WW2 RCCS radar specialists in Britain

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This history was a result of research and verification done by John R. (Jig) McDougall at the Canadian Archives and was provided by Captain G.E. (Mike) Grainger CD, who was seconded to the British army and served with the 6th AA Division before retuning to the No 1 Canadian Radiolocation Unit in early 1943.

In the summer of 1940, the British were concerned with the lack of experienced electronic maintenance personnel to be employed on the radio defence systems being deployed throughout the British Isles. The War Office sent a letter to Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) at Trafalgar Square on 22 Nov 1940, mentioning the great shortage of trained men in the United Kingdom for employment in Radiolocation and Radio Direction Finding work in all three services. It mentioned at a recent meeting of the Falmouth Sub Committee on Wireless Personnel, that "possibly a number of officers and other ranks might be obtained from the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. During the next month, exploratory communication was initiated by Lord Hankey, (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), with Right Honourable Vincent Massey, (Canadian High Commissioner), Major General P.J. Montague, (CMHQ), Major General A.G.L. McNaughton, (GOC-in-C, 7(or 1) Corps), Col J. E. Genet, (Chief Signal Officer, 7 Corps) and others, resulting in Canada lending 22 members of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals to the GOC-in-C of Anti-Aircraft Command of the British Army. They would not return to the Canadian army until late in 1942, and in some cases early 1943, when they were taken into 1 Canadian Radio Location Unit. No1 CRLU was disbanded in 1943, as not required due to the lack of enemy air activity. The men that returned to the Canadian Army had been trained by the British at courses prepared by the Military College of Science and delivered by the Army's Wireless Schools. Many of the other ranks were by then Telecommunications Artificers, the highest trade qualification available at that time, with the rank of Staff-Sergeants. Consequently they could be gainfully employed in maintenance duties on all manner of technical equipment. The list of Royal Canadian Corps of Signals personnel who were selected for this special work is as follows:

  • Captain E.R. (Happy) Gill (1 Cdn Div Sigs)
  • Lieutenant L.G. (Guy) Eon (2 Cdn Div Sigs)
  • Lieutenant J.D, (Doug) Bourne (7 Corps Sigs)
  • Anderson G. Signalman M-10148 (2 Div Sigs)
  • Brockman E.G. (George) Signalman M-10119 (2 Div Sigs)
  • Bumby A. A. (Al) Signalman B-34526 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Diwell H.A. (Harry) Signalman B-33250 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Epp C.A. (Carl) A/Cpl L-26029 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Grainger G.E. (Mike) Signalman n P-40322 (2 Div Sigs)
  • Harris C.L. (Charlie) Cpl A-2125 (1 Div Sigs)
  • Kieffer R Signalman D-21064 (1 Div Sigs)
  • Kraemer K.E. (Ken) Signalman D-24224 (2 Div Sigs)
  • Mantle F.A. (Frank) Signalman K-34040 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Mauza A. (Tony) Signalman M-9051 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Mowbray W.T. (Bill) A/Cpl M-9024 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Naylor C.R. (Ralph) Signalman L-20017 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Park A. (Andy) L/Cpl M-7213 (2 Div Sigs)
  • Robinson M.R. (Russ or Robbie) Signalman P-40319 (2 Div Sigs)
  • Staufer W.J. (Johnny) Signalman A-2220 (1 Div Sigs)
  • Taylor G.F. (Gord) Signalman K-34053 (1 Corps Sigs)
  • Twells T.G. (Geoff) Signalman A-2123 (1 Div Sigs)
  • Willing W.R. (Bud) Signalman P-40259 (1 Div Sigs)

These men were among the first to step into the breach for the British Anti Aircraft Command before Christmas 1940. It has been said "These unsuspecting souls were swept into a special training area and were swallowed into a vortex of secrecy and wide-ranging technical employment". The twenty-two men were selected for this duty on 9 Dec 1940, and assembled for training on 18 Dec 1940. The group was under the control of Mr. J A Ratcliffe, then working at the AA Command Wireless School, Petersham. Mr. Ratcliffe was on loan from the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and was in charge of special technical training for GL (Gun Laying). The situation in the fall of 1940 was critical, because Gun Laying (GL) equipment, in common with other RDF apparatus had been brought into service before being fully developed. Small adjustments were always needed. Each set and site had their own idiosyncrasies and some sets had to be tailor-fitted to their sites. Deployment of new types of Radio Direction Finding (RDF) was also a responsibility. Special tradesmen were needed. Initially all personnel went to a converted girl's school in Kingston on Thames, on 18 Dec 40, at what was known locally as Kingston Hill. This facility was near to and administered by Petersham Radio School. There they were indoctrinated and given their first inclination concerning the task ahead. Some records would indicate that Lt J D Bourne and 19 men were deployed on 21 December 1940, to 6 AA Division Workshop Company RAOC at Sidcup for 5 weeks of training, but the group didn't go to Sidcup until sometime in mid January. The remaining 2 officers Capt Gill, and Lt Eon remained at Petersham. The duration of the Canadians secondment was indefinite at that time. The men were then sent to various areas within the UK including the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Later all re-assembled for further academic training. During periods of lesser enemy activity, Canadian and British personnel were sent to various Wireless Schools and other sites to attend training sessions on technical subject matter or on newer equipment coming on line. These Schools were at Petersham, Sidcup, and Leicester. They were also sent to the EMI Factory in Hayes to become acquainted with the GL Mk II, which was being manufactures at their factory in 1941. A paper dated 24 July 1941, outlined the need for Canadian Radio GL Personnel. Action was taken to earmark 100 personnel from 1 Canadian Field Survey Regiment for RDF Training. Eventually 180 Canadian volunteer soldiers were trained on GL equipment. No.1 Canadian Radio Location Unit was formed in January 1942, Commanded by Lt Col E. R. Gill and later by Lt Col F. F. Fulton. (This needs to be confirmed as our info is that Col Fulton never left CMHQ in London) The purpose was to operate radar in conjunction with Anti-Aircraft Command for direction-finding purposes. On completion of training the unit manned radar sets at points on the English south coast. This task became a Royal Canadian Artillery responsibility, and the unit was disbanded early in 1943 for reasons already stated. Some Signals personnel were then absorbed back into the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals or the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, having completed their highly secret and important task of pioneering radar for Great Britain's air defence.