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Beam Detection in the Battle of Britain

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Beam Detection in the Battle of Britain

Old 18th Dec 2017, 13:51
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Beam Detection in the Battle of Britain

I have read somewhere and lost the the link that F/O James Mazdon and F/O Basil Sadler flew a balloon over the Channel during the Battle of Britain period carrying equipment to detect German navigation beams.
Does anyone recognize this and can give a source?
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Old 18th Dec 2017, 15:43
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Most Secret War by R V Jones might yield the answer. Don't have to hand, but can look later.
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Old 18th Dec 2017, 16:57
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First detection was done in an Avro Anson near Spalding. There had been much arguement between R V Jones and others whether the radio beam could be transmitted over such a distance from the transmitter at Kleve. R V Jones eventually won out because Churchill backed him and demand that flights continued.

The receiver was a highly sensitive Lorenz beam receiver used for blind landings. This was discovered in the wreckage of a Heinkel which was shot down.

The Germans tried ot find out about British radar using a Zeppelin before the war authorised by Luftwaffe signal command under General Wolfgang Martini.

Try the Instruments of Darkness by Alfred Price an ex AEO from V Force.
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Old 18th Dec 2017, 16:58
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I second EWAN. RV Jones' book might not mention a specific on that but, it is a treasure trove of info on the subject. TBH, many "history of WW2 air war" books need rewriting with the info in Most Secret War.

OAP



PS. Air pig is correct about the detection mentioned in RV Jones' book. However, there was a lot of work going on that is not all listed so, whether other chaps flew balloons (blimps?) for such purpose may be listed somewhere else?
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Old 18th Dec 2017, 17:02
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Originally Posted by Onceapilot View Post
I second EWAN. RV Jones' book might not mention a specific on that but, it is a treasure trove of info on the subject. TBH, many "history of WW2 air war" books need rewriting with the info in Most Secret War.

OAP
I agree, in particular with that we now know ACM Dowding during the Battle of Britain had access to Enigma decrypts.
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Old 18th Dec 2017, 19:06
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Secret War

The first episode of the 1977 BBC series Secret War covered the battle of the beams; the series includes lots of clips of R V Jones.
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Old 18th Dec 2017, 22:19
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Originally Posted by ColinB View Post
I have read somewhere and lost the the link that F/O James Mazdon and F/O Basil Sadler flew a balloon over the Channel during the Battle of Britain period carrying equipment to detect German navigation beams.
Does anyone recognize this and can give a source?
The Germans had the X Gerate (Don't know how to type the umlaut) which was a single beam, and the Y Gerate which had 2 beams that intersected to mark the target. These beams were VERY narrow, only a couple hundred meters wide in England (projected from sites in France). So, you really needed a plane to catch the beam, as they were redirected every night for a different target. The Germans initially set up the beam in the early afternoon, to make sure the equipment was working and properly aimed. If the British could detect the beam as soon as it was set up, they had a number of hours to mobilize equipment and manpower to defend against the attack.

Jon
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Old 18th Dec 2017, 22:53
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Originally Posted by jmelson View Post
The Germans had the X Gerate (Don't know how to type the umlaut) which was a single beam, and the Y Gerate which had 2 beams that intersected to mark the target. These beams were VERY narrow, only a couple hundred meters wide in England (projected from sites in France). So, you really needed a plane to catch the beam, as they were redirected every night for a different target. The Germans initially set up the beam in the early afternoon, to make sure the equipment was working and properly aimed. If the British could detect the beam as soon as it was set up, they had a number of hours to mobilize equipment and manpower to defend against the attack.

Jon
Before X and Y Gerate you had Knickebein based on the Lorenz system which was produced pre war. The aircraft flew down a beam with morse dots to one side and dashes on tho other. In the middle was a steady tone 'equi-signal'. Approaching the target the observer tuned to the second sigal crossing their path when the obtained the steady tone, tey dropped their bombs. The system was actually difficult to jam as you needed to know both frequency used and how many cycles/second it was transmitted on. X and Y Gerate were far more automatic and incorporate timers therefore easier to spoof and jam.

I think Y Gerate had three cross beams, the first was a warning to the crew to prepare, second the observer started a clock which ran slowly and at the third a second clock was started which ran 3x faster than the second when both reached zero the bombs bropped automatically.

As with any beam reliant system the further from the transmitter the less accurate it is.

This was the start of electronic warfare as we know it today. We still use chaff which was originally called window and Dupel by the Luftwaffe, coincidently it was invented by both sides at the same time.

Last edited by air pig; 18th Dec 2017 at 23:04.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 06:23
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Most Secret War is a great read. Recommended to those who haven't.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 08:20
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Thanks for posting the Y clip, GG.

OAP
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 11:34
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Originally Posted by Onceapilot View Post
I second EWAN. RV Jones' book might not mention a specific on that but, it is a treasure trove of info on the subject. TBH, many "history of WW2 air war" books need rewriting with the info in Most Secret War.

OAP



PS. Air pig is correct about the detection mentioned in RV Jones' book. However, there was a lot of work going on that is not all listed so, whether other chaps flew balloons (blimps?) for such purpose may be listed somewhere else?
I believe they did have chaps climb the Chain Home radar towers to try to detect the beam signals.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 11:58
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Originally Posted by air pig View Post
The Germans tried ot find out about British radar using a Zeppelin before the war authorised by Luftwaffe signal command under General Wolfgang Martini.
The Germans quite remarkably thought the Chain Home masts were some kind of system for civil aviation,they had no idea that they were for military use.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 16:26
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Originally Posted by rolling20 View Post
The Germans quite remarkably thought the Chain Home masts were some kind of system for civil aviation,they had no idea that they were for military use.
Our good fortune but also they were quite difficult to destroy. The German bombing offensive was beset by mis-judgements, move from attacking radar stataions to attacking airfields then London. The latter taking the infra-structure pressure off the RAF adding in the short range of effective Luftwaffe fighter protection turnd the battle along with the effective removal from the orbat of the Me 110 and the Ju 87.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 17:43
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Originally Posted by Ewan Whosearmy View Post
Most Secret War by R V Jones might yield the answer. Don't have to hand, but can look later.
I do have a copy at hand. Jone's, page after page, simply drops name after name. It would be wonderful to read an account of the secret war but this isn't it.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 18:20
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I don’t know if Brian Johnson’s book “Secret War”, (originally a tie-in with the 1977 BBC program, and first published by the BBC), adds anything. It has now been republished by Pen and Sword as one of their ‘Millitary Classics’. But second hand copies of the original BBC hard back can be picked-up on line for less than a good pint of bitter.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 20:11
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RV Jones' book Most Secret War should be on the compulsory reading list for anyone thinking of building anything technological for any military purpose. It's about the only book we have where sneakiness of technological design, use, and exploitation, and indeed exploitation of exploiters, is described from, as it were, the horses mouth.

The Battle of the Beams, and the history of how each side's capability progressed, was the first example of a technological arms race during war, and there's a lot of lessons that have to be learned from it by current and future generations.

To give you an idea of the race, at the beginning of its operational history the Lancaster was carrying a radio, and that was about it. By the end of the war it was carrying up to 2 tons of electronics, just to survive and operate over Germany. 2 tons! I got this off an old chap who had managed to collect an example of everything the Lanc had carried, and it was impressive.

Other compulsory books are:

  • Skunk Works by Ben Rich, because it shows what can really be done when you can exclude pride and politics from procurement.
  • Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks, because it shows you what harm pride and politics can do.
Jones' other second book, Reflections on Intelligence, is also well worth a read. SPOILER ALERT: in it he relates being sent over to the USA to be briefed on the then super-secret Sidewinder missile (not that he knew the name beforehand).

At about that time some scientists had worked out how the Sidewinder snake hunted - it has heat sensitive pits next to its eyes, and it hunts using those to "see". Jones had read their paper, infrared being an early topic of research for him whilst still in academia.

Anyway, on being told the name of the missile, Sidewinder, apparently he said, "Oh, that must be an infrared heat seaking air-2-air missile". Cue one massive panic on the side of the Americans, who thought there'd been some enormous security breakdown, how on earth had this Limey seen through to the very core of this program, etc... It simply turned out that when the Americans had chosen the name Sidewinder no one had any idea whatsoever that the codename was so very apt!

For those who are intersted and are willing to travel to China Lake, there's an excellent museum on the perimeter of the Air Station at Ridgecrest, where you can learn an awful lot about subtlety of design. Sidewinder was built for an unpleasant purpose, but as an object lesson in refining a design down to the bare minimum it is hard to beat.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 21:23
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cvg2iln, What a strange snipe at an important book. The identification of individuals by RV Jones in his book is one of the aspects that make it so valuable. The book is a fairly deep record of some important work that UK scientific intelligence achieved in the period. It is not a chronology of British technical development, it is more of a record of scientific counter intelligence and concentrates upon; German Radar and navigation/targeting Beams, Rockets and V weapons, Night fighting equipment and techniques and, German progress towards Atomic weapons. The book describes how intelligence and scientific analysis was successfully used to develop effective countermeasures and tactics for most of the German technical advances. Some of the most enlightening information illustrates how internal British political and military lethargy sometimes caused avoidable Allied losses.
So, sorry cvg2iln, I don't agree with your generalised criticism.

OAP
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 22:26
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Originally Posted by Onceapilot View Post
cvg2iln, What a strange snipe at an important book. The identification of individuals by RV Jones in his book is one of the aspects that make it so valuable. The book is a fairly deep record of some important work that UK scientific intelligence achieved in the period. It is not a chronology of British technical development, it is more of a record of scientific counter intelligence and concentrates upon; German Radar and navigation/targeting Beams, Rockets and V weapons, Night fighting equipment and techniques and, German progress towards Atomic weapons. The book describes how intelligence and scientific analysis was successfully used to develop effective countermeasures and tactics for most of the German technical advances. Some of the most enlightening information illustrates how internal British political and military lethargy sometimes caused avoidable Allied losses.
So, sorry cvg2iln, I don't agree with your generalised criticism.

OAP
I quite agree. cvg2iln's comment is uncharitable. Jones was there, and did do those things, and played a pivotal role in fighting what Churchill had already named as being "The Wizard's War".

Besides, given that Jones was indeed mixing it with some very important people on some very important topics, how on earth would any history of those events justifiably omit "names", no matter who wrote that history?

I have heard criticism of Jones before, usually along the lines of being 'arrogant'. Well, some people get to a level where they really are the leading light in their field, and Jones was one such person.

For comparison, how many fighter pilots think they're god's gift to flying? Quite a few, but then they are pretty damn good at what they do. So long as they restrict professions of their expertise to topics about flying fast whizzy things, not pumping up the tyres, what sort of spanner to use, etc.
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Old 20th Dec 2017, 01:53
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Came across this excerpt from The Enemy is Listening by Aileen Clayton
The principal radio operators involved in this hazardous venture, who spent many airsick hours in a gondola slung beneath the swaying balloon 3000 or 4000 feet above Dover, with air-raids in progress beneath them, were the then Flying Officer Jimmy Mazdon and Pilot Officer Basil Sadler. By coincidence, Sadler was the great grandson of the early English balloonist of the same name. ( He was to be killed later during an investigational flight over Western Europe.) The venture was ...
Maddeningly, I can't find a longer excerpt with what comes after the ellipsis, and the book doesn't seem to be available in electronic format. However, from a review on another site, some info about the author and the RAF Y Service (which was part of or worked in conjunction with the War Office 'Y' Group, I believe), that might aid in finding other references:
Aileen Clayton’s The Enemy is Listening (1980) is part personal memoir and part history of the RAF Y Service in Great Britain and the Mediterranean. The Y Service was the RAF’s contribution to the interception of enemy radio signals, and Clayton was one of the first operators for the service’s program intercepting voice transmissions (in British parlance, voice transmissions were Radio Telephony, or R/T; Morse code transmissions were Wireless Telegraphy, or W/T). R/T intercepts were valuable during the Battle of Britain because they offered immediate information on German operations as or before they happened. But, as The Enemy is Listening describes, R/T interception overlapped with many other aspects of the intelligence war: Bletchley Park and the breaking of Enigma, radar and non-communication signals like guidance beams and navigational beacons, and communications security. Clayton makes it clear that Allied signals security was often lousy, and that her German counterparts must have been gathering an awful lot of information on Allied air activity.
The cover of my Ballantine edition tags Clayton as “the first woman in British history to be commissioned as an intelligence officer.” R/T interception in Great Britain was, from almost the first moment, almost exclusively staffed by the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).
FYI, the "early English balloonist" great-grandfather of Basil is James Sadler who, per the Royal Aeronautical Society, "... in 1810 became the first man to fly over (but then into!) the Bristol Channel after skirting the Glamorgan coast - this being the first balloon flight over Welsh soil."

Last edited by cordwainer; 20th Dec 2017 at 02:12.
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Old 20th Dec 2017, 02:44
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Information on Sadler's death from Australian RAAF records, as a result of RAAF personnel serving on attachment in the RAF. Note this was yet another flight carrying "wireless investigation equipment":
NAA : A705, 163/93/462.
Aircraft Type: Wellington
Serial number: X 9913
Radio call sign: ZP -
Unit: 109 Sqn RAF

Summary:
Wellington X 9913 of 109 Sqn RAF took off from RAF Stradishall at 1950 hours on 28 March 1942 to carry out a special duty flight for the Air Ministry. The route was from base to a point 60 miles north of Terschelling, and then coastwise at a range of 60 miles along the Friesian Islands, the west coast of Germany and the west coast of Denmark to Skagen. The return trip was on a parallel track but at a distance of 30 miles from the coast. The aircraft had fuel for 15 hours, and was installed with special wireless investigation equipment and carried 2 special equipment operators to work the equipment. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. The route was close to enemy fighter zones and it may have been intercepted.

Crew:
RAF PO Maygothling G.J., Captain (Pilot).
RAAF 404933 Sgt F.J.Cassells, 2nd Pilot.
RCAF PO Convey, L.J., Observer.
RAF PO Cussen, R.J., Wireless Operator//Air Gunner.
RAAF 404478 Sgt F.G.Bower, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.
RAF Sgt R.A.Walker, Air Gunner.
RAF PO Sadler, B.E.P., Special Equipment Operator.
RAF LAC R.Rendell, Special Equipment Operator.

...
In Memory of
Pilot Officer
Basil Elgar Percy Sadler
67252, 109 Sqdn., Royal Air Force
who died on 28 March 1942 Age 24
Son of Walter Percy and Edith Hilda Sadler, of Wandsworth Common, London.
Remembered with Honour
Runnymede Memorial

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