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Early Centimetric Ground Radars - A Personal Reminiscence

Although real enough to those who suffered from it, the attack on Manchester was really a pin-prick, with no military significance. Nevertheless, it was taken sufficiently serious that I was on the road northwards on Boxing Day, charged with reporting on the suitability of a certain site for a mobile station to be deployed, to help guard against another such attack. I have no recollection either of where this site was, except that it seemed an interminable distance from Boston Spa, or of what I reported about it. As far as I know, the station was never deployed, and there were no further similar attacks, although Divers continued to be launched against London.

Early in 1945,1 was posted from 73 Wing to TRE (Telecommunications Research Establishment) at Great Malvern as a PDS (Post Development Services) officer. After a learning period at TRE, I was to go to India, to help in the introduction of centimetre radars to SEAC (South-East Asia Command). Full of enthusiasm, I willingly put up with life at TRE: by day, I studied secret documents, alone in some gloomy basement of Malvern College, and by night I slept in a bunk bed in a vast dormitory at the Abbey Hotel. Most people were there for the short term, and there was no guarantee that one's upper berth companion would still be there in the morning, much less the next night. However, I slowly learnt something of Type 11 (50 cm, already referred to), Type 14(10cm surveillance), Type 13 (10 cm nodding height finder) and the DU5, the latest PPI display, in which the problems of linearity had finally been solved by using more elaborate circuits and many more valves.

Finally, on VE Day, we set off for India by air obviously, we said, they need us in a hurry for the vast programme of updating the older radars to centimetric sets. A tour of two, three perhaps even four years before Japan was defeated, plenty of interesting work and a whole new continent to explore. Alas, the reality was far different: very few new radars arrived before the defeat of Japan, and I found myself the odd-job man: a one-man court of inquiry, for instance, into the circumstances surrounding the collision between a British dispatch rider, who broke his knee, and a bullock cart, which, according to its owners, was worth lakhs of rupees. All the evidence was given verbally, written out by me by hand and signed on every sheet by the witness: as can be imagined, this procedure was difficult, as they spoke little English and I even less Hindi.

Eventually, by dint of a certain amount of lobbying, arguing that if my originally intended role of helping to set up a chain of centimetre stations had failed (there being no such chain), my most useful role would be with one of the few such stations as in fact existed, I was appointed as CO of AMES (Air Ministry Experimental Station) 21022. This was a mobile radar, consisting of a Type 14 (surveillance) and a Type 13 (nodding height finder), complete with a display cabin (DU5 displays) and two 20 kVA diesels to supply the power, all mounted on heavy trucks. At least, this was a radar job in which my specialist knowledge could be employed, even if it fell far short of the job I had been led to expect at TRE.

Alas, the radar was never deployed or operated as a system. In December, 1945, AMES 21022, complete with about 40 men and eight to ten vehicles, sailed from Madras to Singapore, in good time for Christmas. The convoy was eventually parked at Paya Labor, together with hundreds of other vehicles on what had been an airfield. It was impossible to run the radar in such tightly-packed conditions, since we found that the mixer crystals were immediately burnt-out by reflections from adjacent vehicles. The men (and their CO) rapidly became bored of this regime; the only reasonable aim was to be demobilized and sent back to England as soon as possible. I managed this in May, 1946: my radar career in the RAE was over.

1 lakh = 105. At the time of this event, a lakh of rupees was equivalent to about £7500 sterling.


1 SCANLAN, M.J.B., 'Chain Home radar - a personal reminiscence', GEC Review, 8, 3, p. 171-183, 1993.
2 CLARKE, R.W, 'Tizard', Methuen, 1965.
3 ROWE, A.P., 'One Story of Radar', Cambridge University Press, 1948.
4 Obituary of Gp/Captain I' Adams, Daily Telegraph, August 6th, 1993.
5 WELSH, I., 'The Foxhunter radar', GEC Review, 8, 2, p. 67-73, 1993.
6 SCANLAN, M.J.B., Foreword to Radar Special Issue, GEC Journal of Research, 3,2, p.67, 1985.
7 WILLSHAW, WE., 'Microwave magnetrons: a brief history of research and development', GEC Journal of Research, 3, 2, p.84-91, 1985.
8 HARVEY, A.F., 'High Frequency Thermionic Tubes', Chapman & Hall, 1943.
9 LAMONT, H.R.L.., 'Wave Guides', 2nd edition, Methuen, 1946.
10 COALES, IF. and RAWLJNSON, J.D.S., 'The Development of Naval Radar 1935-45', Seminar on the History of Radar Development, lEE, London, 1985.
11 MOXON, LA, 'The noise characteristics of radar receivers', Journal of the lEE, 93, lilA (Radiolocation), 6, p. 1130, 1946.
12 BAKER, WI., 'A History of The Marconi Company', Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1970.
13 RAMSAY, D.A., 'The evolution of radar guidance', GEC Journal of Research, 3,2, p.92-103, 1985.
14 LONGMATE, N., 'The Doodlebugs: the Story of the Flying Bomb', Hutchinson, 1981.


The above article has been reproduced from the "GEC Review", vol 10, no.1, 1995 with the kind permission of the Editor,


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