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Old 10-25-2009, 06:44 PM
 
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Whenever there is a discussion about Hitler's biggest mistakes in WWII, the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler's failure to listen to his generals, and the breaking of the Enigma code are often cited. However, not as often mentioned is the failure of the Germans to determine that the English had an operational radar system called the Chain Home warning system, comprising about 20 radar stations spread out along the east coast of Britain.

Recently, I watched a History Channel program that told of the development of British radar by an intense Scotsman, Robert Watson-Watts, who is often called the father of radar. In 1938, the German rigid airship Graf Zeppelin's made a flight over the east coast of Britain to test for evidence of British radar activity. At one point, the Graf Zeppelin, commanded by Colonel Wolfgang Martini, reported their position to their home base as being at a point over the North Sea. Actually, the Graf Zeppelin was being tracked by British radar and their true position was above a cloud cover directly over the town of Hull, England. Amused listening British operators were said to have been tempted to send the Germans a correction to their position.

For some reason, the German operators on the Graf Zeppelin only tried to detect British radar on limited range of frequencies and failed to realize they were being tracked. After the war, Colonel Martini is said to have been absolutely stunned when told that their flight had been tracked on British radar. Herman Goring, arrogant leader of the Luftwaffe, was very dismissive of Britain's having a radar system and continued to berate the idea. Later, as the air war over Britain developed, British radar stations, often operated by women, gave a 20-minute preparation time for the RAF to meet the incoming German planes. For the beleaguered and out-numbered RAF, it was a welcome tactical advantage.

All of this is not to imply that the Germans and others, including Americans, hadn't experimented with radar in the 1930s. Indeed, they had, but apparently they didn't put a huge priority on it as had the British. I found an interesting website that tells more of early German experimentation in radar. To access the website, please do a search on the following:

Radar: The German Side of the Story
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Old 10-25-2009, 07:25 PM
 
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It seems to me that an even worse failure was in not destroying the Chain Home Radar sites during the Battle of Britain. The advantage given to the numerically inferior British was incalcuable, as they were able to muster their fighter aircraft in the right numbers and at the right place for most of that battle.

The entire air defense system used by the RAF during the Battle of Britain was something new in air warfare, and ultimately was widely adopted by all sides during the war in Europe.
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Old 10-25-2009, 07:28 PM
 
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John, is this the right link? RADAR: The German Side of the Story
Very interesting.
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Old 10-26-2009, 06:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Angus Podgorny View Post
It seems to me that an even worse failure was in not destroying the Chain Home Radar sites during the Battle of Britain. The advantage given to the numerically inferior British was incalcuable, as they were able to muster their fighter aircraft in the right numbers and at the right place for most of that battle.

The entire air defense system used by the RAF during the Battle of Britain was something new in air warfare, and ultimately was widely adopted by all sides during the war in Europe.
Thanks for raising this question. I meant to mention that the Germans made one or two attempts to bomb the 24-hour operating Chain Home warning stations with little effect. It seems that the Ju87 Stuka dive bomber lacked a bombing sight device, which would have greatly improved its accuracy.

An elderly lady was on the History Channel program that I watched, and she related the story of being in one of the Chain Warning stations while it was under attack. Stukas made a very unnerving noise, but she stayed at her post throughout, even as bombs fell close by. There were no direct hits. BTW, the importance of Britain's Home Guard and the women's auxiliary units in WWII can hardly be exaggerated.
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Old 10-26-2009, 06:40 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Trudy Rose View Post
John, is this the right link? RADAR: The German Side of the Story
Very interesting.
Trudy Rose,

Yes, thanks for setting up the link. My success in getting links to work is less than spectacular.
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Old 10-26-2009, 11:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by John Walmsley View Post
Thanks for raising this question. I meant to mention that the Germans made one or two attempts to bomb the 24-hour operating Chain Home warning stations with little effect. It seems that the Ju87 Stuka dive bomber lacked a bombing sight device, which would have greatly improved its accuracy.

An elderly lady was on the History Channel program that I watched, and she related the story of being in one of the Chain Warning stations while it was under attack. Stukas made a very unnerving noise, but she stayed at her post throughout, even as bombs fell close by. There were no direct hits. BTW, the importance of Britain's Home Guard and the women's auxiliary units in WWII can hardly be exaggerated.

I think the Stukas also took such appalling casualties during the BoB that they were rather quickly withdrawn from the battle. They proved to be fairly easy meat for the Hurricanes.

As a weapon of terror against civilians and undefended targets, they were quite effective. But they were no match for a fighter and a reasonably skilled pilot.
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Old 10-27-2009, 06:35 PM
 
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Well, I don’t know that the Germans were particularly stunned to discover that Britain had some sort of radar technology. By the spring of 1939 when Germany had successfully developed and deployed their “Freya” radar system, they became curious as to whether other nations that might pose a threat to the Reich had been pursuing radar also. When these odd, 350 foot tall towers began popping up along the English coast, the Germans immediately questioned whether they were part of a radar network. Determining the purpose of the towers was the sole reason behind the Germans undertaking the two Zeppelin flights. The first flight in May of 1939 was deemed inconclusive because all that General Martini and his men were able to detect was the presence of very loud, continuous radio static. The technicians believed that their test equipment must be malfunctioning. The second flight in August of 1939 yielded nothing because the towers were not transmitting at all when the Zeppelin flew past.

In truth, the Germans had actually discovered what the towers were for and that the British had radar, but didn’t realize it at the time. What General Martini and his men mistook for their radio’s malfunctioning on the first flight, was in fact the static created by the signal the British were using for their radar system. The “Chain Home” network developed by Robert Watson-Watts was based on the use of high frequency radio signals to detect objects in the air approaching the English coast. In the early stages of their work on radar, German researchers had become convinced that high frequency signals were really not well suited for radar, so they focused primarily on the VHF and UHF bands. Since the Germans believed that others would pursue radar research along the same lines, they didn’t believe that the towers were indeed being used for radar detection.

When Germany invaded France in 1940 and advanced toward the English Channel, they noted the presence of strong radio pulses on a specific band length that were being transmitted from an undetermined location. It was tasked to the German Aeronautic Research Institute to find out what the signals were and where they were coming from. Through study and isolation of the signals, the scientists discovered that the main source of them were the towers on the coast and that the purpose was for radar detection of aircraft. By July of 1940, the Germans developed and deployed a jamming station that nullified the “Chain Home” towers. The success of the jamming led the Germans to erect more such stations and for extended periods of time leading up to the Battle of Britain, the “Chain Home” networks effectiveness in detecting approaching German aircraft was quite limited. As to why the Germans didn’t simply bomb the towers and put them out of action, the answer is fairly simple. The Germans believed that the presence of barrage balloons around the towers made it nearly impossible to destroy them through aerial bombardment or by long range naval gunfire. So the Germans settled on jamming them as the best solution.

There has always been this enduring belief that at the start of the war, British radar technology was superior and far more advanced to that of the Germans. Many in the British military establishment were of the opinion that Germany could not possibly produce radar on their own. As late as 1941, some still questioned if Germany possessed radar at all. Further, the British felt that if Germany did have radar, it must be based on secrets they obtained from equipment left behind by the British when France fell. Robert Watson-Watts was of the opinion that if the Germans had radar, the French alone were to blame for revealing the “mystery” of radar to Germany. He is only basis for this assertion was the fact that a French electronics firm that was working on radar systems for the French military had been seized by the Germans. In actuality, the Germans did capture British radar equipment but upon examination determined that it was both rudimentary and inferior to what Germany was already producing.

And on this last point they were quite correct. When war commenced in September 1939, the Germans had four separate radar systems at their disposal: The “Seetakt” which was being used by the Kreigsmarine for ship detection and gun ranging, the “Freya” for long range radar detection both on land and sea, the “Wurzburg” that enabled the accurate targeting of anti-aircraft fire and also gave ground controllers the ability to direct German fighter aircraft to intercept in or outbound British bombers, and lastly “Knickebein”, a plane based radar bombing aid.

Early on, the Germans combined the “Freya” and “Wurzburg” systems and found them to be an extremely potent mix that gave Germany a clear edge in defensive air operations. This was demonstrated first on December 18, 1939 when twenty-four British bombers heading in for a daylight raid on Wilhelmshaven were picked up by a “Freya/Wurzburg” installation. Ground operators were able to direct fighter aircraft to the bombers position and the Germans downed fourteen of the British planes. This event, plus the seemingly uncanny accuracy of anti-aircraft fire against previous British bombing raids on German targets, led to the complete abandonment of British daylight bombing. Strangely, it seems that not once did the British even consider that the ineffectiveness of their air operations against Germany might be due to the Germans using radar. The “Knickebein“, and later the “X-Gerat” guidance system, also gave German bombers the ability to do something that the British could not; find and accurately strike their ground targets. British planes were not fitted with a similar system until 1942.

In contrast, by September 1939 the British had developed only a single radar system; the “Chain Home” network. Compared to what the Germans had, “Chain Home” was crude and very limited in scope. “Freya” was highly mobile, scanned a 360 degree area, and was able to resolve target locations on it’s own. Each “Chain Home” tower on the other hand, covered only a 100 degree area directly in front of it, was useless over land, and merely signaled the fact that something was approaching. The key element that gave “Chain Home” any value at all was what was known as the “Filter Room”. This was the collection point for all the data received by every “Chain Home” tower. Here, people sifted through the information, resolved and plotted the course of German aircraft and assigned British assets to deal with them. Were it not for the existence of the “Filter Room”, the “Chain Home” network would have been nothing more then the electronic equivalent of tin cans hanging from a string.

So while it has become widely accepted that victory in the Battle of Britain was due to “Chain Home” and “superior” British radar technology, it would seem that in reality, German miscalculations and bad tactics had more to do with it then anything else.
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Old 10-28-2009, 04:07 AM
 
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As to Robert Watson-Watts and the development of radar, I don’t think there is any question that he was an extremely gifted man. However, to say he is the “Father of Radar” is a bit of a stretch.

In 1900, Nikola Tesla was the first person to suggest the possibility of radar. His idea was based on what was well known about radio waves at the time; namely that objects in the path of radio waves interfered with them. With that in mind, Tesla felt that the reflected radio waves could be used to determine where an object was and it’s relative distance from the wave’s transmission point. However, Tesla never pursued his idea, mainly because he couldn’t get anyone to fund a project to explore it’s viability.

A German inventor named Christian Hulsmeyer patented a device he called a “telemobiloskop” in 1904. This device was a transmitter-receiver that sent out radio waves to detect metal objects in the distance, and was designed primarily as a warning system to prevent ships or trains from colliding with each other. A successful demonstration of the “telemobiloskop” took place in Cologne, Germany on May 18th, 1904. Hulsmeyer tried in vain to get shipping companies and even the German Navy, interested in his invention. Unfortunately for Hulsmeyer, though the device he developed had shown it’s value, he was not able to get anyone to actually buy it, so only his test “telemobiloskop” was ever built. Due to that failure, Hulsymer’s work was completely forgotten by the scientific community at large. Regardless, Christian Hulsmeyer was the first to ever construct a working radar.

Since radar research was an offshoot of wireless radio technology, this logically leads to Guglielmo Marconi. In 1916, Marconi began experimenting with the transmission of high frequency radio waves for the purpose of locating metallic objects at great distance. By 1922, Marconi presented a paper to the “American Institute of Engineers” in which he laid out how high frequency radio waves could be utilized for use in apparatuses mounted on ships to assist in navigation. By 1935, Marconi himself created a device he called “radioecometro” which was based on the idea he put forth in 1922. Italian researchers expanded and improved on Marconi’s work after his death in 1937, and the end result was the production of the “Folaga” and “Gufo” radar systems employed by the Italian military starting in late 1943.

If the use of high frequency radio waves for radar detection sounds familiar, it should, because this was the same idea that Robert Watson-Watts used for developing the “Chain Home” system. This is not to say that Watson-Watts “stole” the idea from Marconi, but rather that his extensive knowledge of how radio worked led him down a similar path. Coincidentally, the “Chain Home” towers were designed and constructed for the British military by the Marconi Radio Company – Britain, and many of the engineers and researchers from Marconi were drafted into the war effort to work on radar and other electronic devices.

So, based on historical evidence, it seems fair to say that instead of "Father of Radar”, Robert Watson-Watts should be more correctly called the "Father of British Radar”.
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Old 10-28-2009, 08:28 AM
 
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Originally Posted by TonyT View Post
As to Robert Watson-Watts and the development of radar, I don’t think there is any question that he was an extremely gifted man. However, to say he is the “Father of Radar” is a bit of a stretch.

In 1900, Nikola Tesla was the first person to suggest the possibility of radar. His idea was based on what was well known about radio waves at the time; namely that objects in the path of radio waves interfered with them. With that in mind, Tesla felt that the reflected radio waves could be used to determine where an object was and it’s relative distance from the wave’s transmission point. However, Tesla never pursued his idea, mainly because he couldn’t get anyone to fund a project to explore it’s viability.

A German inventor named Christian Hulsmeyer patented a device he called a “telemobiloskop” in 1904. This device was a transmitter-receiver that sent out radio waves to detect metal objects in the distance, and was designed primarily as a warning system to prevent ships or trains from colliding with each other. A successful demonstration of the “telemobiloskop” took place in Cologne, Germany on May 18th, 1904. Hulsmeyer tried in vain to get shipping companies and even the German Navy, interested in his invention. Unfortunately for Hulsmeyer, though the device he developed had shown it’s value, he was not able to get anyone to actually buy it, so only his test “telemobiloskop” was ever built. Due to that failure, Hulsymer’s work was completely forgotten by the scientific community at large. Regardless, Christian Hulsmeyer was the first to ever construct a working radar.

Since radar research was an offshoot of wireless radio technology, this logically leads to Guglielmo Marconi. In 1916, Marconi began experimenting with the transmission of high frequency radio waves for the purpose of locating metallic objects at great distance. By 1922, Marconi presented a paper to the “American Institute of Engineers” in which he laid out how high frequency radio waves could be utilized for use in apparatuses mounted on ships to assist in navigation. By 1935, Marconi himself created a device he called “radioecometro” which was based on the idea he put forth in 1922. Italian researchers expanded and improved on Marconi’s work after his death in 1937, and the end result was the production of the “Folaga” and “Gufo” radar systems employed by the Italian military starting in late 1943.

If the use of high frequency radio waves for radar detection sounds familiar, it should, because this was the same idea that Robert Watson-Watts used for developing the “Chain Home” system. This is not to say that Watson-Watts “stole” the idea from Marconi, but rather that his extensive knowledge of how radio worked led him down a similar path. Coincidentally, the “Chain Home” towers were designed and constructed for the British military by the Marconi Radio Company – Britain, and many of the engineers and researchers from Marconi were drafted into the war effort to work on radar and other electronic devices.

So, based on historical evidence, it seems fair to say that instead of "Father of Radar”, Robert Watson-Watts should be more correctly called the "Father of British Radar”.
Tony,
Thanks for filling in some historical details of the development of radar. I couldn't agree more about the genius of Tesla. He foresaw things that have only come to fruition in recent decades. It might be said that we have just been catching up with Tesla. An aptly named book called The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century details Tesla's life. Tesla described the principles of radar in 1917, and as you have indicated, Marconi and Watson-Watts were the first to develop equipment that put it into practical use, with Marconi being credited with inventing wireless telegraphy as early as 1896.

Unfortunately, Tesla was considered by many to be a visionary and he never received the recognition that he deserved. Of course, his eccentric personality and obsessive-compulsive actions didn't help his cause.
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Old 10-28-2009, 12:13 PM
 
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Basically the germans were blindside in thinking that UK and France would not react to the invasion of Poland . That started the war four years ahead of Hitler's schedule.From there they basically got to the english channel with no further planning on what to do really.They ended up with the Navy unprepared; their air force with the wrong type of airplanes and no pre planning on a invasion of the UK. The UK on the other hand has done a really good job of preparing to defend the islands with thie air force.Once the US got into the war they didin't even have a inkling of the inductrial capibilties of the US and didn't actaully believe it until they actaully saw the numbers of airplanes over the homeland.Even then they never got to see the B29 which would have gone into action if needed but wasn't.
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