- Luscombe, L.J.
- Naval technology, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1995 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
David Pritchard quotes, in full, letters from Annelise Hulsmeyer, daughter of Christian Hulsmeyer, and her husband Erich Heckert. These were written in 1949 and 1951 respectively, and addressed to Winston Churchill. A summary of this correspondence, and David Pritchard’s comments, follows:
In 1949 the German Press had carried articles under the title “Churchill’s search for the inventor of radar”. Annelise Hulsmeyer, in a letter from Dusseldorf dated April 18th, 1949 stated “I must tell you that this unknown inventor is my father, the engineer Christian Hulsmeyer of Dusseldorf, who was born in 1881”. A year later her husband Erich Hecker, sent a further letter to Winston Churchill substantiating his wife’s earlier claim and drawing attention to patents established in England but allowed to lapse through lack of funds. He also questioned the recognition then being given to “Sir Watson Watt as the discoverer of radar”. Summing up the failure of this correspondence David Pritchard comments…
Sir Robert Watson-Watt himself on meeting Hulsmeyer at an International Radar Conference in 1954 in Germany, seems to have missed the point, and was quoted as saying “even my long-awaited meeting with Christian Hulsmeyer, who was introduced to me as “the father of radar” could not cure me of the queer conviction that one parent was enough for the lustiest of infants“. In his autobiography Watson-Watt recalls this meeting as being in 1953 not 1954, and his version of the incident and his reaction are recorded elsewhere under the heading “This was not Radar”.
In the foreword to “The Radar War” Professor R.V. Jones CB, CBE, FRS, makes these observations:
David Pritchard “gives much the fullest account of Hulsmeyer’s work that is available in the English language, and he tells how radar was taken up by the German Armed Services in the years leading up to, and during World War II. As the story unfolds, with its many manifestations of German competence in the radio field, we in Britain can be increasingly thankful that the intensity of the Luftwaffe threat in the years leading up to 1939 brought our serving officers and scientists together at all levels into a close working relationship; it was this, more than any other factor, which resulted in our lead in the operational use of radar even though in some respects the German equipment was technically better“. Professor Jones ended on an optimistic note –
“Happily, British and German scientists, engineers and serving officers have now been on warm terms of co-operation for 40 years partly in face of a common threat but also from a basis of mutual respect for the other side’s achievements”.
THREE STEPS TO VICTORY By Robert Watson-Watt
The subtitle states that this is “A Personal Account by Radar’s Greatest Pioneer”. There can be no doubt about the fact that Watson-Watt played an important and major role in the drama of the rapid development of radar in the 1930s. Many pages of his 480 page autobiography are devoted to ensuring that he occupied centre stage at the time. He seemed to need, and at times demand, recognition.
There are a number of claims to be “the father of radar “or the “inventor”. For example under the heading “Natural History of the Boffin” he states: “Having committed myself, in this book and elsewhere, to an unhedged and unashamed claim to be the first and true inventor of radar and also of the Instantaneous Visual Radio Direction Finder…I may as well take my third step beyond the bounds of decent modesty. If I was not THE first and true inventor of operational research…which was not incomparably less important than radar I was at the very least a first and true inventor with one or more members of my early Staff at Bawdsley. (The first member to join Watson-Watt staff was E. Bowen – Author of “Radar Days”).
Under the heading “Of Paternity and Lineage “WatsonWatt states:
“It has become habitual to call me “the father of radar“. The genealogical tree is cluttered with legitimate grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents of radar…I am content here to say that while I modestly believe myself to be the father of radar, I am absolutely convinced that…Arnold Frederick Wilkins… has a unique claim to the proud title “Mother of Radar “.