September 26, 2021

Sue Thomas remembers her Dad, Harry Gaunt

Hello Anne, it was really fascinating to read your recent Daily Mail article.

My brother & I are also ‘radar kids’, and have very happy memories of being brought up in Malvern. Our father, Harry Gaunt, must be one of the last of that generation: at the age of 103 he still lives locally in a care home. He is quite frail now but he was always very self-sufficient and lived independently after Mum’s death in 2009 until the beginning of last year, not giving up driving until he was 100! He remembers your father Jimmy, and in fact I believe you lived at the end of our road, Crown Lea Avenue.

Here are a few memories about his working life that we have managed to glean.

Dad was born and brought up in Liverpool and gained his degree in physics from Liverpool University, after which he was intending to teach. When the war intervened, he volunteered for the RAF but was refused as he was too valuable as a boffin and was sent to Christchurch, Dorset, to the Air Defence Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE). Radar was, of course, not mentioned – he was told that he would be working on “something to do with valves”. He also spent some time in London working on radar-controlled searchlights.

He was in Christchurch in February 1942 when Operation Cerberus took place, with the ships Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen and Scharnhorst making their dash from Brest through the channel. Coastal radar was rendered ineffective by jamming: a combination of this plus weather and poor intelligence meant that they got through relatively unscathed.

He was subsequently assigned to do research into counter-jamming, but the success of Cerberus meant that the Germans didn’t do much more jamming at that point, so it was a pretty tedious posting.

Just after this, in the spring of 1942, the Bruneval raid took place, with commandos capturing German radar. The top brass realised that the same could happen on the south coast, so research operations were moved to Malvern and Dad went with ADRDE to Pale Manor.

He spent the rest of his career in Malvern, with trips elsewhere for testing/experimental purposes, including travelling in 1958 to Maralinga in Australia to monitor the atom bomb tests.

His last project was the “Green Ginger” mortar locator. Apparently the first time it was used in anger was against us by the Iraqi army in the Gulf War!

Of course Dad had to sign the Official Secrets Act so he never said much about his work. I do have a strong memory as a small child of him In a full body plaster cast having broken his back falling from a radar scanner when he was up there doing maintenance and someone switched it on. Thankfully he made a full recovery!

I have many family photos but the only work-related one I have is of Dad’s team for the Australian trip, with names. I don’t know if this would be of interest?

I also remember the man who walked round town with the basket on his head (and his name).

Good luck with the website, what an interesting project! Best wishes

Sue Thomas

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