Tag Archives: WWII Radio

The Birth of Radar Memorial

Photo by Amanda Slater

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who writes:

Interesting article on the new monument to radar between Daventry and Towcester in Northamptonshire, UK.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/birth-of-radar-memorial

Legend has it that this was conducted around 25-28 MHz, which was the very top end of higher power RF at the time.

The location sits closer to Towcester, although the event is always quoted as having taken place at Daventry (the source, not the receiver).

It’s fascinating that Plessey Research Caswell was set up almost immediately, not very far away and was heavily involved in radar and other solid-state research through to the 1990s.

[Disclosure: the author (Paul) worked at Plessey Caswell and was Two Terminal device Manager at Plessey Microwave, Towcester in the 1980s]

Many thanks, Paul, for sharing this fascinating bit of history.

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The WWII “Mosquito Network”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marty, who shares this article by Mark Durenberger in Radio World:

Inside the U.S. effort in a battle of the airwaves during the Pacific campaign of World War II

We can’t fully appreciate the importance of news from home to those who served in World War II. In the Pacific campaigns, G.I.s, sailors and Marines fought bloody island-hopping battles; as each island was cleared, garrison troops and hospitals moved in and carried on their own war against mosquitoes, isolation and boredom. The island fighters were fortunate if dated mail caught up with them before they moved on to the next target. Timely personal-level communications were pretty much absent.

Radio programming from America was available but only on shortwave. And shortwave radios were not generally available. The fortunate few had been issued “Buddy Kits” that included a radio, a small PA system and a record player for discs sent by mail. But for most there was no way to receive short-lived information such as news and sports. They were left with enemy radio propaganda such as Japan’s “Orphan Ann/Annie” (aka one of several Tokyo Roses) and the “Zero Hour” program.

No wonder that the idea of having a local island radio station doing “live from home” was so fiercely supported. Enlightened commanders saw the idea as a terrific morale-builder. The only problem was how to pull it off.

A solution, not uniquely, came from within the ranks. It started with the work of some bored but talented soldiers in the Panama Canal Zone who in 1940 built a couple of 50 W transmitters and put them on the air without authorization, labeling them “PCAN” and “PCAC.”[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article at Radio World.

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An Enigma machine just fetched over $106K at auction

(Source: Bloomberg.com)

A rare “Enigma” machine, used by Nazi Germany to create military communications code thought to be unbreakable, sold at auction for more than $106,000.

The 28.5-pound cipher machine went to an internet buyer on Saturday, according to Heritage Auctions. It comes with operating instructions, a case with an engraved Third Reich emblem — and a rich lore including how British scientist Alan Turing helped crack the code.

One of the unit’s 26 light bulbs is broken, according to the description.

It’s not the first time a Nazi code creator has traded hands for such a sum. In May, an Irish private collector swiped up a different encryption machine, known as the “Hitler mill” because of its hand crank, for 98,000 euros ($109,000) from a Munich auctioneer, according to the Telegraph.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article at Bloomberg.com.

Click here to view the auction page.

SWLing Post contributor and friend, Dan Robinson, and I once visited the National Cryptological Museum at Fort Meade and got to try our hand at using an Enigma machine. It’s an absolutely brilliant bit of mechanical engineering, of course. I highly recommend this museum to anyone interested in radio, computers or cryptography.

If you’d like to learn about another fascinating bit of over-the-air WWII technology–the SIGSALY network–I strongly encourage you to check out this post from our archives.

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BBC Witness History: “Britain’s secret propaganda war”

Check out this brilliant BBC Witness History piece regarding the British propaganda effort during WWII:

How sex, jazz and ‘fake news’ were used to undermine the Nazis in World War Two. In 1941, the UK created a top secret propaganda department, the Political Warfare Executive to wage psychological warfare on the German war machine. It was responsible for spreading rumours, generating fake news, leaflet drops and creating fake clandestine German radio stations to spread misinformation and erode enemy morale. We hear archive recordings of those involved and speak to professor Jo Fox of the Institute of Historical Research about the secret history of British “black propaganda”.

Click here to listen to this program via the BBC Witness History website.

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“BBC’s secret World War Two activities revealed”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Fred Waterer and Mike Hansgen who share the following article from the BBC:

A new archive has revealed the BBC’s role in secret activities during World War Two, including sending coded messages to European resistance groups.

Documents and interviews, released by BBC History, include plans to replace Big Ben’s chimes with a recorded version in the event of an air attack.

This would ensure the Germans did not know their planes were over Westminster.

BBC programmers would also play music to contact Polish freedom fighters.

Using the codename “Peter Peterkin”, a government representative would provide staff with a particular piece that would be broadcast following the Polish news service.

Historian David Hendy said: “The bulletins broadcast to Poland would be deliberately short by a minute or so and then a secret messenger from the exiled Polish government would deliver a record to be played.

“The choice of music would send the message to fighters.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at the BBC.

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Site shares story of the BBC’s wartime reporting

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who shares the following note following our recent series of posts about WWII radio:

The, nearly, full story of the BBC’s wartime reporting can be found here. Yes, I hope another interesting read both for your good self and the readers of The SWLing Post:

http://www.orbem.co.uk/repwar/wr_action.htm

What an excellent read! Thank you for sharing this link, Kris!

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The Listeners: Members of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Corps who secretly monitored the airwaves

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Fred Waterer, who shares the following fascinating video from the CBC and notes:

“The Listeners” Members of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Corps monitored the airwaves for German U-Boat traffic. Their participation was secret for decades.”

Click here to view this video via the CBC.

This is such an amazing story, Fred, and the CBC did a fine job putting it together. Thanks so much for sharing.

Editor’s note regarding WWII history: Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m an avid WWII history buff, in that I read, view, and especially listen to many accounts of the Second World War era, the glory days of radio. I’ve traveled and lived in several of the countries that were, at that time, among the Axis Powers, some of my close friends are from or reside in these countries now, and feel much as I do about this history: that this was a devastating war which we must not forget or romanticize, and from which we can learn about ourselves as human beings, hopefully with the view of preventing such chilling events from ever being repeated.  As we have readers and contributors from all over the world in this radio community, I sincerely hope that WWII-related articles are regarded in this light of understanding. The takeaway? Times have changed.  I firmly believe that a deep understanding of our shared history makes us all better people.

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