Page 3 Profile: Nicholas Straussler, engineer


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The Independent Online

Here comes the cavalry…

…which never would have arrived on D-Day if it hadn’t been for Nicholas Straussler, the man responsible for devising the flotation system used by Allied amphibious tanks to get ashore on June 6, 1944.

How does one get a tank to float?

The Hungarian engineer devised a flotation screen, which was a folding canvas wrapped around the tank. It was supported by horizontal metal hoops and vertical rubber tubes, filled with compressed air. When collapsed it would not interfere with the tank’s mobility. The tanks were also fitted with a propeller, powered by the tank’s engine.

Sounds a little vulnerable for the English Channel…

The DD Sherman, as it was known, was delivered on special landing crafts and launched around two miles from shore. There was a mixture of failure and success for the DD tanks, though they were best remembered for their disastrous performance on Omaha Beach, where almost all those launched offshore were lost, contributing to the high casualty rate.

Did he contribute anything on dry land for the military?

He certainly did. The Alvis Straussler Bomb Trolley was widely used by the Royal Air Force on airfields to transport bombs from hangar to aircraft. About 10,000 were made for the RAF; each trolley could carry four 250lb bombs, although larger versions were later produced.

Bit of a British engineering hero you could say?

You would have to say so, but it wasn’t always straightforward for Straussler, who found himself on the wrong side of the law after the war. In October 1957, he was charged with violating British export controls. A military truck fitted with unique off-road wheels, he created, ended up in Hungary and behind the Iron Curtain. He was given an absolute discharge, but fined £500.