back to article Great Panjandrum menaces North Devon

Fireworks experts will this morning perhaps unwisely unleash a replica Great Panjandrum on the beach at Westward Ho! in North Devon - recreating the original tests of the rocket-powered wheel which sadly did not contribute to the 1944 allied landings at Normandy. The Great Panjandrum The Great Panjandrum was intended to …


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  1. Anonymous John

    Ah memories!

    I spent many hours as a child playing with something similar. Made out of a cotton reel, elastic band, match, drawing pin, and a slice of a candle.

  2. Lionel Baden

    oh yeah

    “We thought about it, as we have the whole beach to ourselves, but decided it would create too many complications. We don’t want to kill any dogs or onlookers.”

    love the attitude ! cant wait to see this on youtube

    flames for most obvious reasons !

  3. Dave Bell

    So where's the expert?

    Explosives, impractical military hardware, all that's missing is the DARPA connection and the Register's usual military reported would be all over this.

  4. robert Tracey

    Hang on I've seen this before

    If I remember correctly didn't this feature in an episode of dad's army? I seem to remember them chasing it for several miles and it never exploded. But it deffinatly traveled in a straight line then.

  5. graeme leggett


    That's (Sir) Barnes Wallis,

    hope you're not dissing Shute, he'd worked with Wallis since 1925ish and was Deputy Chief Engineer on the R100 (note not the same as the R101) and founded Airspeed Ltd

  6. Adam Salisbury

    @ Dave

    DARPA wouldn't touch this one, not enough end-of-the-world potenial in it for them!!

  7. Neil Bauers

    Generals run for their lives.

    I've seen archive footage of this. It was awesome. Two giant cartwheels propelled by rockets attached in Catherine wheel configuration. The whole thing roared along the beach, completely out of control, careering from one wheel onto the other, steering an erratic course. The best bit was the military personnel running for their lives! As far as I know, no one was hurt. This might have taken place at Reculver, Kent where they also tested the bouncing bombs. I doubt if there will be a faithful re-creation. The H&S people would have kittens!

    Yea! It's on youtube along with some other follies.

    Flames because of the rocket propulsion.

  8. Anonymous John

    @ Hang on I've seen this before

    The Dads Army feature film, IIRC. One of a number of weapons created by Corporal Jones.

  9. John Ferris

    It features on the BBC website.

    To be honest, it is completely underwhelming. Plenty of sparks and flames as it crawls along the beach at speeds of up to perhaps 10mph. Although even at this speed, the camera operator can hardly keep up.

    I don't think the Talaban or the local terrorist branch will be too concerned.

  10. Yorkshirepudding
    Thumb Up


    if only it was as crazy and out of control as it was made to be i had imagined it charging accross devon cutting a swathe of destruction and cutting it off from the mainland lol

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All will be well

    Just so long as Pike's crystal set doesn't interfere with the radio signal.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The Great Panhoaxdrum

    There are persistent rumours that the Panjandrum wasn't really designed to work since on the actual D-Day beaches there was nothing for it to do. Instead it was a deception since its intended function was clearly to breach solid walls, and there *were* appropriate walls in the Pas de Calais area - the cover target for the invasion. Hence the "testing" fiasco on a publicly-accessible beach, to reassure the Boche that the verdammter Englander boffins hadn't got their wall-breacher fully debugged yet so they had nothing to fear.

  13. Dave

    Previous History

    Have none of you seen (Col.) Dick Strawbridge's recreations of this device?

    I seem to remember that it required a set of 'reins' to keep it under any semblance of control.

  14. Stevie


    [4 Anon John] If only this thing had followed the same design it might have worked. The whole design is bloody stupid and I for one will unabashedly "dis" Shute for not noticing it's stupidly high Center of Gravity. When run along a bumpy beach OF COURSE it would fall over eventually. The rockets only made things happen that much faster.

    Not only that, if the rockets don't ignite properly, they will and did tip the bugger over before it even rolls an inch. Stupid design. Fixed axle meant that it would turn any time one wheel left the ground (archival footage will show how often tis happened).

    If it had had a wider axle, maybe four times what it actually did have, and used the cottonreel tank AKA moonrover pole idea, but had the pole mounted in the middle of the axle, it could still have had a rocket assist. I'd have mounted it on the centerline of the wider device and used a single inline engine like a V1 pulse jet. The pole would serve to keep the thing in a straight line rather than supply motive power (each wheel would be free to turn so no fixed axle problems). Of course, then it wouldn't have fitted between the tank traps on the beaches, but the explosives were supposed to ding those up anyway.

    We actually needed more of these things. The German defenders might then have laughed themselves to death.

    [4 Paul Townsend] Exactly what I'd say if my department had spent money on it, once the newsreel footage got to the P.M.

  15. David Sidebotham
    Jobs Halo

    Nevil Shute Ace. Never mind the Panjandrum.

    I would not dis Nevil if I were you. Apart from his somewhat premature fondness for rocket power he is unique and don't forget the Panjandrum was conceived by Barnes Wallis (which just shows that even the best of us has bad moments).

    There was a whole series of books and some made it into film, A Town like Alice and No Highway, and it is not easy to forget his post apocalypse On the Beach.

    We are now trying to get a blue plaque for the house he lived in during WWII up to his emigration to Australia and where he wrote A Town like Alice and No Highway.

    It is true that no one else can claim to be a pioneering engineer and a novelist of note, he was also a pretty good prophet; in No Highway he forecast fatigue failure in aircraft years before the Comet 1 crash, when he emigrated to Australia he declared that the reason for his leaving was that the UK was “going to the dogs”. As we all know we have now arrived.

    You can find out more from

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