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HomeGeneral NewsExcavations at Harwell investigate experimental WW2 catapult

Excavations at Harwell investigate experimental WW2 catapult

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by Katherine Newton ( MOLA )

MOLA archaeologists have recorded an experimental World War Two catapult in incredible detail ahead of a Harwell Science and Innovation Campus development.

Named the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Mark III Catapult, this device was developed to literally catapult bomber planes into the air. There are several reasons why these kinds of catapults were being developed, including being able to launch planes using shorter runways and loaded with more fuel.

This catapult was part of a series of innovations and experimentations that happened in the lead up to and during World War Two. Unfortunately, this was one idea that literally never took off. The prototype catapult had several problems, including engines wearing out and the design not fitting the bomber planes it was meant for.

Never actually launching an aircraft, the project was quickly abandoned. Once abandoned, the mechanism was taken out, the structure was filled in and by 1941 a normal runway was built across the end of the southern arm. However, it paved the way for other launching designs such as the CAM system used in the early part of World War Two to protect merchant ships.

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The catapult has now been dismantled to allow construction works to continue. However, we are still carefully working through all the information we’ve captured and the finds we’ve excavated. Once this work is complete, everything will go into an archive providing a permanent and detailed record of this unusual piece of early World War Two history.

This catapult was part of a series of innovations and experimentations that happened in the lead up to and during World War Two. Unfortunately, this was one idea that literally never took off. The prototype catapult had several problems, including engines wearing out and the design not fitting the bomber planes it was meant for.

image-178326

Never actually launching an aircraft, the project was quickly abandoned. Once abandoned, the mechanism was taken out, the structure was filled in and by 1941 a normal runway was built across the end of the southern arm. However, it paved the way for other launching designs such as the CAM system used in the early part of World War Two to protect merchant ships.

If you want to learn more, join MOLA archaeologists for a free online talk covering the excavation of the catapult on 18 October 2023! Hear about the discoveries we’ve made directly from one of our archaeologists.

Original story:  Excavations at Harwell investigate experimental WW2 catapult | MOLA

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