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Using H2S operationally for the first time
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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In any case, that terrible Battle of Stalingrad in January 1943, when von Paulus’ I think it was eighth army was completely destroyed. Bomber Command received permission to use the equipment operationally over Germany and I had an agreed code from O’Kane who phoned me one Saturday morning and said- It will be a nice weekend to come into the country. So I drove over to Whitten and on that Saturday, the last- January 30th, the last weekend in January 1943. The bomber force took off to attack Hamburg. Now that was good fortune from our point of view. I believe I was told that the original idea was to bomb Berlin on that night. Now for reasons which will appear later, Berlin would have been a very poor target. Hamburg on the contrary was a very good target because although our equipment was far from being good, it was at least extremely good on coastlines and showing up the difference between water and land. Well that night at Whitten you know even 60 years later it’s just unforgettable. The path finders, the whole- two squadrons took off, and sometime in the early hours they began to return. Bad weather had turned them back or engine failure or apparatus failure. Then at last one navigator came in and put his thumb up. He said- Marvellous. He said, The docks on the Elbe stood out on the screen like my fingers you know. That was our good fortune. So that was the first attack on Berlin and then that was the beginning of the operations with H2S.

Bernard Lovell (1913-2012), British radio astronomer and founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, received an OBE in 1946 for his work on radar, and was knighted in 1961 for his contribution to the development of radio astronomy. He obtained a PhD in 1936 at the University of Bristol. His steerable radio telescope, which tracked Sputnik across the sky, is now named the Lovell telescope.

Listeners: Alastair Gunn Megan Argo

Alastair Gunn is an astrophysicist at Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester. He is responsible for the coordination and execution of international radio astronomical observations at the institute and his professional research concerns the extended atmospheres of highly active binary stars. Alastair has a deep interest and knowledge of the history of radio astronomy in general and of Jodrell Bank in particular. He has written extensively about Jodrell Bank's history.

Megan Argo is an astronomer at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory researching supernovae and star formation in nearby starburst galaxies. As well as research, she is involved with events in the Observatory's Visitor Centre explaining both astronomy and the history of the Observatory to the public.

Tags: Battle of Stalingrad, Bomber Command, Germany, Hamburg, Berlin, World War II, Elbe, Friedrich Paulus

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008