Inventor Of The Depth Charge Discovered At Explosion!

By David Prudames | 20 August 2003
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Shows a black and white photograph of the rear of a naval vessel behind which a depth charge has sent white water foaming to the surface.

Photo: the depth charge came to be a fundamental part of anti-submarine warfare during the Second World War. Courtesy Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower.

An archive of papers, letters and photographs revealing the man responsible for inventing the depth charge has been discovered at Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower.

The documentation shows that the depth charge, a fundamental part of anti-submarine warfare during WWII, was designed by Portsmouth-based Royal Navy inventor, Herbert Taylor.

Museum Curator, Chris Henry made the remarkable discovery while carrying out an audit of the museum's archives and told the 24 Hour Museum how significant it proved to be.

"It is often overlooked how or where the depth charge was developed," said Chris. "It has only now come to light that the man responsible for their design was a frenetic inventor who is unknown outside the world of underwater weapons."

Shows a black and white photograph of a smiling Herbert Taylor sitting on a deckchair in a garden with a trellis behind him.

Photo: Herbert Taylor was such an important inventor, the Royal Navy called him out of retirement in 1939. Courtesy Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower.

Donated by Taylor's widow, the archive also reveals an intriguing legal battle that took place between the inventor and the United States Government over the rights to his designs.

"The depth charge was such a successful device that it attracted the attention of the United States who requested full working drawings of the devices in March 1917," explained Chris Henry.

It seems that amidst the confusion of a world war and in the face of the terror posed by German U-Boats, the usual protocol on rights to intellectual property were cast aside.

Despite being developed by Herbert Taylor, the depth charge was patented in the US by Commander Fullinwider of the US Bureau of Naval Ordnance and US Navy engineer Minkler.

Shows a black and white photograph of the deck of a aval vessel on which a group of men can be seen working around a gun barrel.

Photo: working at HMS Vernon Torpedo Mine School in Portsmouth, Herbert Taylor's creative mind has left a considerable legacy to the Royal Navy. Courtesy Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower.

"This unusual procedure was undertaken during wartime to prevent the delay which would otherwise have occurred from negotiation and to effect complete co-operation with the United States."

"The American Government appears to have used this procedure to avoid paying any fees to the British inventor."

As Chris explained, the issue of the design of weaponry has always been a grey area during wartime, often resulting in arms being developed by one side and then used on them by the other.

"It's very interesting this whole idea of how weapons and parts of weapons are designed, patented and often used by an enemy during a war and then afterwards someone then tries to claim for damages."

Shows a black and white group photograph of three rows of men dressed in naval attire.

Photo: the caption reads, "HMS Vernon 1917 - Experimental Mining Department Mechanical Staff." Courtesy Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower.

While the result of Taylor's struggle to receive international credit and remuneration for his invention is unknown, it did not stop him from working tirelessly on designs of other weapons.

Among the other devices he invented are the depth charge pistol, Chariots, 'X' craft, demolitions and other weapons which have been and are still in use with the Royal Navy.

Taylor's creative mind was so important to the Navy that he was called out of retirement to join the Admiralty design team in 1939 and continued to design and develop weapons throughout WWII.

A rare prototype Depth Charge Thrower designed by Herbert Taylor is now on show at Explosion! and will soon be joined with a small display from the recently discovered archive.

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