The Current

How Winston Churchill came on board Pyke's ice aircraft carrier

Ideas so zany, they just may work. That's how Winston Churchill seemed to like them, as he led the Allies to victory in WWII. Our series, By Design meets some outside-the-box ideas, and their out-of-the-ordinary inventor as we look at warfare, eccentricities and the role of science in battle.
Aircraft carriers were too short to take in bombers. Geoffrey Pyke was the inventor behind the aircraft carrier Habbkauk, made of ice and wood. It was big enough to take bombers, could be repaired at sea and less expensive then using steel. (Project Habakkuk/Publishers Group Canada)

Though it may be unheard of today, there was a time during the Second World War, when some thought Pykrete could deliver an Allied victory -- as a material for massive aircraft carriers. 

Today, as part of our Project, By Design, we're looking into Pykrete, and some of the other far-fetched inventions of the World War Two. Many of which -- including Pyrkete --- sprung from the eccentric mind of inventor Geoffrey Pyke.

He's the subject of a new book titled, "The Ingenious Mr. Pyke: Inventor, Fugitive, Spy," and author Henry Hemming joined us from London, England. 

In the bathtub, with a floating chunk of Pykrete, is not the first image that comes to mind of British war leader, Winston Churchill. But, somewhat like Archimedes and his bathtub "Eureka" moment, Prime Minister Churchill was always on the lookout for bright ideas. And when it came to supporting unorthodox ideas for waging war, he was in a class by himself. 

To mark the 50th anniversary of Churchill's death, London's Science Museum has an exhibit called "Churchill's Scientists." Freelance producer Oliver Gardner took us on a tour.

Taylor Downing has taken a hard look at Winston Churchill's use of science in the war against the Axis.  He is the author of "Churchill's War Lab: Code-breakers, Scientists, and the Mavericks Churchill Led to Victory." Taylor Downing was in London, England.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.


Churchill's Scientists - Taylor Downing, History Today

Churchill's Scientists: How British science was recruited to the war effort  - Churchill Centreal