To Paris for a NATO meeting - Vive la difference
The reports that I had been writing on the digital pressure measurement system had been circulating within the NATO countries and evoking some interest. Leslie Barnes was at that time chairman of the NATO panel on small arms and ammunition, aimed at standardising specifications, methods of testing and so on, so that all NATO troops would have essentially interchangeable supplies of weapons and ammunition, irrespective of which country had produced them. In November of 1963 He arranged for me to go to France, Belgium and the U.K. with my equipment, along with the special 7.62mm test barrels and reference ammunition, to demonstrate it to the NATO panel representatives in those countries. The French had been developing their own system, including their own pressure transducers, and the Belgians had also been developing their own version.

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Transport Command (as it then was), took care of the arrangements. I went with the Senior Small Arms Officer in the organisation, a man by the name of Leo Paradis. He was close to retirement and suffered from pernicious anaemia, an inability to regenerate red blood cells. We left from the big RCAF base at Trenton, near Toronto, perched on the cargo nets which held down the boxes of our paraphernalia in the belly of a "Yukon" transport aircraft. It was a "stretched" version of the Bristol Britannia four-engined turbo-prop passenger plane, designed for military use. The flight to the RCAF base at Marville, in north eastern France, took about thirteen hours. Marville was the base for the RCAF 601 fighter squadron, as well as a transit post for people like us en route for other business. I went through there a number of times in the sixties and it always seemed to be in November, with bone-chilling winds and rain sweeping across the flat countryside.

Our first order of business was a series of meetings at the NATO head-quarters in Paris to set up a timetable for the demonstrations and consider the possibilities of electronic gun pressure measurements as elements of a NATO standard. The HQ building was on the Avenue Marechal Foch, one of the broad and sweeping boulevards radiating out from the Arc de Triomphe like the spokes of a wheel. These were created by Hausmann, the visionary architect of the 1850's, who with the backing of Napoleon the third, ruthlessly levelled much of the old city of Paris to create the modern city that we see today. It never ceases to amaze me that although his bold and ambitious grand plan was conceived and implemented a century before motor traffic became a problem, in retrospect almost no other layout would have handled it as well.

The French were not very cooperative in those days and the meetings proceeded with glacial speed. There was a large picture of the then President De Gaulle hanging on the wall of the meeting room and it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that the French officials were constantly mindful of his declared policy of assertive independence, and only agreed to anything at all with the greatest reluctance.


The palace of the "Sun King" at Versailles
Finally the business was concluded and the first demonstration took place at the French small arms testing facility, which turned out to be right beside the grounds of the Summer Palace at Versailles . This cleared up a minor unsolved mystery for me. A couple of years earlier Lucille and I had made a quick dash to Switzerland for a few days, while on a visit to my parents in England. We had come back by overnight train to Paris and had some time to spend before catching the plane from Orly airport back to London.

We bought a baguette and a bottle of wine and went out to Versailles to see the fabled palace. We were quite tired and soon found ourselves a quiet bench to have our lunch. No sooner had we begun than a pill-box hatted gendarme appeared out of the bushes and told us "..pas de pique-nique...pas de pique-nique ici..c'est absolument interdit.." We moved on and tried again with the same result. Finally we shook him off by going to a remote corner right at the edge of the grounds and managed to consume our goodies uninterrupted, except that now we seemed to be the target of a fusillade of small arms fire from somewhere uncomfortably close. We never did discover the source, but of course now everything fell into place.

The demonstration turned out to be a bit of a competition because the French had come up with their own system for providing a digital readout and obviously were very anxious to make favourable impression on the assembled international representatives. I was at a disadvantage because I had to unpack and assemble all my stuff with Leo Paradis acting as assistant, but fortunately everything worked as planned and the numbers appearing on the readout after each shot were credible and convincing. The home team seemed to need an army of technicians to make adjustments before each round was fired and the readout had to be converted using a table of some sort to give the actual peak pressure. After the two day affair was over I felt that I had definitely won that round.


Uncle, killed on the Somme
in 1916. he was 21
The next demonstration was in Belgium. We were taken there with all our gear, in a huge Mercedes Benz military staff car, driven by a Canadian corporal. It was the November 11th weekend, and the route took us through the famous first world war battle field of Verdun, marked with crosses as far as the eye could see on the graves of the young men who were slaughtered there. That journey, made on the anniversary of the day the armistice was signed, had a particular significance for me, because my Father's older brother had been killed in the battle of the Somme in 1916 when the trench he was in was struck by a shell. He was twenty one years old. I had heard at first hand from other uncles who had survived the carnage, what it was like to see a wave of green chlorine gas coming at you, or to "go over the top" and face a hail of bullets. Those crosses were an awesome reminder of the unprecedented loss of life which had been the hallmark of the "war to end war".

Our destination was the huge armament works of Fabrique Nationale, the famous company better known by the initials "FN". They had designed the 7.62mm semi- automatic rifle which was the NATO standard issue at that time. The factory was in Herstal, a suburb of Liege, one of the great first world war forts. We were introduced to a Monsieur Van-Vyve, a senior executive of the company who had taken a great interest in my development of the digital pressure measurement system. He had started a project to develop a system using the same techniques that I had described in my reports and greeted my as "Le Pere de la systeme", which was immensely gratifying.

The demonstration went very well and Van-Vyve was pleased because it made it much easier for him to sell the idea to his management as a viable technique for routine use. He had arranged to take us on a sight-seeing tour which included Brussels and Bruges. Bruges was fascinating, the "Venice of the North", with its cobbled streets, canals and graceful churches, and of course the "Badinage", where some of the famous Belgian lace is still made. The place was deserted, with almost no other tourists at that time of the year and the illusion of being transported back through the centuries was so real that it would have been absolutely no surprise if the Knights of Charlemagne had suddenly ridden through the town, with the clatter of their horses hooves echoing in the quiet streets.

Immediately following this we were driven back to the RCAF base at Marville to await the transport flight to London for the next phase of the demonstration. By this time Leo Paradis was in some trouble and it was obvious that he would need treatment before we undertook any further activities. He waved it all off and said he would be fine, but I privately made up my ming that I would get something organised as soon as we reached the U.K. I had managed to phone my Father from Liege to ask him if he could track down a rather special type of dry battery which I needed to provide a reference voltage for calibrating my system, because I suspected that the one I had was deteriorating. (it was unbelievably complicated and time consuming to make an international call thirty years ago).

The Canadian military were supremely efficient in providing total support for all aspects of that tour and when we got off the plane at Gatwick airport, there was a captain there to greet me and take care of anything that was needed. I lost no time in telling him that Leo Paradis needed medical attention and he arranged with a London hospital to have him admitted at once and took care of the transport arrangements. I was impressed and so were my parents, who had come to pick me up to spend the weekend before the U.K. demonstration for the Ordnance Board brass. When we resumed the tour a few days later Leo Paradis was in fine form, having had a sequence of transfusions to replenish his red blood cells. He was a gritty and loyal companion. It turned out that he had volunteered for service at the beginning of the war but had been turned down on medical grounds. Very few Quebecois had made that offer. He said to me one evening over a beer that if his name had been "Paradise" rather than "Paradis" (i.e. if he had been an anglophone) that there would have been many more doors open to him in his career. Sad, but probably true for his generation.

The demonstration for the Ordnance Board, (the authority on everything to do with guns in the U.K. with a venerable history going back to the year dot), took place at a test range at Swinnerton near Stoke-on-Trent. There was a lot of interest and a whole posse of people from the various agencies concerned with weapons design, testing and inspection turned up to see it. It went very smoothly and the people from the Directorate of Inspection of Armaments indicated that they would like to get hold of a system for evaluation, which was a most satisfactory outcome.

We returned to Paris for some wrap up meetings and on November the 22nd we got back to Marville to await the next transport flight to Ottawa. After getting our bags to our rooms and freshening up we went to the Officers mess for some liquid refreshment. The radio was blaring away as usual, carrying whatever the AFN channel (American Forces Network) was broadcasting. What was not usual was seeing everyone standing around in stunned silence, apparently in a state of total shock. Finally I tuned myself in to the radio and heard the announcer saying: "...the only information we have at this time is that he was shot while travelling in a motorcade procession through the streets of Dallas....we have no information as to whether the injuries to the President were fatal..." Within a very short time of course the tragedy was confirmed. It was one of the most depressing experiences of my life. The new hope for the Western World who had faced down Kruschev over the Cuban Missile Crisis and who had renewed our faith in democracy without sleaze and bombast, had been cut down almost before he had had a chance to fulfil any of the promise that was there.

The demonstration had been sufficiently convincing that the system was provisionally adopted as a NATO standard and I was eventually awarded a patent for it. I made several more trips to attend NATO small arms ammunition panel meetings by way of Marville and I will always remember the last one in January 1965. I emerged from the NATO headquarters building onto the Avenue Marechal Foch at the end of the last day of meetings and glanced at the sandwich boards carrying the headlines of the evening newspapers. I was stunned to see "CHURCHILL EST MORT" splashed across all of them, a sad day, but at least he had had an incredibly long life, unlike Kennedy. I was driven back to Marville in a military staff car the next morning and was told that the flight would leave around midday. The plane was the VIP Yukon, normally reserved for dignitaries only, but since it was returning half empty to Ottawa on that occasion, I was given a seat.

We had to wait an hour or so for a gale force crosswind to shift round more in line with the runway before we could take off. The Met people's predictions were about right and eventually we took off. We gained altitude and were about half an hour into the thirteen hour flight when I noticed one of the four propellers was slowing down and finally it stopped. The voice of the young squadron leader who was the aircraft captain came over the intercom, "Gentlemen, I am sure that you will have noticed by now that I have feathered the inboard port engine, the reason is that the fire warning light for that engine has come on, and although I am virtually certain there is no fire, we are going to have to ditch the fuel and return to Marville".

We watched as several thousand gallons of aviation fuel spewed out in a fine mist over the French countryside and the plane banked round and set course for the return journey. As we started our descent, the pilot came on the intercom again, "This landing will be a little tricky because the wind has continued to shift direction and is now at about forty five degrees across the runway. Since we will becoming in on only three engines, I have asked the control tower to foam the runway, so don't be surprised if you see a lot of activity as we touch down". We all understood what he meant, after all if a crosswind had been reason enough to delay the takeoff in the first place with all four engines operational, it was a safe bet that coming in with a similar crosswind and only three engines, would definitely not be a recommended procedure. He made a long shallow glide path to get the feel of the force of the wind. The risk was that he would end up coming down crab-wise in an effort to hold course against the crosswind with only three engines.

He was a pretty cool customer and we could sense the contortions he was performing with the rudder, ailerons and throttles, to make sure we touched down square on to the direction of the runway. It wasn't exactly a three-point landing, but that didn't matter, he had achieved his objective which was to make sure that he was headed dead straight down the runway as the first wheel touched down, thereby giving himself some leeway to get all three wheels firmly down over the next few hundred yards. By this time it was evening and everyone repaired to the Officers mess for some fortification after the excitement of the previous few hours, before turning in for the night once again to await a new departure time.

The pilot's diagnosis had been correct, a faulty circuit had caused the fire warning light to come on and that was quickly attended to. Once again we took off and this time we made it across the North Atlantic without incident - until we reached Ottawa and put down the landing gear. We heard it go down and expected to land shortly thereafter, but for some reason we kept making circuits around the airfield and periodically buzzing the control tower. We realised that something was up, or more precisely not coming down.

After two or three of these displays of how close we could come to the tower without actually demolishing it, we heard the now familiar voice over the intercom, with the equally familiar nonchalance, "Gentlemen, you must be wondering why we seem intent on attracting the attention of the air traffic controllers with such bold manoeuvres, well the thing is that the light that tells me the port landing gear has locked into the down position, has not come on." Oh - great, I thought, first a light that is not supposed to come on, comes on, and now the one that's supposed to come on, bloody well stays off!

"The technical people have been looking at it with binoculars from the tower and they are pretty sure that everything is O.K. I can't take a chance, so what I am going to do is to come in tilted over very slightly to starboard and touch down the starboard wheel first. Then I'll tip gently over to even keel and test the port wheel, if it holds then we will have a normal landing. If I feel it start to crumple, then I am going to pour on full power to all engines and go right back up again. Then I'll pull up the undercarriage and we will prepare for a belly landing on the snow beside the runway to minimise the risk of fire.

He did exactly what he said he would do and as we came in, tilted over to starboard, there were a lot of very white knuckles. No one breathed as he touched down the starboard wheel and ever so gently let the port wheel start to take its share of the weight of the big aircraft. It held. Everyone cheered in a spontaneous release of tension, but we were all pretty shaky after the double cliff hanger of that flight. It nevertheless reflected great credit on the training and competence of the RCAF pilots of Transport Command. It turned out that the wretched landing gear light shared a common circuit with the fire warning light, but there was no time to deal with it because the plane was needed immediately to go back to London, to take Prime Minister Lester Pearson to Churchill's funeral.

The "HARP" project with a new sponsor.
There was an interesting sequel to the HARP affair which I discovered in the autumn of 1964. I was sent on a course on "the stability of rocket-launched and free-flight missiles", it was sponsored by the U.S. navy for some reason and the locale was a rather opulent lodge in the scenic Shenandoah national park, situated in the smoky blue mountains, about two hours bus ride from Washington D.C. The area is one of the premier tourist attractions, particularly in the autumn when everything is a riot of colour. The course was given by a leading american aerodynamicist by the name of Nicholaides, an academic who taught his craft at the university of Notre Dame, (pronounced "Noter Daeme", with the cheerful and complete American disregard for any language other than their own). This is the place which at that time was more famous for its football team than anything else.

The course turned out to be a sort of brainstorming session for NASA aerodynamics engineers involved with the design of the sounding rockets, used for collecting meteorological and other data before the flights of the manned Mercury and Gemini missions. These pre-flight data-gathering rockets were the very ones which the HARP concept of cheaper gun-launched packages had aimed at replacing. The rockets it turned out had a nasty habit of developing a corkscrew trajectory shortly after launch, which once established, could not be eliminated, no matter how cunning the design of the aerodynamic surfaces. It was referred to as "Roll lock-in" and although I knew less than nothing about it at the time, it was clearly something that had top aerodynamicists like Nicholaides absolutely baffled.

Much time was spent in listening to people from NASA documenting instances of this phenomenon, with input from all sorts of experts as to how it might be understood and dealt with. Many years later, I took a postgraduate course in "Advanced Linear Systems" which included some pretty abstract and unusual concepts. One of these was the use of special matrices to specify the "observability" and "controllability" of a dynamic system (which could be just about anything, including a helicopter, or, a sounding rocket). The gist of it was that in some instances the designer could be faced with the choice of either being able to control the system without being able to monitor every parameter, or, being able to observe it (monitor the parameters) without being able to modify their behaviour (control the system). I have often wondered since then whether these concepts had been developed in the mid 1960's and whether the "roll lock-in" was a classic example of a system which was observable but not controllable.

One of the experts who came to discuss this problem was a Dr. Charles Murphy, who had been a consultant on the HARP firings in Barbados during the time that I was there. One evening he showed a documentary film of the history of the project and I was absolutely stunned when the opening title came up as "THE UNITED STATES ARMY HIGH ALTITUDE RESEARCH PROJECT "HARP". In the intervening year it appeared that because of the lack of interest from the Canadian Government, The U.S. army had effectively bought total control of the project. There was another Canadian there and we were both shocked to discover the fate which had befallen a promising Canadian development.

I did not know it at the time, but it was the beginning of the slippery slope for Gerry Bull. The original experiments had demonstrated that although firing a payload actually into orbit was probably too ambitious, the ranges of conventional artillery weapons could be radically extended by the use of much longer barrels and more sophisticated designs of the projectiles themselves, based on the techniques developed in the course of the ill fated HARP work. Initially Bull and his ideas were given a warm reception by the U.S. government who were perhaps more interested in the potential for improved conventional artillery than the more glamorous space applications. He developed a much improved version of the 155mm artillery weapon, using the extra- long barrel which had been pioneered in the HARP work.

Consignments of these were eventually exported to S.Africa which contravened U.S. law at the time. According to Bull he had the full support of certain U.S. agencies for these activities and was made the fall guy when an investigation was launched. He wound up in prison, a very embittered man indeed. He felt with some justification that he had been kicked around and used by venal little politicians and bureaucrats in both Canada and the U.S., who never had and never would make the contributions that he had made, but managed to escape retribution for their parochial, mundane and incompetent scheming.

From that point on it seemed that he felt that he no longer owed any allegiance to Canada or the U.S.A. and he simply sold his considerable talents to the highest bidders. Iraq was one such, he developed long range artillery weaponry for them which made the Israelis very nervous indeed. Gerry Bull had decided to play the arms merchant game with no holds barred and he eventually paid the price, struck down in a hotel in Belgium by an assassins bullet. A tragic end to the life of one of Canada's most brilliant scientists who could have produced so much for Canada if the government of the day had had a little more scientific vision.

I learned quite a lot on that course about the problems that NASA was having, as well as the purely technical nitty gritty stuff about the problems of rocket-launched and free-flight missiles. A lot of the information which Nicholaides relayed en passant was quite illuminating. He was working at that time on some aspects of the Mars exploration project, for which the Mariner and ultimately the Viking spacecraft would eventually be launched over a period of several years. It was his contention that manned space exploration was incredibly inefficient and expensive in absolute terms and that if the furthering of scientific knowledge was the goal, then sending instruments rather than people into space, was the way to go. By way of example he mentioned the close calls that there had been on the original Mercury flights, particularly the one where they had very nearly lost Gordon Cooper, something that was not generally known to the public at large.


There was still a steady stream of people visiting
Kennedy's grave - nearly a year after his death
I had a day or so to spend in Washington on the way back and I took time out to retrace the route which the Kennedy funeral cortege had taken from Washington in the District of Columbia, crossing the bridge over the Potamic River and into the state of Virginia, and on to the famous Arlington Cemetery, where lie the dead heroes of America. There was quite a crowd of people filing past the grave although it was not any sort of a special day, the first anniversary after all was not for another month yet. It seemed that people were drawn just as I was, to visit the place where their hopes for a saner world had been buried, at least for the immediate future and as far as anyone could see beyond that.

The need for more scientists and engineers in government
Nothing much has changed in the thirty years since Bull's initial quest for government funding of the HARP project, The key players in almost all levels of government the world over are still largely collections of lawyers, financiers, car dealers, furniture salesmen, fast food franchisers, or similarly non- scientific individuals. Everybody professes to believe that the future economic well being of any given country is closely tied to its indigenous scientific and technological capability, but still there is no move afoot in any developed country to make sure that scientists and engineers are represented in the legislative bodies. Under the present rules the playing field for elective office is tilted permanently toward those with either legal qualifications (and lucrative private practices or partnerships to match), or those in the world of business or finance who are well connected to a major political party. Obviously this pattern will never change if it is left to the incumbents (and beneficiaries of the system) to make the changes.

In my view the only way to entice the sort of people we need, would be to create blocks of seats in Parliaments or other legislative bodies which would be occupied by prominent scientists and engineers, appointed for limited terms by panels drawn from universities and other non-political institutions. These members would have all the rights and privileges of elected members, except that their votes would not count in the passage of any legislation or motion by the house. This would ensure that the concept of decisions being made only by elected representatives, was preserved, thereby removing any potential threat to the political careers of elected members.

The key element would be that in any debate that boiled down to some issue where science and technology was the bottom line (e.g. pollution versus jobs, or what to do with radioactive waste) there would be in effect "on-line help" available from people who were well informed on such issues. They would have the opportunity to participate in the cut and thrust of debates and their subsequent votes would be recorded. Those votes, while not counting in the totals, would provide an indication of the combined wisdom of the advisory block on a given issue, which would be duly noted by the media. Such a scheme would not be particularly difficult to implement and would cost less than the plethora of royal commissions and blue ribbon panels that are now struck by governments, to advise them when they are out of their depths on tricky issues involving science and technology (which is most of the time).