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1939-1945

Because of the possibility that Britain could be overrun by the Germans in the event of war, Britain decided in January 1939 to share its RDF secrets with Commonwealth Countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand & South Africa). S M Bruce the Australian High Commissioner in London sent a request for an Australian physicist to be sent to gather the available secret information & obtain samples of the equipment. D F Martyn was sent & returned to Australia in July 1939 & JPVM as Chairman of the Radio Research Board drew up a Radiophysics plan for research & production arrangements for submission to the Australian Government

[The Australian War Memorial Histories of the Australian involvement with radar & standards in WW2 are dealt with comprehensively by David Mellor in the”Role of Science and Industry series.]

At Australia House London June 1941 dressed for his knighthood dubbing.In August 1939 at a meeting in Canberra with Prime Minister R G Menzies , David Rivett, JPVM, D F Martyn & senior Defence Staff, approval was given to build a Radiophysics Laboratory (RPL) in the Sydney University grounds as an extension of the NSL building then under construction so as to not draw attention to the nature of the secret work to be undertaken. JPVM was appointed Chairman of the overseeing Radiophysics Advisory Board & was responsible for aligning the requirements of the services with the ideas & developments of the scientific staff. The RPL functioned as a Division of CSIR & its initial staff were appointed based on their previous RRB experience or experience in the fledgling radio industry firms of the previous decade & later as more scientists were needed they came directly from universities if they had high frequency experience.

Professor V Bailey in the Sydney University Physics Department conducted a training programme for junior radar officers who were to serve with the RAAF & RAN. Several hundred officers were trained this way & have affectionately become known as “Bailey Boys”.

Initially it was the Australian Army which showed greatest interest in radar for controlling shore or harbour defence guns whilst the air force was principally interested in airborne ASV radar. The valve requirements for these radars was the key & the VT90 valve producing 1.5 metre wavelength (200 mc/s) was used for pulse generation which provided great economy. The RPL development of aerial duplexing (ie. the antennae acts both as transmitter & receiver) was based on the invention of a very fast & reliable transmit/receive switch by RPL staff. In England in 1940 the invention of the resonant cavity magnetron by Randall & Boot in the laboratory of Mark Oliphant, at wavelength of 10cm revolutionised allied radar & was taken to America in August 1940 as part of the Tizard Mission. As an extension of 10cm developments for Australia, JPVM arranged through R G Casey the new Australian ambassador in Washington for him to establish a scientific liaison officer mainly to keep in contact with rapid developments at the Radiation Laboratory MIT & commercial firms involved such as Bell Labs. In return Australia was to assist US forces in radar matters when required which after commencement of hostilities with Japan became extremely urgent.Macarthur’s Anglo – Australian radar.

In August 1941 F W G White had initiated an air warning programme in Radiophysics. The main developments in Australian radar after Pearl Harbour involved the lightweight principle which was used in the design of the LW/AW (Lightweight Air Warning) set & the GCI (Ground Control Intercept) sets essential for operations in New Guinea & beyond in the SWPA theatre. The sudden fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 created an even greater sense of urgency in providing air warning for vital Australian centres. JPVM resigned as Chairman of the RAB in July 1942 as he felt someone with more production experience was required rather than his research background but he attended all Board meetings until the end of the war. When Karl Compton of OSRD visited Australia in 1944 particular mention was made that the Australian Operations Research Group had been set up on JPVM’s instigation based on information obtained by him from Patrick Blackett whilst in England. Near the end of the war Australian LW/AW radars in the hands of Macarthur’s forces were slated to be used in Operation Olympic which was the plan in development to invade the three valleys of southern Kyushu in Japan. Australian developed Doppler radar would have been very useful in these conditions.

On 21st of August 1945 shortly after the end of WW2, JPVM was elected Chairman of the Australian National Research Council & a special subcommittee of five physicists including JPVM was formed to prepare recommendations to the Australian Government on the practical engineering applications that needed solution since the principle of liberation of atomic energy had now been discovered. Six recommendations were advised to Prime Minister J B Chifley on December 3, 1945 the first of which was that the Australian Government should convey to the British Government the desire that Australia should play an appropriate part in plans which may be developed by the British Government for further research in nuclear physics. A recommendation was made to secure control of uranium & thorium deposits & promote active search for new deposits & also that accredited physicists be sent from Australia to England to obtain necessary information or invite a senior member of the British Scientific team to visit Australia & advise the Commonwealth Government. J B Chifley replied in a letter of February 14, 1946 advising that the Government had already received substantially similar recommendations from CSIR & that action had been taken on the first two recommendations & that in due course a satisfactory programme concerning development of nuclear energy for industrial purposes in Australia would be developed.

 
eie-history/1939-1945.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/05 17:22 by superuser
 
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