The Wheezers and Dodgers
The Inside Story of Clandestine Weapon Development in World War II
2009, Seaforth Publishing
Paperback, 304 pages
|Type.||The Inside Story of Clandestine Weapon Development in World War II|
|Pros.||Amusing, well written (in 1956), inside knowledge of subject|
|Cons.||Slightly confusing when trying to figure out timelines etc.|
The story of perhaps the most dangerous enemy the Germans faced in the war; British scientists.
The story told in this book is usually skipped completely or very lightly covered. The focus is the Admiralty department that became the Department of Miscellaneous Weapon Development but was usually known as the "Wheezers and Dodgers". This sounds slightly boring, and the author readily acknowledges this, but is anything but. From this unit came some of the most amazing weapons of WWII, and they also helped develop weapons in development or research that had somehow stalled. Great example of this is the excellent Swiss Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun that the Royal Navy desperately needed but seemed a long way off until the Wheezer's, under the very capable leadership of Sir Charles Goodeve, helped procure facilities and methods and cut the red tape by years. Goodeve understood his unit's role in the widest possible sense and was often stepping on toes in the Admiralty to get things done - and was not always popular.
The staff of this unit was anything but regular, they seemed unusual and some were considered ill suited for armed service but they had in common uncanny ability of thinking outside the box and produce results. Wonderful blunders are also featured as not all projects could be a success - and sometimes highly successful weapons had amusing mishaps while under development.
Among the developed weapons covered in the book are
- The famous Hedgehog mortar to destroy U-boats (from 1942)
- The Squid depth charge thrower (introduced in May 1943)
- A rocket carrying steel wire to damage and discourage attacking bombers
- Successful "Plastic armour" to defend merchant ships from enemy gunfire and many more
- They also worked on degaussing the hundreds of ships needed to rescue the trapped British Army from Dunkirk with great success
- D-day work included Mulberry harbour and formidable rocket vessels
The book is well written, very funny at times and a great read. The only real drawback is that the book is light on dates and does not work as a reference title - nor was it intended to be one.
Highly recommended book.
Disclosure: uboat.net was provided with a free review copy.
Review written by Guðmundur Helgason.
Published on 1 Feb 2010.
This title is highly recommended.
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