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Encountering a couple of problems with H2S and the solutions

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Infighting between Coastal Command and Bomber Command
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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Well, there’s an interesting point to be made there. They did not- we thought immediately that they would discover what had happened and would immediately make a new receiver to listen to the transmissions on 10 centimetres. Remarkably, it was not until the autumn, in October that the CNC, Coastal Command, Air Marshal Slessor came to me one Saturday and said- Look, he said- Have you got your new equipment ready? Because we expected them to listen and I said- Yes, sir 3 centimetres ready for operation, but I’m afraid that the response from people is that they will not provide the necessary fittings to get it into the aircraft. He was absolutely furious. He took off his beribboned jacket and said- Could you give me a piece of paper and he there wrote a most extraordinary letter to the Air Ministry, using phrases such as nobody but a congenital idiot would expect this equipment to be any use without providing the means for it to be fitted in the aircraft. That led to a confrontation with Bomber Command, and another of those occasions which are ingrained in my memory is that shortly after Schlesser wrote that letter, I was summoned to appear in the war cabinet offices to discuss the situation between Bomber Command and Coastal Command, and I was sent alone. I remember Rowe and Dee saying to me before I left, they said- Look here do be careful. This is causing a lot of trouble in Whitehall, so I arrived in this office, off King Charles Street and the Deputy Chief of Air Staff was at the head of the table, and on one side was arranged Schlesser and his staff from Coastal Command and down the other side was arrayed not Harris from the Bomber Command but his deputy, Sornby and his staff, and I was asked to explain the situation and said that this new equipment at 3 cm, 200 were being manufactured for Bomber Command and Coastal Command would be privileged to have a few of them for the Coastal Command. After a long argument the decision was made in favour of giving Coastal Command some of these equipment’s, so I thought, Well that’s fine. So I drove back to Malvern. As I arrived at the gates, Rowe met me, and he said- Look here, Lovell what have you been doing today? You haven’t done too badly- you haven’t done too well. And I said- Why not? He said- Well, you may think you’ve got Coastal Command some of these equipment’s but after you left the meeting Sornby phoned his boss, Bomber Harris in with the result, Harris immediately picked up the telephone, spoke to the Prime Minister and got the decision reversed. That was the sort of antagonism and inner fighting which went on between the commands in this country, of course and in the groups in TRE. Of course it did lead to intense activity. So that was the situation. The U-boat warfare never really recovered from that. I think that the Germans had developed a new high speed underwater U-boat, called the Water U-boats, using hydrogen peroxide engine and a snorkel, which they’d not used before. Well we had no- we spent a lot of time with Coastal Command, because I had been put in charge of the radar equipment for Coastal Command by that time, and there was no means of getting in any operational range by radar on the snorkel and I think that war cabinet were worried that they expected Germany to have a whole squadron of these new U-boats in service by December of 1944. Well, by sheer good fortune, one of our bombers had bombed the banks of the canal, this is not the dam busters, which was used for taking the hulls of the U-boats made in the Ruhr to Hamburg for being fitted out. Instead of having a whole squadron in operation by Christmas of 44, they only had one and in fact, just before the Germans surrendered to Montgomery in the spring of 1945, the naval staff issued a warning that they expected an immediately revival of attacks on the merchant shipping in the North Atlantic, so that’s an incident which may not be well known, but it was a very narrow squeak, so by 1943, my own group were handling both the Coastal Command and the Bomber Command developments.

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: Coastal Command, Bomber Command, Malvern, Telecommunications Research Establishment, Germany, Ruhr, Hamburg, Atlantic Ocean, John Slessor, Albert Percival Rowe, Bomber Harris, Bernard Montgomery

Duration: 6 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008