'The Canal Defence Light'
|A modern day photograph of Lowther Castle, Cumbria|
[Where the Canal Defence Light was tested during WW2]
While making a comment about a recent posting about Second World War Tanks I referred to the night-time tank manoeuvres that took place on the Lowther Family Estate of the Earl of Lonsdale in the latter part of the war. Lowther Estate is situated a few miles to the south of Penrith, Cumbria. I have since made a few enquiries about the tests. What follows is a brief summary.
In 1942 adapted Matilda tanks arrived at Lowther so that a possible night-time tank strategy might be developed. The turrets of the tanks were adapted to shine intense flickering lights of up to 18 M Candlelight power. It was called locally 'The Candle Defence Light'. (NB -The actual name is 'Canal Defence Light', see the 'Comments' section and contributions by Peter G. for further information about his)
The intended strategy was for tanks to advance in formation and blind the enemy, at least temporarily. As a result, any supporting advance by the infantry would be a cakewalk and much ground would be gained. Among the Generals and VIPs who visited Lowther to see the manoeuvres were Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower, who apparently were suitably impressed.
One defect of the weapon was that the effects of the weapon were mitigated if the enemy wore Ultra-violet glasses. Apparently, it was also felt by some that a weapon that attempted to blind the enemy was 'not quite the done thing'. Also, by the time the weapon was ready for use towards the end of the war, there was less need for a tanks to have this kind of night-time fighting capacity.
Hopefully this makes explanation makes at least some sense to those contributors to the 'Second World War' Blog with a better understanding of tanks. Nowadays, some people in Cumbria refer to these secret tests of tanks using beams of light as using 'laser beams', a term which only came into use in the post-war years.
There is very little information about the night-time tank testing in the Cumbria County Archives. So I can provide few additional details than what has been written here. No doubt there are enthusiasts of tanks who know all about Matilda tanks and can speculate much better about the possible success of this kind of strategy.