January 1, 1970

Vale’s role designing WWII weapons for ‘Winston Churchill’s Toyshop’ – or how one man was arrested at gunpoint for throwing bazooka shells around

THE BUCKS HERALD, Tuesday 30 August 2011—A LONG Crendon man who was arrested as a child during the Second World War for playing around with bazooka shells is to give a talk on Bucks’ global contribution to weapons of mass destruction.

Between 1939 and 1945, just off the High Street in Whitchurch, weapons were designed and tested which eventually helped the allies win the Second World War.

Now years’ later Gordon Rogers, 79, who gives astronomy lectures to schools and societies, is planning to talk about what went on in the building which still stands today and is known as The Firs.

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Mr Rogers has always been interested in explosives and made the front page of the Bucks Herald in 1944 when he was arrested at gun point, aged 12, for throwing bazooka shells in Aldbury with three friends.

Despite receiving an official warning he was not put off from playing with weapons and six months later was caught breaking into a storeroom in Whitchurch – later known as Winston Churchill’s Toy Shop.

Workers at the secret base came up with fuses which could be timed to wait days before detonating, depth charges to sink submarines and attempted to create bullet firing helmets.

One of the men who worked at the site used his research to help design the trigger for the Nagasaki atomic bomb which was detonated in 1945.

At its height the site employed 250 people and was regularly visited by Mr Churchill who came to see the new secret weapons being developed.

Churchill’s Toy Shop was the name given to it by senior bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence who were unhappy at being shut out from what was happening there.

Mr Rogers believes schools in the Vale should be teaching children about the site and its role in the war.

He said: “I think it is a thing of considerable interest.

“It is the top facility on our doorstep, they invented amazing weapons. I would also have thought a TV documentary on it would be a fascinating subject.

“I’m sure it will happen some time.”

Very little was known about the site until 1971 when Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Macrane, who was second in command of the site during the war, wrote a book about it.

No World War Two weapons are still based at The Firs, which is currently used by small firms who rent office space there.

Invented at the ‘toy shop’:

l DELAY FUSES: Could be timed to last up to a week before they exploded. Used by Colonel Von Stauffenberg to try and activate bombs to assassinate Hitler. The fuses continued being used until the start of this century.

l MOBILE TANK BRIDGES: Tanks fitted with rockets so they could fire a bridge over a void – allowing a tank to cross over using the bridge.

l K DELAY JUMPING BOMB: Dropped in clusters they penetrated the ground and were programmed to shoot up into the air and explode at different times. If used, it meant a piece of enemy land could be out of action for a week because the enemy never knew when the next bomb would detonate.

l JW BOMBS: Dropped into the water they would oscillate up to the surface and then back down again until they found a submarine.

l RADAR PROTECTION: Aluminium strips were dropped by planes because boffins discovered it confused enemy radar.

l CASTRATOR: Cartidges were sunk in the ground in a tube, if stepped on they would fire a bullet straight up into a man’s private parts.

l INCENDIARY BOMBS: Set fire to things.

Read more at the ©The Bucks Herald 2011

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