Britain needed a new weapon, a way to hinder the increasingly threatening Germans in any way possible. The cat bomb had […]


The Spruce Goose – Back to the drawing board

Howard Hughes surely defined the word eccentric. One of the richest men in the world, he was famous for his maverick movie-making, addiction to drugs, and love of beautiful actresses. On one occasion, he became obsessed with designing a complicated cantilevered bra for one of the stars in his movie The Outlaw. He was also an accomplished aviator and innovative aircraft […]


The Davy Crockett – Back to the drawing board

  Few weapons in this series have been sent back to the drawing board because of their efficiency. This page is usually occupied by a terrible concept doomed from the start or a wacky idea that might just have worked but for a crucial, disastrous oversight at the last minute. But for the Davy Crockett […]


The Tumbleweed Tank – Back to the drawing board

We and all nations have a sense that we have come to the turning-point of an age,’ said Adolf Hitler in a speech regarding the re-occupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Preparations for war were being made even as the horrors of the last war were still fresh in the mind. A storm was brewing. […]


The Rotabuggy – Back to the drawing board

In 1965, when the latest Ian Fleming novel was published, the world once again marvelled at James Bond’s futuristic gadgets: the Solar Agitator, the Camera Rocket-Launcher, the Imitation Nipple. Yet the most enviable of the gadgets was surely the villain Scaramanga’s airborne AMC Matador, equipped with jet-engine and wings. But this was not the first […]


Bat Bombs – Back to the drawing board

Even as the Soviet Union’s terrified tank dogs were hiding from the Panzers, and just before B F Skinner’s poor pigeons were being made redundant, a new animal was emerging as a potentially more successful weapon. Dental surgeon Dr Lytle S Adams had just returned from a visit to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico […]

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