Alan Cottrell: wartime research and duty

Alan Cottrell discusses his feelings about being a scientist in wartime.

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What did you do when the war started?

Well, I applied to join the forces. In fact I think I was aimed for the Royal Armoured Brigade, but I was then sent back to the department to do war research instead. And so I spent the war years doing war research, yes, several bits of war research. The main bit was on the electric arc welding of armoured plate for tanks. Tank armour has to be very hard and strong but welding in the tank armour at the beginning of the war had a very serious problem, the welds were all cracking, and honestly it was very weak and fragile. I was given the job of finding out why and what to do about it [laughs].

How did you feel about being a scientist in wartime rather than going into the forces as you’d originally wanted?

Well, I felt very privileged in a way. I felt the country had held me back from having to go and fight and so on, and I felt that I – I owed something to the country in return. And that feeling of wanting my research to have something useful to the country about it, that’s lasted for the rest of my life, really, stems from that initial stage, yes.

  • Interviewee Alan Cottrell
  • Duration 00:01:24
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 3/15/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/46

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