Purpose

The Malvern Radar and Technology History Society (MRATHS) exists to preserve and celebrate the Heritage of the Government Research at Malvern  which conducted research and development in support of the armed forces.

The Society Activities include:

  1. Recording – new written accounts, oral history, and site archaeology.
  2. Researching – documentary, cartographic and photographic sources.
  3. Archiving – preserving and cataloguing historical material.
  4. Displaying – information and artefacts
  5. Exhibiting – displays and outreach talks to schools, community societies etc
  6. Publishing – articles, books, exhibitions and this website.
  7. Supporting – restoration of early equipment for display and demonstration.The activities of the Society are managed by a steering group, who are:
  • Hugh Williams, Chairman
  • David Williamson, Secretary
  • Lew Amphlett, Treasurer
  • Roger Appleby
  • Mike Burstow, Vice Chairman
  • John Gillham
  • Ron Henry
  • Martin Hutchinson, Exhibitions
  • David Whitaker
  • Dennis Williams

6 thoughts on “Purpose

  1. Ian Fry

    Good afternoon

    I am trying to find information on my late grandfather Donald William Fry, who was involved in the development of radar
    at the Malvern site. I would be grateful of any information you can supply.

    Many thanks

    Ian Fry ( his grandson )

    Reply
    1. Ron Henry

      Dear Mr Fry

      I have just taken on the role of replying to incoming queries and have found your question re your grandfather awaiting a response.

      I am hopeful that we should be able to find his years of service and information on any internal reports and memos which he may have written. I will be in our archive later in the week when I’ll take an initial look.

      The committee is presently discussing a scale of charges for supplying information but, in advance of the charges being agreed upon, I’ll be pleased to give you his dates of service and his basic ‘authorship’ info free of charge.

      Regards

      Ron Henry

      Reply
      1. Ron Henry

        Dear Mr Fry

        I have now investigated your grandfather’s career as far as is possible in MRATHS’ Archive. Unfortunately, we don’t have staff lists for every year of his career in the establishment, but a reasonable broad picture of it has emerged.

        Donald William Fry was born on 30 November 1910 (which I’m sure you know) and joined Bawdsey Research Station (BRS), Suffolk, as a Scientific Officer on 1st September 1936. The staff structure of the top levels at BRS was then, in descending order: Superintendent (Mr Robert Watson Watt – replaced by Mr A P Rowe on 26th May 1938), Principal Scientific Officer, Senior Scientific Officer, Scientific Officer. On joining, your grandfather was one of less than ten SOs. His salary was £400.

        To add a little more background, Watson Watt’s famous trial to investigate the radar effect (sometimes called the ‘Daventry Experiment’ because it demonstrated the detection of radio waves from the BBC’s Daventry radio station reflected off an aircraft) was held on 26th February 1935. Further development work and trials continued at Orfordness, Suffolk. In view of the continuing success of the work, the Air Ministry purchased Bawdsey Manor as a Radio Direction Finding (RDF – as radar was then called) dedicated research centre when it came up for sale in January 1936. Your grandfather was thus one of the early radar pioneers.

        On the outbreak of WW2 on 3rd September 1939, BRS was evacuated to Dundee and remained there until May 1940 when it moved to Worth Matravers, Dorset, and was renamed to Telecommunications Research Establishment. TRE remained there until the end of May 1942. Its next move, at short notice, was to Malvern where it stayed for the rest of its history. Until 1948 it occupied the public school, Malvern Boys College.

        The available staff files show that Mr Fry was in TRE’s ‘Group 10’ working on ‘centimetre serials and cables’ on 5th August 1940. The September 1940 file shows that he was then Head of Group 10, and the next file, dated August 1942, shows his grade as SSO. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that he was promoted at some time prior to September 1940. Another file, just dated ‘early 1942’ shows his personal status as married, with 2 children (it would help to date that file a little better if you could tell us when he acquired that status). March 1942 and August 1944 files show him still as an SSO heading Group 10. He is absent from the February 1945 staff list.

        At some time after VJ Day (15th August 1945) an Atomic Energy Group was established in ‘The Lees’ building at Malvern Boys College, and the November 1946 Staff List shows Mr Fry as Head of the AE Group (aka Division S of the Electronics Department). His grade had accordingly risen to PSO.

        By 1942, the Brit Government was involved in joint Anglo/French/Canadian nuclear research, leading to the founding of research laboratories at Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, in 1944. It is believed that a very small number of TRE personnel were seconded to this project. Considering that Mr Fry was later made Head of TRE’s AE Gp, a posting to Chalk River could possibly explain his absence from the February 1945 list.

        In late 1945, nuclear work was taking place at several places within UK and the Government decided to centralise it all at a single national location. The result was that the recently redundant airfield, RAF Harwell, became the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE), opened on 1st January 1946. Division S was amalgamated into it. An amended TRE organisation chart dated February 1948 shows Division S crossed out, thus indicating an approximate transfer date to AERE.

        During his TRE-associated career D W Fry has 2 internally published papers associated with his name:
        1. TRE Report T1078 (republished postwar as TRE Report 50) – The waveguide as a transmission line.
        2. TRE Journal October 1947 (an internal bi-monthly technical publication) – The travelling wave type linear accelerator.
        MRATHS has both of these papers and we can provide copies at £10 each.

        “Googling” D W Fry provides references to publications in your grandfather’s name during his time at AERE. The historical files relating to AERE are divided between National Archives at Kew and the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge – the internet tells all!

        I’m sorry that it’s taken so long to get this information together – I hope it has been worth waiting for! If I can help in any further way, please do let me know.

        Yours sincerely

        Ron Henry

        Reply
        1. Ron Henry

          Dear Mr Fry

          I have now investigated your grandfather’s career as far as is possible in MRATHS’ Archive. Unfortunately, we don’t have staff lists for every year of his career in the establishment, but a reasonable broad picture of it has emerged.

          Donald William Fry was born on 30 November 1910 (which I’m sure you know) and joined Bawdsey Research Station (BRS), Suffolk, as a Scientific Officer on 1st September 1936. The staff structure of the top levels at BRS was then, in descending order: Superintendent (Mr Robert Watson Watt – replaced by Mr A P Rowe on 26th May 1938), Principal Scientific Officer, Senior Scientific Officer, Scientific Officer. On joining, your grandfather was one of less than ten SOs. His salary was £400 pa.

          To add a little more background, Watson Watt’s famous trial to investigate the radar effect (sometimes called the ‘Daventry Experiment’ because it demonstrated the detection of radio waves from the BBC’s Daventry radio station reflected off an aircraft) was held on 26th February 1935. Further development work and trials continued at Orfordness, Suffolk. In view of the continuing success of the work, the Air Ministry purchased Bawdsey Manor as a Radio Direction Finding (RDF – as radar was then called) dedicated research centre when it came up for sale in late 1935. Bawdsey Research Station (BRS) was established in January 1936. Your grandfather was thus one of the early radar pioneers.

          On the outbreak of WW2 on 3rd September 1939, BRS was evacuated to Dundee and remained there until May 1940 when it moved to Worth Matravers, Dorset, and was renamed to Telecommunications Research Establishment. TRE remained there until the end of May 1942. Its next move, at short notice, was to Malvern where it stayed for the rest of its history. Until 1948 it occupied the public school, Malvern Boys College.

          The available staff files show that Mr Fry was in TRE’s ‘Group 10’ working on ‘centimetre serials and cables’ on 5th August 1940. The September 1940 file shows that he was then Head of Group 10, and the next file, dated August 1942, shows his grade as SSO. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that he was promoted at some time prior to September 1940. Another file, just dated ‘early 1942’ shows his personal status as married, with 2 children (it would help to date that file a little better if you could tell us when he acquired that status). March 1942 and August 1944 files show him still as an SSO heading Group 10. He is absent from the February 1945 staff list.

          At some time after VJ Day (15th August 1945) an Atomic Energy Group was established in ‘The Lees’ building at Malvern Boys College, and the November 1946 Staff List shows Mr Fry as Head of the AE Group (aka Division S of the Electronics Department). His grade had accordingly risen to PSO.

          By 1942, the Brit Government was involved in joint Anglo/French/Canadian nuclear research, leading to the founding of research laboratories at Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, in 1944. It is believed that a very small number of TRE personnel were seconded to this project. Considering that Mr Fry was later made Head of TRE’s AE Gp, a posting to Chalk River could possibly explain his absence from the February 1945 list.

          In late 1945, nuclear work was taking place at several places within UK and the Government decided to centralise it all at a single location. The result was that the recently redundant airfield, RAF Harwell, became the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE), opened on 1st January 1946. Division S was amalgamated into it. An amended TRE organisation chart dated February 1948 shows Division S crossed out, thus indicating an approximate transfer date to AERE.

          During his TRE-associated career D W Fry has 2 internally published papers associated with his name:
          1. TRE Report T1078 (republished postwar as TRE Report 50) – The waveguide as a transmission line.
          2. TRE Journal October 1947 (an internal bi-monthly technical publication) – The travelling wave type linear accelerator.
          MRATHS has both of these papers and we can provide copies at £10 each.

          “Googling” D W Fry provides references to publications in your grandfather’s name during his time at AERE. The historical files relating to AERE are divided between National Archives at Kew and the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge – the internet tells all!

          I’m sorry that it’s taken so long to get this information together – I hope it has been worth waiting for! If I can help in any further way, please do let me know.

          Yours sincerely

          Ron Henry

          P.S. If you want to learn more about the BRS era you may find these books helpful:

          1 WATSON-WATT, R. A.: ‘Three steps to victory’ (Odhams, 1957). Not an easy read ! Long out of print but you can sometimes find a copy on http://www.abebooks.co.uk
          2 ROWE, A. P.: ‘One story of radar’ (Cambridge University Press, 1948). Recently reprinted – you can find it listed on Amazon
          3 HANBURY BROWN, R.: ‘Boffin. A personal story of the early days of radar, radio astronomy and quantum optics’ (Adam Huger, Bristol, 1991)
          4 BOWEN, F. G.: ‘Radar days’ (Adam Hilger, Bristol, 1987)
          5 HODGKIN, A. L.: ‘Chance and design’ (Cambridge University Press, 1992)
          6 LOVELL, Sir Bernard: ‘Echoes of war: the story of H2S radar’ (Adam Huger, Bristol, 1991)

          Reply
  2. Trevor Bowdery

    I am also trying to find information about my late uncle.
    His name was Gilbert Harold Williams and he used to tell his wife that his boss was Robert Watson Watt, the radar pioneer.

    I would be grateful for any information.

    Regards

    Trevor Bowdery

    Reply
    1. Ron Henry

      Dear Mr Bowdery

      Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, we can’t provide the direct answer to your question but I have listed information which I hope will help you to be able to find the answer.

      You haven’t given any clue as to where, or for which organisation, your uncle worked when he knew Watson Watt. WW had a fairly diverse career within radar so I have listed what is known about his career in the hope that it will give you a clue.

      Watson Watt was in charge of radar research (RDF – radio direction finding, as it was first known) from 1934 until May 1938, first at Radio Research Station, Slough, where he was Superintendent. He continued to manage the research team when it moved to Orfordness, Suffolk, in May 1935 and remained until January 1936. Then, following the Air Ministry’s purchase of Bawdsey Manor (renamed to Bawdsey Research Station (BRS)) as a dedicated base for the team, WW moved his office from Slough to BRS and became its Superintendent. He held this position until 25th May 1938. On this date, Mr A P Rowe took over as Superintendent and WW left BRS in July to become the head (Director) of the Air Ministry’s Directorate of Communications Development (DCD). In 1941 he spent a period in USA advising the US Government. On his return he took up the post of Scientific Adviser in Telecommunications within the Air Ministry and, then, a little later, Vice-Controller of Communications Equipment in the Ministry of Aircraft Production. He stayed in this post until the end of the war.

      Immediately after the war Watson-Watt acted as Scientific Adviser to various Ministries and led delegations to international meetings on radio aids to marine navigation and civil aviation. In 1947 he set up his private firm of consultants in Westminster: ‘Sir Robert Watson-Watt and Partners’. He moved to Canada in the early 1950’s and later to the USA. He died in Inverness on the 5th of December 1973.

      MRATHS has a copy of the list of BRS employees in 1940 and it stretches back to 1936 to include their date of joining either Radio Research Station or BRS. Gilbert Harold Williams is not on the list. WW was no longer in charge of BRS after July 1938, so we hold no further records which will help to answer your question. There remain only two very weak clues – you said that your uncle used to tell his wife that his boss was ‘Robert Watson Watt, the radar pioneer’: WW was knighted in 1942 (of course, in casual conversation it’s quite likely that his title was omitted), and the American term ‘radar’ was coined in 1940, gradually replacing ‘RDF’ from that time until 1944 when ‘radar’ became the official term (i.e. if your uncle worked for WW prior to 1940, he wouldn’t have said ‘radar’).

      I’m sorry not to have been able to provide definitive information. If you manage to discover more information yourself I would, of course, be pleased to learn it.

      Yours sincerely

      Ron Henry

      Reply

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