Panjandrum – Experimental Weapon of World War II

The Panjandrum was expected to change the course of the war in favor of Britain and aid the Allies on D-Day (D-Day). However, tests showed the weapon to be a disaster.

British Panjandrum weapons. (Photo: Imperial War Museum).

According to, during World War II, the Allies tested many new weapons. One invention never made it past the prototype stage. It is the Panjandrum, a rocket-propelled spinning wheel. This weapon is a disaster simply because it is so dangerous.

According to the design, Panjandrum can reach 96 km/h and penetrate 3-meter-high concrete walls. Shaped like a giant chariot wheel, the weapon holds about 70 missiles and is packed with explosives. But ultimately, this made the Panjandrum too dangerous to deploy in warfare.

Authors James Moore and Paul Nero wrote about the weapon in Pigeon Guided Missiles: And 49 Other Ideas that Never Take Off. public: “Cameraman nearly thrown to the ground. Panjandrum, rocket shakes out of control, wheels catch fire , broke to pieces.” After the last failed test, the test program ends.

World War II and the Atlantic Wall

Atlantic Wall. (Photo: German Federal Archives).

The weapon was tested against the backdrop of 1943, when the war against Germany had come to a standstill. Despite heavy bombing, the Germans were unable to conquer England. Meanwhile, Allied forces were struggling to gain a foothold in Europe.

Fearing an invasion of the English Channel, the Germans erected fortifications along the coast of Europe. Known as the Atlantic Wall, the wall stretches from Norway to Spain.

Thick concrete bunkers line the beach. Barbed wire, mines and artillery were deployed to strengthen the defenses.

Soaring concrete walls make it difficult to get through. At that time, the British designed a weapon capable of blowing up the Atlantic Wall.

In the British Navy, the Joint Weapons Development Directorate (DMWD) was responsible for creating new war machines. DMWD tried to overcome the challenge of the Atlantic Wall: they designed the Panjandrum.

What is Panjandrum? Basically, the British built two wheels, each 3 meters high, and connected the two wheels with a hollow tube stuffed with dynamite. Missiles attached to the wheels would propel the machines towards German fortifications.

In theory, Panjandrum is able to operate on land and water. The British planned to approach the beach in landing craft and launch the weapon into the water. The Panjandrum would then roll ashore and crash into the Atlantic wall, poking a hole in the wall.

When the Panjandrum broke through the German defenses, Allied tanks rolled through the holes.

Why did the British design a rocket-powered wheel? According to War History Online, DMWD hopes that Panjandrum will save the lives of soldiers. Landing troops on fortified beaches would quickly result in the massacre of soldiers. But when the Allies pushed dozens of Panjandrums past German lines, the Allies hoped they would avoid bloodshed.

There’s just one problem: Panjandrum is barely functioning.

gears of war test

After rolling onto the sand, Panjandrum rolled over on its side. (Photo: Louis Klemantarski).

Powering Panjandrum is a problem. To bring this weapon to the beach, DMWD mounted rockets on wheels. But the rockets didn’t always work, and some did explode.

The British learned of the problems with the Panjandrum prototype after disastrous testing. In 1943 they tested the Panjandrum at Devon Beach.

At first, the exam went well. Panjandrum rolls from the lander onto the beach, propelled by a rocket. After that, some missiles didn’t work. The spinning wheel is deflected.

Undeterred, DMWD modified the Panjandrum prototype. They added another wheel and more rockets. Finally, to keep the weapon moving in the right direction, they reinforced the wheels with steel cables. Sometimes the cable breaks, causing more damage.

Fortunately, the British decided not to experiment with putting explosives in the hose connecting the two wheels. Instead, they opted for a safer option: sand.

Despite the disastrous ordeal, the British continued to travel to and from Panjadrum. By January 1944, DMWD invited scientists, naval officers, and photographers to take pictures to witness the machine in action.

The test started successfully. When the rocket launches, Panjandrum rolls out of the water onto the beach. But then the test crashes.

Everyone gathers to watch the Panjandrum test. (Photo: Louis Klemantarski).

One rocket exploded first, then two more. Panjandrum begins to falter

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