Dear Anne and Tony,
An old school friend from 1960’s sent me your article in the Daily Mail about the radar countermeasures during the last war. My parents (Jack and Kathleen Hardwick) also worked at T.R.E. and Malvern and I’m really pleased that you’re trying to give the many people involved at the time, a place in history. I too think their work has been undervalued. My father never spoke about what they did during the war and I was too young when he was alive and could have told me anything. Most of the family history has come from my mother and my Aunt Muriel (Dad’s sister-in-law) and it is very sketchy but I grew up hearing some stories of the war years. Of course, I wish I’d paid more attention at the time as there’s no one left now to tell the tale first hand! Before the war, my father had been working on early television at HMV and EMI, then as a young scientist in1940 joined Radio Countermeasures (RCM) at T.R.E. Worth Matravers, under Dr R. Cockburn. Dad became Division Leader at that time and then Head of Radio Countermeasures including Guided Missiles in 1944. (I’ve taken this from his C.V.).
While there, he met my mother, who was also working at the Telecommunications Research Establishment, but then everyone had to move to Malvern as there was intelligence of an imminent German raid on T.R.E. at Worth Matravers. They then married in Malvern, where my older brother, Peter, was born. My mother was secretary to R.V Jones and when his book ‘Most Secret War’ came out, she said that he didn’t give credit to all the “workers” at the establishment, but just concentrated on “name dropping” the big chiefs. I think there were around two thousand scientists, technicians, RAF personnel and many others at Malvern by the end of the war and their work was considered to be vital in counteracting the bombing raids, directing our bombers and fighters to find their targets and disrupting the German’s guided missiles.
I have attached a photograph taken from Ronald W. Clark’s book ‘The Rise of the Boffins’ which is of a Group at T.R.E. Dad is second from the right (J.Hardwick).
I know from family stories that my Dad had a lot to do with the development of “Window” and with countermeasures against the V2 rocket which was seen as a very serious threat at the time, because they couldn’t shoot it down. I’m sure he was also involved with the radar detection methods they used against the German bombing raids and Aunt Muriel said that he would go up in the aircraft to test the radar equipment. When I was young I remember that there was a piece of German electronics around the house which I was told came from a mis-fired V2 rocket. It apparently was a part of the navigation equipment which had been retrieved by the French resistance and brought back to T.R.E for analysis. By understanding how the rocket was being guided, they could work on ways of jamming its navigation. Unfortunately I don’t have any particular stories of people or events, only rather dry facts which I have tracked down from a few letters, my father’s CV and by filling in the background mainly from A.P.Rowe’s book ‘One Story of Radar’, about the history of T.R.E.
You perhaps know about the monument to the workers at T.R.E that’s been put up on the cliffs near Worth Matravers? It’s not far from the ‘Square and
Compass’ a very quaint, popular old pub which is well worth a visit once all the travel restrictions are lifted! It would be great if you can manage to piece more of the story of radar together and, as you say, perhaps there’s a film or book in it – you never know. It’s certainly a very interesting aspect of the war which is little spoken about.
I’ve not written this letter in a format for direct publication, but if there’s anything useful that you wish to use in an article please do so. It’s certainly been an opportunity for me to document what little I know about the radar scientists at T.R.E and family stories before and after the war, which I can pass it on to my daughter and my brother’s children before it’s all lost in the mists of time. I’m afraid it’s not very much, but may help put together some of the pieces you’ve gained from other sources. I wish you all the best with your project – it’s so important that the stories of that time are collected and I look forward to following how it goes on your web site – and maybe a television programme, never know.
When she was still alive, I did a couple of taped chats with my Aunt Muriel, to capture some of our family story. She told of being taken by my Dad to Alexander Palace before the war, to see the preparations for the first BBC television broadcast in 1935. My Dad was with Marconi at the time and apparently there was competition between Marconi and Logie Baird for the broadcasting rights. She says that Marconi won out and they felt sorry for Logie Baird as he was really the “Father of Television”.
Aunt Muriel’s family lived in London throughout the Blitz, and she mentioned a bomb hitting the house next door to them and blowing her and my Uncle Alan (Dad’s brother) out of bed. They had a very early television set that my Dad had been working on prior to the war. It was in a large cabinet and she said they placed it in front of the sitting room window, to protect them against shattered glass from any more bomb blasts!
She also tells of a V1 rocket landing on the EMI factory where my Uncle Alan was working. He came home, later, unscathed, but of course, my Aunt was beside herself with worry. She had been frantically trying to phone the factory, but couldn’t get through and only later realised all the telephone wires had been blown down.
Sadly though, the V1 hit an air raid shelter where over a hundred young workers had been sheltering.
Joy, her daughter (my cousin) said she would know when a V1 was about to hit as the engine cut out and they would hold their breath in the silence before they heard the explosion.
After the war, I believe T.R.E. changed to the Nucleonics Division and Dad transferred to Harwell (Atomic Energy Research Establishment – A.E.R.E), near Abingdon, as Head of the Electronics Division under Dr D.Taylor.
He was subsequently asked to join the Manhattan Project, but chose instead to move to Atomic Energy Research in Chalk River (Deep River) Canada where he was Head of the Electronics Branch under Dr W.B.Lewis. AERE Harwell and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) Chalk River had very close ties and the scientists, many of whom were from the war years, exchanged freely between the two research establishments.
I have attached a scanned copy of the letter from W.G.Penney asking my father to join the Manhattan Project and my father’s reply turning the offer down. I know from my mother and my Aunt Muriel that the reason was that he did not want to be involved in the development of a nuclear weapon.
I think W.G.Penney’s letter is particularly interesting as it gives a first hand account of his views about the post war danger of an arms race. W.G.Penney was (according to Wikipedia) Head of Britain’s Delegation working with the Americans on the Manhattan Project with the remit to predict the damaging effect of the blast wave of an atomic bomb. He apparently recommended that Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be the targets, as the presence of the surrounding hills would create maximum devastation.
I have attached a photograph from A.P.Rowe’s book ’One Story of Radar’ taken of the King and Queen visiting T.R.E. on 19th July 1944. The person just behind the King, I’m almost certain, is W.B.Lewis who went on to be Director of Atomic Energy Research at Chalk River, Ontario, Canada. I can vaguely remember him as he lived opposite us on Beech Avenue in Deep River and we used to play in the river just behind his house.
An important part of Dad’s career spanning time from the early television days to Chalk River, was research concerning valves and later transistors, which are fundamental to many electronical devices then and now. As Chairman of the Transistors Panel, he later helped advise the Canadian Government about the importance of developing transistors, along with Robert Watson-Watt, who was a Canadian Government defence adviser at that time (from a letter).
In December 1952 there was a serious incident in Chalk River when the Nuclear Reactor underwent a melt down, similar to Chernobyl, but didn’t explode. I believe it was caused by the simple failure of communication between two technicians who were co-ordinating the lowering of the cooling rods.
There was, however, a serious leak of radioactivity all of which is well documented. My mother said that my father and another scientist went back to retrieve important papers and likely received a dose of radiation. My father went on to develop a cancer not long after. My mother always said that this was due to the radiation, but I have no evidence about whether the two events were related.
The treatment for the tumours effectively put his career in Canada to an end and we eventually returned to Abingdon where my father worked for a while at A.E.R.E Harwell as well as for Mullards in London.
The two books I mention are:
The Rise of the Boffins, Ronald W.Clark, Phenix House Ltd 1962 One Story of Radar, A.P.Rowe, Cambridge University Press 1948
I found A.P.Rowe’s book to be the better of the two as he talks specifically about the work of TRE, the development of radar for night fighters and the radar countermeasures. Rowe does make it clear that there were many scientists and technicians involved in the work at the time.
I’m afraid there’s not much in the way of anecdotes, but it might help you piece together some other parts of the story of TRE and the Manhattan Project etc. and put a face to some of the people involved. Many of the scientists went on to work on nuclear energy after the war and the same war scientists went to AERE Harwell and AECL Chalk River, Ontario to continue their research. As such the stories of the development of nuclear energy both for peaceful use and the bomb are, therefore, somewhat interwoven.
Once I started looking into the story of radar I realised that quite a few of the scientists were involved with the early development of television before the war, radar and radio-countermeasures during the war and then early research into nuclear energy afterwards. My Dad was one of those who bridged these eras and each has its own story.
As it’s rather factual information I don’t think the letter should be published directly on your web site, but if you find any bits useful please feel free to use them.
I’m delighted that you are interested in the importance of radar during the war and will follow your web site with great interest.
All best wishes,
( Son of Jack and Kathleen Hardwick)