Overlord'S Blog: Hail Hydran!
Thanks to Vollketten from the NA server for his help with this article.
Tiny engineering companies sprang up all over the place before the Second World War. Some make it big and expand into the giant companies with names we all recognise such as Vickers, however, many are lost to history. One such company was Hydran Products Ltd. This company sticks in your mind simply because of the work of one of its designers, Mr Lewis Motley.
I can't give you much details about either the company or Mr Motley, as this information is lost. I know both their addresses, as it's listed on their patents. Hydran Products was based at the Hydra Works, Gresham Road, Staines. Mr Motley's address was at Clapham Common, some 17 miles away, so he had a daily commute of about an hour; assuming the Germans hadn't bombed his railway. The earliest mention of Hydran Products was in 1937, when they started producing oil burners to provide heat.
This seems to have been their one product until the war broke out. After the war they worked on street lighting. At some point before 1971 the company closed and vanished from our sight. However it left several ideas and patents from the years between the wars. And they all stemmed from Mr Motley's remarkable imagination.
The first entry in the war years is in 1940, when Hydran Products designed a new belt feed system for the Ministry of Aviation and its Hispano 20mm cannon. Hydran Products was also asked to design and build 3750 mountings for twin Vickers HMG's to be used in the AA role. This I suspect was the majority of the company's war work.
However in July of 1942 Mr Motley submitted an ambitious design to the Gunnery School at Lulworth, and with it roars into the historical record, showing off his special kind of genius. It consisted of a Universal Carrier, with much thicker armour to the front of the vehicle. On the rear, mounted on the engine deck, is a turntable. That turntable has four gun barrels fitted, each barrel comes preloaded and sealed at the breech end. The round inside the gun is fired electrically, and to absorb the recoil the entire barrel flies off the back of the carrier. After the four tubes have been fired the Carrier retires to reload.
Mr Motley envisioned the Carriers approaching at high speed and making attack runs like Motor Torpedo Boats do against larger ships. After all if you have Cruiser tanks in the desert, why not MTB tanks?
Mr Motley then goes quiet on the new design front until 1944, when he seems to have found out about rockets, and turned his mind to their use. Obviously what is needed is a rocket gun, but not just any old rocket gun, one that has a selectable rate of fire like an assault rifle. On April 4th 1944 Mr Motley submitted this patent:
The gun is fed from the top, with each rocket projectile dropping down into the breech. However there was one slight design flaw, if the previous rocket failed to launch the next round would cause the entire thing to explode. Additionally the soldier would be holding the weapon when the round launched and would get exposed to the full blast of the rocket motor.
To combat this Mr Motley submitted another patent on July 17th, in which he launched a liquid fuel rocket with a gunpowder charge, and once away from the barrel the rocket would ignite. In May 1945 he submitted a similar patent for the same principle with solid fuel rockets.
By December 1944 he was ready with another patent, this time to combat the issue of the exploding gun if there was a failure to launch. As you can see it's a large drum, with a "timing shoe" at the muzzle, so that the rocket during launch presses the timing shoe allowing the next chamber to move into position, and so can only be fired when the barrel is clear.
After this Mr Motley carried on working on the ideas for rockets submitting patents for a worm drive loader, feeding from multiple magazines (to save space) in April 1945. A belt feed for rocket loading, with each belt holding 100 rockets, in June. Finally in November a method of loading using something akin to the blowback principle.
Of course at this point World War Two was over, and it was a new world. Apart from the patent work on street lighting Mr Motley and Hydran Products disappears from the historical record.
www.vickersmachinegun.org.uk and www.gracesguide.co.uk