Friday, 26 November 2021

Archery Business Update

    The Saxon Helm from Sutton Hoo

I thought I would update my readership with regard to my ongoing/online business. I've posted before when the business was first set up.

Together, with my son, we decided to set up an archery business, predictably named, 'Saxon Archery.' We sell a range of archery equipment including bows of various types. My son set up the website and to be honest I'm impressed with his expertise. For those interested, the website can be accessed here: When the business was first conceived, I envisaged a rather small enterprise. More of a hobby than a business. However, I underestimated my son's energetic promotion. He is currently working as a 'Project Manager' and his background education consists of a degree in Business and I.T. Therefore, he is perfectly positioned to handle the promotion and technical aspects of our business. How he can manage the business and work full time is a mystery to me, especially as he runs a subsidiary and independent business at weekends. Our success is a testament to my son's dedication and technical prowess- I'm in awe.

And indeed the business is thriving. I handle the dispatch of the items to the customers, which is starting to take up a considerable amount of my time. Currently, we are only selling our goods within New Zealand however, we have plans to expand the business to encompass Australia. As said, we sell a range of bow types, from modern take-down recurves to raw primitive bows such as the redoubtable English longbow and various Asian 'horse bows'. Also, we have an extensive inventory of archery accessories including arrows, arm guards, and quivers.  

Contrary to expectation, our top sellers are the primitive bows. We sell five primitive bows to every modern recurve. With Christmas on the horizon, we are expecting a rush especially as our prices are very keen and competitive.

Tomorrow, I have someone coming to collect an English longbow. He will probably require arrows, and armguards as well. A very tidy sale. I've arranged for him to shoot his new bow on site. Here he can safely dispatch arrows without inconveniencing the neighbours and sundry passerbys.

I think this will do for now. I'll keep my readership updated as the business progresses. It has turned out to be a nice little earner to supplement my meagre state pension.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Nature in its Raw Majesty

The Best of Times......

Several weeks ago I came across an unusual opportunity on our property. In the field where we keep our alpacas, I noticed a tree stump about four feet in height, next to a stand of gum trees and adjacent to a 'lean to' that I had constructed for the alpacas to shelter from the worst of the weather. To be honest, the little buggers don't access the fruits of my labours. As they hail from the Andes in South America they are genetically programmed to withstand harsh environments and rain and wind bother them, not a jot.

Anyway, upon the stump, I espied a bird's nest in resplendent glory and contained therein was three eggs. While I am not an ornithologist I did recognise the dappled powder blue eggs as belonging to the Starling species. As I understand it, the common Starling is an introduced species and not native to New Zealand. As I had unprecedented access to the nest I thought it would be a great photographic project for my 11-year-old granddaughter. As mentioned previously, my daughter, her partner, and two kids are living with us at present and have been with us for the past two years- tis a long story. Currently, my daughter's partner is converting an old school bus for them to live in. Once the project is completed, around Christmastide, they hope to move the bus to the local caravan park where they will reside in idyllic seclusion. While this is not an ideal living situation it does solve an urgent problem. When we retired three years ago, it was hoped that we would live alone with occasional visits from our two kids. Circumstances have dictated otherwise. It is virtually impossible for my daughter and family to access affordable accommodation within New Zealand. House prices preclude the possibility of buying a home. House prices in New Zealand have increased incredibly over the past few years making homeownership virtually impossible for the average Kiwi. In addition, average house rental prices in New Zealand are about $450 per week for a modest three property. This excludes the Auckland area where the average rental is about $650 per week. The government bemoans these facts, but of course, are at the mercy of economic factors beyond their control. The truth is that there is a dearth of both rental and affordable homes for sale.

I've digressed (no shit Flaxen), as is my wont. The plan was for my grandfruit to take a succession of photos documenting the development of the nestlings and indeed a couple of days later our patience was rewarded when two of the eggs hatched. From then on we took a photo per day being careful to cause minimum disruption. Now, the situation was interesting for two reasons: Firstly, the site of the nest was not optimal. Due to its position, it could easily be accessed by the huge rats that inhabit the region. Luckily, the canopy of the nearby trees prevented detection from ariel predators. We have a hawk that actively patrols our land and the baby Starlings would be a tasty titbit for the ever-vigilant sky-borne predator. Secondly, this occurred in mid-October which equates to early spring in New Zealand. Spring in this region is notoriously unsettled. While Summers are very hot and dry, Spring weather tends to be wet and the temperature can vary markedly from being relatively cold to temperatures in the low 20s (Celcius). The unpredictable temperature combined with the exposed position lends for a risky situation for the nest. It appeared, to me, as a biologist, that the adult birds were first-time parents and therefore inexperienced and naive. More on this latter.

We faithfully photographed the development of the nestlings over the next few days and the babies were developing well and had started to develop feathers. Sadly, the inevitable cold front hit the region and the temperature plummeted to low single figures. The next day I went to check the nest and both chicks had succumbed to the rigours of New Zealand's unpredictable spring climate. My poor grandfruit was considerably upset however, I hope she learned a few valuable lessons about the vicissitudes of Nature. It cannot be denied that Nature is a harsh and cruel mistress. It is also prodigiously wasteful. Of all the 'creatures' conceived or set seed, very few will reach maturity. The degree of wastage is clearly dependant upon a host of factors and variables too numerous to count and related to the species under consideration. With reference to our starlings: they made a grave mistake when it came to the furtherance of their species. The cost-benefit equation is worth a visit. As a biologist, I can analyse the scenario with a dispassionate, and critical eye. Reproduction and the raising of chicks to a stage compatible with independent existence are costly in terms of energy expenditure. It places a considerable strain on the parents, often to the detriment of their health. It is unlikely that the parents will be able to muster the resources for a second attempt of parenthood during the current season. In the great game of natural selection, they have failed to propagate their genes into the next generation. In terms of evolution, tis a numbers game. Reproductive fitness is to be measured as the total number of offspring delivered for the furtherance of the gene pool. Failure to do so will result in the reduction or loss of 'parental traits' not conducive to the survival of the organism in a given environment milieu. Nuff said.                         

Friday, 12 November 2021

Commentary on Previous Post

A Cast of Thousands


I received a very informative comment concerning my previous post, 'Francis Bacon' from 'Discovered Joys'. He cited a survey pertaining to professional, academic philosophers. The academics were balloted with regard to who, in their professional opinion, was the most influential 'Historic Philosopher' with respect to their own philosophical ethos and viewpoint. Surprisingly, the most popular answer: 'Aristotle'; second place was occupied by the great British empirical philosopher, 'David Hume'.

I found this statistic highly illuminating. Philosophy should be an active and forward-thinking intellectual discipline- however, this is the counsel of perfection. Clearly, an emphasis on a long-dead philosopher is not going to uncover new knowledge. I suspect there are two issues at play here. Firstly, the topics available to 'Modern Philosophy' have shrunk in tune with the rise of science. This is a relatively modern phenomenon and has taken place, by degrees, over the past four hundred years as science has developed and become prominent in academic society, all to the detriment of classical philosophy. Subjects, left as morsels, for the modern philosopher to masticate and digest, mainly relate to the realm of ethics, morals, and religion. These topics are rather open-ended and subject to opinion. Unfortunately for modern philosophers, these subjects have been mulled/mauled upon for over 2,000 years and therefore there is very little that can be said that is truly novel. What Socrates had to say on ethics is still valid 2,400 years later. Therefore, philosophy as an academic discipline, in my opinion, has atrophied and is little more than a historical survey of past thought. My second issue concerns the philosopher known as Aristotle. Aristotle had a great deal to say on virtually everything and what he had to say, on virtually everything, except in matters of opinion and logic, has been subsequently shown to be incorrect. It can be stated, with confidence, that Aristotle formulated and bequeathed the world with formal logic in the form of the assertoric syllogism. This achievement alone, to my mind, cements Aristotle as one of the greatest thinkers to have graced our intellectual firmament, ancient and modern. And indeed, Aristotle's system dominated logical theory for the following 2,000 years. In fact, Immanuel Kant, in the 1740s, considered the Aristotelian syllogism the culmination and endpoint of formal logic. Of course, Kant was wrong, and 'logic theory' would go forth and develop into new and exciting forms. If any of my readers are unfamiliar with syllogistic logic a simple Google search will provide adequate sustenance to be devoured by the intellect with gusto.

As a digression, during the 19th century, a theory arose that the works of Shakspeare had been written by someone else. The theory of 'Alternative Authorship' was based upon an observation that surely an unsophisticated country bucolic would not have had the breadth of worldly knowledge and sophistication to have penned the rich prose repertoire of Shakespearian sonnets and plays. Supporters point out that Shakespeare did not have a university education and could not have had the broad knowledge of Elizabethian politics, alluded to in Shakespeare's works. I'll not enter into the debate, but say that modern scholars give little credence to this theory. Anyway, several alternative authors were seriously considered including the playwright, Christopher Marlow and of course, Francis Bacon. I can see a degree of stylistic overlap between the writings of Shakespeare and Bacon. Both have a majestic grasp of the English language and appear to wring every nuance and cadence out of the rich Elizabethian prose of the time. Nuff said

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Francis Bacon

                                                   Behold the Baconater

I'm back after a hiatus. Who was it who said old age is a ship wreck? Anyway, my health has not been of the best lately and I've been prone to melancholy. My 'Black Dog' is always lurking in the depths of my psyche and sometimes comes forth to bite. It robs me of my muse and I find it difficult to put pen to paper. The dog on my shoulder has decided to tarry no more and has retreated to his den deep within my soul. But he will be back baying, howling and slavering upon my very core.  

Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650), is considered the founder of 'Modern Philosophy', and in my opinion, quite rightly. He was one of the first great scholars to relinquish the hitherto reliance on 'Scholastic Philosophy' which had dominated and stifled the advancement of knowledge for over a 1,000 years. A system heavily reliant upon the philosophy of Aristotle that had become the stale mainstay of philosophic thought. It took a bold mind indeed to break with this tradition, such was the reputation of the Stagirite.

Descartes  great contribution to thought progression was to strip the subject of philosophy to its fundamental base and then proceed to build upon this solid intellectual bed rock, layer by layer, to complete a novel philosophical edifice. However, this post is not about Descartes, (I've covered Descartes previously; check the post here) but concerns a contemporary, Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626). Sadly, most folk know little about this Great Man even though, in terms of original thought and ultimate influence, he has had a more far reaching and lasting impact than Descartes. Bacon was perhaps the first great thinker to emphasise the importance of the scientific inductive method and to formally put forth in writing, its underlying principles. Again, like Descartes, he departed from the Scholasticism to break new ground in the acquisition of knowledge, however, they differed upon ultimate methodology and philosophical emphasis.

Unlike Descartes, who managed to embed the Christian deity firmly into his philosophical model, Bacon insisted that science (it is to be remembered that the concepts of science and philosophy were interchangeable at this time) and religion should occupy separate knowledge domains, without overlap. This innovative idea was enough for Bacon to be labelled as an atheist, during his time. But a close reading of his work reveals Bacon as a genuine and devout believer, although his views were certainly unorthodox. If born a generation earlier he would undoubtedly have suffered the indignity of his corporeal quintessence being placed upon a stake and subjected to a profound and terminal thermal insult; crispy Bacon.

Bacon did not take the bible literally, but appreciated the bible's use of metaphor and literary devices, sundry. He considered biblical miracles and 'wonders' as lying outside natural law and consequently discounted their historical occurrence. The mysteries, of revelation, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, were not subject to scientific scrutiny and therefore belonged to the province of 'faith', not science. This was quite revolutionary for its time but this timbre of thought, much to the disquiet of the church, would become more prevalent amongst thoughtful men as the 'secular revolution' developed. Bacon's thoroughly secular thinking, although not in itself opposed to theological dogma and tenets, opened novel avenues of thought, which over time, would prove perniciously corrosive to religious thought. Wise heads soon came to realise that Christian theology, if carefully scrutinised, had no role to play except in the realm of 'faith'. However, even this limited domain would come under attack from thorough going rationalists. It is as if a slight crack in the dam of theology had produced a breach that no religious finger could stem.

Bacon and Descartes differed not only in their notions of theology, but in their interpretation of knowledge acquisition. Descartes, in tune with the philosophy of the ancients, considered that the application of pure thought, if rendered by the 'wise', and if undertaken correctly, would result in the discovery of infallible knowledge. In contrast, Bacon considered 'natural thought processes' prone to numerous errors. However, Bacon was a severe critic of extreme skepticism; the idea that certainty can never be achieved. An idea that Bacon considered self defeating. While acknowledging that certainty is illusive and difficult to achieve, nevertheless a methodology employing sound principles, strictly adhered to can overcome these difficulties. Truly it was a philosophy of intellectual honesty and optimism. While recognising and accepting that the human intellect was inherently fallible, Bacon stressed that the development of 'cognitive instruments', judicially applied, would enable the acquisition of scientific knowledge, albeit that acquisition would be cumulative and open ended. Progress is a surety as scientists build upon the past achievements of their scientific predecessors. Certainty is achieved, not by the wholesale acquisition of knowledge, but piece by piece by sound inductive processes.

Bacon clearly enumerated the obstacles that stand in the way of the cognitive process, which he termed, 'fallacies in the minds of man', or 'idols'. These 'idols' are clearly defined and classified. They can be summarised as follows: 'Idols of the Tribe'. In this regard he includes distortions naturally inherent within human nature; 'Idols of the Cave'. This includes individual bias and distortions; 'Idols' of the Market'. Concerns the 'idol' formed from associations between men; and finally, 'Idols of the Theatre'. This 'idol' relates to the torpor of the intellect when it comes to formulating and accepting new principles. We are apt to rely on previous dogmas and perhaps accept established philosophies without engaging our critical faculties.

Bacon emphasised the quirks of the human mind which interferes with our judgment. For instance we are prone to accept data which fits our preconceived notion of order, while ignoring counter data that might conflict with our pet theory. We are perhaps happy to accrue affirmative data when in fact we should be looking for data that negates our theory. A single negation, as far as a theory is concerned, is vastly more informative than a 1,000,000 confirmatory data points.

Perhaps Bacon's greatest contribution was the removal of all references of 'divine purpose' or the 'first cause' from science. God was not required and this was a distinct break from the dominant philosophy of the Aristotelian schoolmen of his day. What I admire about Bacon, is his undaunted, sure footed innovative nature. He was breaking new ground and, unlike most scientists, of any era, he had no one to refer back to. In this regard, he was truly alone. It must have taken great courage to 'go it alone' against the entrenched orthodoxy, which had ruled acadaemia for over a 1,000 years.

And, Francis Bacon, of course set the scene for the next great English philosopher of the empiric mold, John Locke.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

British Tanks of the Second World War

                                                  Ask Bob the only pigmented albino

The British were the first to develop the tank during the Great War. At the time they were great lumbering, slow moving beasts and their aim was to support the infantry during the attack and as such  able to cross the standard German trench. When first utilised during the battle of the Somme (1916) they took the Germans completely by surprise and enabled the infantry to make gains hitherto thought impossible. In retrospect, it has been argued that the tank, as a new 'wonder' weapon, should have been used later in the war when sufficient numbers would have been available, thus exploiting their novelty. I'm not going to consider the arguments for and against this view. For in this post I would like to discuss why the British struggled to produce a really effective Second World War tank.

The problem began prior to the war. During the 1920s and 1930s the money available to fund the military was greatly reduced. In the late 1930s, the reemergence  of Germany as a military threat was realised, and belatedly, funding for the British military increased. However, the majority of the funds were allocated to the navy and air force. This funding priority underlined the British strategy of defence. The austerity during these desperate times should not be understated. Britain was only able to prosecute the second conflict by mortgaging the nation to the Americans.

The first tank to see combat during those hectic days of June 1940 was the Matilda Mark II. This was conceived as a heavy tank in keeping with British doctrine of the time. It was thought that two classes of tank were required. A heavy, slow moving tank to support the infantry and a fast moving light tank to act as a break through tank. It was thought that the light tank would infiltrate and rapidly exploit gaps in the enemy line, therefore replacing the role of horsed cavalry. This doctrine was based on First World War concepts and the second war was envisaged as a repeat of the first. As such, it was considered that defense would reign supreme and static trench warfare would prevail after the initial offensive flurries. The British thought they could repeat the successful strategy of the Great War allowing the navy to strangle German sea commerce forcing a German defeat, but only after several years of conflict. The Germans had other ideas. To avoid a long drawn out war the Germans came up with the plan of 'Blitz Krieg' (lightning war). The battle field would be fluid with tanks out striping the infantry causing chaos and disruption behind Allied lines. In a way the main weapon would be one of psychology where the British and particularly the French would be subject to 'battle field' uncertainty. In fact Blitz Krieg, as practiced by the Germans, was deeply flawed. The concept was sound, however, the Germans lacked  effective battle tanks in large numbers. The majority of the force consisted of light tanks and the British and French tanks, of 1940, were qualitatively better than the Mark I, II and III tanks fielded by the Germans.

At the debacle of Dunkirk the British, by necessity, had to leave most of their heavy equipment behind including their tanks. Thus the British, at a stroke, were denuded of their armour. Perhaps it should have been an opportunity for the British to develop innovative and effective tank designs. In reality a series of rushed tank designs, of dubious utility, were hastily produced and all suffered from the same defects. In general they, where under armed, under powered  and under armoured and therefore obsolete before they rattled off the production line. Also they were incapable of sequential modification. Contrast this with the German Mark IV which was continually upgraded in armour and weaponry as the war progressed. This 'work horse' of the German Army was still an effective fighting machine in 1945 and judged by the Russians as a better tank than their much vaunted T34.

It has been argued that the turret ring of British tanks was restricted in size to accommodate constraints imposed by rail transportation. This limitation stifled turret ring size and in turn this limited the size of the turret and hence the size of the gun the turret could contain. For some reason this never seemed a problem faced by the Russian and German tanks.

The British tanks were initially successful during the early battles of the Desert War as they were only facing Italian tanks that were of dubious quality, even when compared to British tanks. Once the Germans intervened the problem was clearly rendered in stark revue and British armour suffered greatly against German armour and anti-tank guns. The American Mark IV Sherman started to appear in 1943 and thereafter became the mainstay of American and British  armour. The Sherman was not a perfect weapon of war and its introduction in late 1942 was considered obsolete by German standards, however it had several fundamental redeeming qualities that would make the tank perhaps the best war time tank the Allies could muster, excluding the late war introduction of the British Comet and American Pershing. Firstly, it could be produced quickly and in large numbers by American industry. When production of this tank ended in 1946 the Americans had produced over 30,000 Sherman's of various types. It was a reliable tank and when first introduced it proved highly popular with British tank crews, notwithstanding its reputation of burning once hit. The Sherman could be and would be improved as the war progressed. Limitations of the Sherman became apparent during the initial Normandy fighting in June/July 1940 when confronted by German Panther and Tiger tanks. The British hastily replaced the ineffective American 75mm gun with the long 76. This was not an easy fit and the gun had to be placed at right angles making reloading a painful process. At least this Sherman variant, the 'Firefly', was able to defeat enemy armour at long range. This variant was never manufactured in large numbers and the modified tank was simply integrated, in small numbers, within the ranks of their shorter gunned brethren. The Germans soon became fearful of the longer gunned Sherman and instructed tank crews, and anti-tank gunners, to prioritise their efforts against this variant. In mitigation, the Allies began to camouflage the gun so it appeared shorter, at least at a distance.

Toward the end of the war the Allies finally constructed a 'modern battle tank' in the guise of the Pershing and Comet. These weapons where more than capable of taking on the German big cats however, they were never present in large numbers. Quixotically the British did not utilise sloped armour on the Comet even though the advantages of a sloped frontal glacis was well recognised by all sides; this remains an enigma wrapped in mystery.

This is my take the on situation as faced by the British with respect to their armoured forces during the great conflict. It is recognised that this brief critique of British armour is an over simplification of the problems faced by the British military during the Second World War and there are certainly other salient factors at play. That said, I can't but help feel that the British could have done a lot better. What do my readers think? Am I overly harsh in my assessment. Anyway let me know of your thoughts, opinions and criticism in the comment field below.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Yam Daft Soft Aypeth


                Our Aquatic Friend Looking Life a Fish out of Water (He's on the Left)                                                 

I'm sure my readers are aware of the 'Tik Tok' phenomenon. For those, who for some reason, are bereft of knowledge I will add a brief explanation as it is pertinent to this post.

Tik Tik is a video sharing platform owned by a consortium of Japanese snipers (filthy nips). It hosts short videos of various genres of less than 3 minute duration. Most of the vids show folk dancing and/or singing. Tis also a platform for folk to vent their spleen, etc. As you can imagine it brings out the crazies in their droves. There are more than a few unintentionally funny videos on this app and as you would expect more than a gaggle of videos from folk who are clearly unwell. So without further ado....

There are a series of Tik Tok videos showcasing a young fella who claims he can breathe under water. And no he does not have gills, unless they are discretely sequestered up his arse (arse). His avowed technique involves taking water into his mouth while 'clicking his tongue'. He claims that this action breaks the bonds of the water molecules releasing copious amount of breathable oxygen. Now that is a bold claim indeed. He also states that this technique was known to the Atlanteans (remember them?) and has subsequently been lost in the mists of time (how bloody convenient). 

Let us have a look at his claim and see if it is in accord with verified knowledge. 

Fish do indeed extract oxygen from water, but this does not involve a chemical reaction. The gill system, which consists of a large surface area of tissue, highly enriched with blood, extracts dissolved oxygen from water. There is no chemical reaction in this exclusively physical process.

As said, this chappie extracts the oxygen after breaking down water into its constitutive parts. A little basic chemistry is now required. Water contains one atom of oxygen covalently bonded to two atoms of hydrogen, hence the formula, H2O. To break these covalent bonds requires energy and the amount of energy required is not inconsequential. In the chemistry laboratory this is achieved using electrolysis. Generally a suitable electrolyte is added to pure water, to increase electrical conductivity, and a direct current applied between two electrodes placed in the solution. Once the current is turned on, oxygen is liberated at the the anode and hydrogen at the cathode. This reaction can be expressed by the following balanced equation: 2H2O ---> 2H2 + O2

I highly doubt tongue clicking will generate sufficient energy to cause water molecules to disassociate. Mayhap, he has a battery jammed in his mouth and the bi-various amalgam fillings in his teeth are acting as electrodes? 

He claims that we all have this innate, vestigial ability however, it takes special training to unlock the potential within. Have a guess who is willing to unlock this long lost art of water breathing? No structured course has been announced yet, but when it does comes to fruition, you can bet there will be an associated, hefty charge- and I'm not waxing electrical here.

This fella is obviously a conman and we can laugh about the daft gullible buggers who are stupid enough to believe this nonsense and ultimately duped out of their cash. Let's be honest, there are always folk out in the big wide world willing to believe in such gobblygook especially if you add the fable of the lost continent of Atlantis- the loony, ascientific (not a real word) fringe love this sort of shit. More fool them we shout. But there is a serious, sinister and dangerous aspect, that I'm sure my diligent readers have fathomed. One of these silly sods may actually convince themselves that they can actually breathe under water and lumber their aquatic arse (arse) down to the local water way. Thereafter hilarity will ensue tinged with a little light drowning. Nuff said.

As for the meaning of the title, I suggest you ask, our Ted.


Thursday, 30 September 2021


The PIAT in all its feral glory

During the early years of the Second World War, the most effective means to deal with an enemy tank was to shoot a heavy solid projectile at the little bugger, at high speed. There were a variety of known factors that influenced a projectile's lethality, which was basically the ability of the solid shot to travel through the total thickness of the armour. The physics involved is extremely simple. The amount of energy imparted to armour is directly correlated to the weight of the solid shot multiplied by the shot's velocity. Of course the final velocity of the projectile would be dependent upon the distance the shot had to travel before impact.  

When it came to an infantry portable 'one man' anti-tank weapon the only effective option at the beginning of the war, for the British Army, was the Boys anti-tank rifle. In essence, the weapon was an upscaled infantry rifle with a large calibre bullet. Although initially effective against German tanks it became less serviceable as the war progressed due to the inevitable increase in thickness of German armour. There is a limit to the size of projectile that can be used, in practice, for a portable one man anti-tank device and by 1941 anti-tank rifles were of no use against the majority of German tanks in service, although they remained useful against soft skinned vehicles.  

Enter the PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti Tank), stage left: With the inadequacy of hand held anti-tank rifles duly noted, it became an urgent priority to develop a replacement. Clearly, a new approach was required. The PIAT entered into active service in mid 1943 and made its debut during the Tunisian campaign, to great effect. In essence, the PIAT was a melding of two separate munitions, the spigot mortar and the shaped charge. The shaped charge relied on a principle first observed in the late 19th century. I wont go into detail concerning the development of the shaped charge. It is sufficient to note that the projectile was reliant on chemical, not kinetic energy. The 'bomb' contains a metal lined conical hollow backed with explosive (see diagram for more detail). Detonation causes the metal lining to collapse to form a jet of molten metal. The jet travels at hypersonic speed and when encountering armour cuts through the metal scattering debris and molten armour into the interior of the tank causing catastrophic devastation to man, ferret and material alike. Unlike kinetic energy rounds, shaped charges do not rely on their velocity to cause havoc as all the means of destruction is contained within.

In order for the shaped charge to become a practical weapon it required an instrument of projection. And so the bomb was married to a modified spigot mortar. Again, there is an interesting, nay intriguing story, concerning the development of the 'mortar'. If you are prone to insomnia, I recommend two tinctures of laudanum combined with a midnight read of the salient material. A sterling soporific, indeed.

Thus, the PIAT was an ungainly fusion of the shaped charge and spigot mortar. The composite device worked in the manner of a recoilless rifle. The mechanism of action was extremely simple. A central spigot operated on a spring which was compressed (cocked) by placing the PIAT on the floor. The soldier would grasp the two outer handles and apply force to cock the weapon. The bomb was placed in a open chute on the front of the weapon. When the trigger was pulled the spigot was released and the firing pin on the end of the spigot would engage a small propelling charge at the base of the bomb. The combination of the applied force of the spigot plus the detonation of the charge would propel the bomb toward the target. The recoil of the weapon was sufficient to drive the spigot back and therefore after the first shot the PIAT was automatically cocked, in theory at least. Once the bomb reached the target, the fuse would activate the shaped charge and release the jet of doom which would sear its way through the armour to the detriment of the crew and the tank.  

Although the PIAT was simple in conception and operation, and appeared ad hoc and crude it had several advantages over the contemporary American bazooka. The bomb carried a hefty punch (1.1kg/2.2lbs) of explosive and was capable of penetrating four inches of armour. This was enough to turn any German tank into a pile of rubble and leave the crew mangled beyond repair. The PIAT  was considerably more powerful than the bazooka and unlike the bazooka there was no back blast. Therefore, the PIAT could be fired in enclosed spaces without cooking the operator and anyone standing the vicinity. Also, the back blast of the bazooka gave away the weapon's position encouaraging quick retaliation. Because of the size of the charge the PIAT was also useful in clearing rooms and breaching blockhouses. The PIAT was credited with prodigious range and supposedly was effective as an anti-tank weapon at 150 yards and as an indirect fire weapon, 300 yards. In practice, and according to wartime trials, a skilled operator could hit a tank 60% of the time at 100 yards. In addition, the PIAT was easy to manufacture and relatively simple to use, however, the initial manual cocking was a cumbersome and a risky exercise during combat.

The PIAT was not without faults. It was a heavy weapon, at 39 pounds, and unwieldly rendering it  unpopular with those tasked to carry the weapon. Although simple to use it had a heavy kick back and the unwary soldier could be left with a badly bruised shoulder, or even worse. When first introduced the weapon suffered from ammunition reliability problems although this issue was solved as the war progressed. In addition, due to the bomb's heavy charge, there was a risk of serious injury to the operator due to metal fragments from the exploding bomb; fire from cover was recommended (no shit, Flaxen). As the war travelled to an inevitable climax (how was the war for you?) the German's, very unsporting of them, began to fit armoured side 'skirts' to their tanks. As a rule of thumb, the molten jet produced could penetrate armour three times the diameter of the cone. As the skirts on the tank detonated the bomb a distance away from the main armour, the piercing potential of the molten jet was drastically reduced rendering the weapon ineffective. However, the skirts only protected the tank's flanks, leaving the front and rear as vulnerable as before.

In conclusion: It could be remarked that the PIAT was a typical British wartime expedient. There is something rather amateurish and eccentric about this weapon. This was not the only weapon to be considered as such, though perhaps the PIAT was arguably the most successful. Its success belied its crude appearance and it remained in active service well into the 1950s. How it would have faired against Soviet tanks, if the behemoth state had decided to roll West in the 1950s is difficult to say. By this time however, NATO had better hand held anti-tank weapons in its arsenal such as the M20 super bazooka.