- Luscombe, L.J.
- Naval technology, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1995 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Sir Henrey Tizard and Watson Watt’s Claim For An Award
Quite early in 1940 Tizard made the bold suggestion that Britain should disclose her secrets to the USA in return for help on technical and production matters. The success of this mission is recorded elsewhere.
After the war when Sir Watson-Watt was preparing a claim on behalf of himself and his colleagues for an award in respect of their development of radar, he approached Sir Henrey Tizard to make a statement on their behalf. In the statement Tizard said:
“When I went to the United States in charge of a mission in 1940 I found that radar had been “invented” in America about the same time as in England. It was a deadly secret, as in England, and very large sums of money had been devoted to its development. But the Americans were far behind in its practical applications. Even after they had had all the information we could give them they had no reliable warning system in Honolulu before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. There were no such surprise attacks in Britain in 1940.
RADAR DAYS By E. G. Bowen C.B.E., F.R.S.
On the inside of the flyleaf Dr “Taffy” Bowen is described as “The Father of Airborne Radar “who, in his book, tells a personal story of how the first airborne Radars were built and how they were brought into use in the Royal Air Force. Now fifty years on airborne Radar has become one of the most important branches of civilian and military Radar.
Dr. Bowen was a member of the Tizard Mission which left England on 29th August 1940 and took Britain’s top secrets to the U.S.A. These included such things as the jet engine, then in embryonic form, rockets, predictors and most important of all Radar in its many forms. The Mission was instrumental in installing the first airborne Radars in the U.S.A. but perhaps its greatest achievement was that it passed the secret of the resonant magnetron to the U.S.A. only a few months after it was invented at Birmingham (England) University. This was the device which brought about a revolution in allied radar and which put the Allies in front of corresponding German technology for the remainder of the war.
The book is written from the point of view of the individuals who worked at the laboratory bench; beginning with the building of the first British Air-Warning Radar at Orfordness in June 1935, the story goes on to describe how this equipment was miniaturised to make it suitable for use in aircraft. It describes the lengthy and somewhat hazardous flight trials which took place before Radar went into service with the R.A.F.
The Transition From Metre To Centimetre Waves
We now know that before the outbreak of the war several countries were ahead of Great Britain in the construction of Centimetre-Wave Radars. For example the German Navy demonstrated a Continuous-Wave Ship Detection System at Kiel in 1934, working on a wavelength of 13.5 centimetres. In 1935 the passenger liner Normandie carried a very similar 16 centimetre system which indicated that there were icebergs ahead. This latter was no secret and was fully described in many newspapers at the time.
To be perfectly fair, these were not true Radio Location Systems but Obstacle Detectors. They showed that there was an object somewhere in the vicinity, but they gave neither its position nor its distance. But proper Position-Finding was not far behind and a pulsed version of the Kiel equipment was shown to Admiral Raeder in May 1935. This demonstration of ship detection took place just one month before the demonstration of Pulsed Aircraft Echoes at Orfordness in June 1935.
The trend to centimetre waves came very slowly in Britain, but when the change came, it did so with dramatic speed. A single event led to the revolution – the invention of the Resonant Magnetron by Boot and Randall at Birmingham University in 1940. Britain shot into the lead in Centimetre-Wave Radar and, once in the lead, she maintained it quite easily until the end of the war.
Following the formation of the Centimetre Wave Group at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) at Swanage, similar groups were set up at the Admiralty Signals and Radar Establishment (ASRE) and at the Army Air Defence Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE) to undertake development of shipboard and gun-laying radars for naval and army use respectively.