October 27, 2021

A letter has been passed to us which was written to The Editor of the Mail on Sunday from Graham Evans.

Dear Sir,

Re Anne Diamond / RADAR inventors

I was kindly sent a hard copy of the article from the Mail Online on Sunday by Anne Diamond.  Fortunately, she has no need to worry about the work of the Boffins of Malvern and their tremendous contribution to the war effort during WW2 and indeed continuing to this day.

Sadly, she is quite right that they have not been feted like the Codebreakers of Bletchley Park and it is here that she may well be able to make some contribution though her contacts in the media.

Most people are aware of RADAR and it has become an everyday term in common use. However, the birth of RADAR is a very wide and diverse subject.

In Britain, it started with an experiment conducted by Robert Watson Watt and Arnold Williams using an RAF bomber flying in the vicinity of the BBC Daventry Radio Transmitters linked to a van with some receiving equipment to successfully record a ‘blip’ on a Cathode Ray Tube.  A plaque at the site records the details.

Following this success an experimental facility was established on Orford Ness, now managed by the National Trust.

With the need for larger space and easier access a move was made to Bawdsey Manor where further research was conducted.  This is where the experimental Chain Home RADAR Masts were developed enabling aircraft to be detected up to 150 miles away.  Bawdsey RADAR Group have restored the Transmitter Bloc.

At the outbreak of WW2, the whole operation was moved to Dundee.  However, this was short lived, and I am not sure if there is any Heritage Group here.

The next wholesale move was to Worth Matravers where the work really started to diversify and small airborne RADARS were developed. There is a small group at Swanage and a display and archive material in the Museum on the Promenade.  Books have also been published.

In 1942 the final move was to Malvern and significantly expanded again.  Also, the Special Duties Flight of aircraft were moved from Hurn to RAF Defford where the fleet began to increase rapidly as new aircraft and constantly improved RADAR equipment was trialled.

It was here, in June 1942 that the single most fatal loss of lives happened when Halifax V9977, with eleven RAF Scientists and civilians crashed whilst trialling H2S ground mapping RADAR. In 1992 a stained-glass memorial window was installed in nearby Goodrich Castle and in 2020 a memorial near the crash site on the bank of the River Wye was erected.

In 2002 a memorial was erected on Defford Village Green by embers of “RAF Defford Reunion Association”.

RAF Defford was built on Defford Common in 1941 and encompassed part of the ‘Capability Brown Landscape Park’ at Croome Park, seat of the Earls of Coventry.  Although RAF Defford closed in 1958 a few of the buildings remained.  By a massive stroke of luck when the National Trust purchased the ‘Landscape Park’ in the late 1990s it acquired the semi derelict, but complete, wartime sick quarters.  At the time, it was not aware of the significance of RAF Defford and its role as the flying arm of the Telecommunications Research Establishment at Malvern [TRE].

Fortunately, the National Trust strategy had recently become more sympathetic to ‘modern history’ so that, as the site for visitors increased, the Sick Quarters were chosen as the Visitor Reception and the tearoom was installed in the restored ‘Airman’s Ward’.

With the inevitable demise of the veteran, a new group was established ‘Defford Airfield Heritage Group’ [DAHG], and now all remaining buildings except the Air Raid Shelter have been restored and RAF Defford Museum created in the old Decontamination Bloc, and also the Ambulance Garage / Mortuary.

I should also add that the Defence RADAR Group also have a well-established Museum at Neatishead.

Further museums exist at National Trust Buckling [100 Group RADAR Countermeasures] and Norwich Airport.

Specifically, for those at TRE Malvern there is now MRATHS with archives based at QUINETIQ which is a modern-day version of TRE.

As you will see, there are hundreds of people actively engaged all over the country preserving the heritage of RADAR development.

As and when travel abroad permits, there is also an excellent RADAR Museum at Douvres-la-Délivrande, a few miles West of the D Day Beaches where possibly the last surviving example of a Giant Wurzburg RADAR dish is displayed.

But, still no blockbuster film unless someone latches on to the work done by Robert Alexander who took video archive of various veterans before they passed on, especially those at EMI.

One of those lost in the Crash of V9977 was Alan Dower Blumlein (29 June 1903 – 7 June 1942)- a brilliant Boffin who would have become a household name in the same way as Bernard Lovell, for whom he was working developing H2S using eh magnetron valve.  He was possibly the man who gave us ‘modern electronic television’ and also invented ‘stereo’ – 20 years before it was ‘re-invented’.

I am sure that Anne Diamond would be welcome at many of the Museums dedicated to the story of RADAR and there are plenty of memorials to visit and books to read. But no Blockbuster!

Yours faithfully, Graham Evans [DAHG]

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