Some string and a little wax goes a long way

By August 1943 Bomber Command had developed into a powerful force capable of inflicting devastation upon German Targets. The Pathfinder Force used Oboe to accurately locate and mark the target zones and almost all the squadrons of Halifax and Lancaster Bombers had been equipped with Gee navigational equipment (‘Goon’ as it was known by the aircrew), and H2S a centimetric Radar system which presented a map of the area being overflown, easily distinguishing water areas and with some difficulty the outlines of towns and cities.

Strips of tin foil cut to half wave length at the operating frequencies of the many German Radar systems were dropped for the first time at the rate of one bundle per minute in the Hamburg raid on July 24/25th. This tactic overwhelmed the German defense of the city and resulted, after a follow up raid a few days later in the monumental fire storm which killed almost 40,000 civilians.

The Gee navigational equipment was a passive set up, whereas the H2S radar could be tracked by German fighters after its secrets had been discovered. This was despite the inertia switches and push buttons which could activate explosive charges in the ‘sensitive’ parts of the H2S and theoretically make it almost impossible to re-assemble and access.

At first the H2S was used for navigation but heavy losses from night fighters restricted it later to ‘over’ target mapping. One of the navigators of our squadron of Halifaxes told me and my ‘oppo’ ( later to become Site Manager of Fylingdales Radar Station ) that the Gee was often useless when flying to targets at extreme range such as Berlin, and could we somehow extend its useful range.

Despite high security we always knew when a maximum effort was needed and the news of an operation involving a very long flying time reached us on August 16th. Colin and I had noticed in many air tests around Britain that the Gee antenna which was a flexible whip of solid steel alloy about 1.5 m long bent over horizontally at speed.

We deduced that this would reduce the signal strengths received from the Master and ‘Slave’ stations which were located in the UK. Our navigator friend was told of our plan and he and his Captain had agreed of a ‘mod’ on the Gee antenna of his aircraft could go ahead. This was of course contrary to all the rules and regulations concerning equipment status and would have given premature heart attacks to the Boffins at TRE Farnborough had they an inkling of what we proposed.

Perspex was easily found and a small square was fashioned and drilled so that it would slide down the tapered Gee whip to a position about two thirds from the base. In 1934 we had no nylon or similar cord, so the shoe repair section came to our aid. We used strong long staple linen thread which was thoroughly bees-waxed. The wax added strength, and would repel water and perhaps reduce any icing. Amazingly none of the ground crew doing their normal DIs noticed the guyed antenna. If they did nothing was said or reported. They were used to all manner of strange additions to the ‘kites’ in their charge.
The target was Peenemunde, and take off was the night of August the 17th.

The whole of Bomber Command took part in the raid, which was directed to the destruction of the V-Weapons research center and the living quarters of the employees. 596 aircraft took off from their bases in East Anglia ( 3 and 4 Groups ) and North right up to Yorkshire ( 4 and 6 Groups ). We were a part of 4 Group which had its HQ in York ( now the University there ). The outgoing flight-path was to Esbjerg on the Danish coast then to Arcona where a turn South led to the target area on the German Baltic coast. The raid was considered a success despite the fact that almost 600 Polish labourers perished because the initial marker flares were released a little too far South.

This was corrected; the German living quarters were then obliterated together with the laboratories and workshops. 1,800 tons of high explosive bombs were dropped and 40 aircraft, most of which were from Nos. 4 and 6 Groups did not return. They were in the final waves and many fell to the new German fighter technique of using upward firing twin 30 mm. cannon. Our aircrews did not expect to be attacked towards their aircraft’s blind spots.

What of our experiment?

The Halifax returned safely and an enthusiastic navigator related that he could use Gee co-ordinates right out to the target area and that it really helped on the journey home. We did not dare say anything about our unofficial ‘mod’ not wishing for a spell in the ‘Glasshouse’ and the Jury rigged antenna was quickly back to normal.

The moral is that when wishing to receive vertically polarised signals it is best to use a vertical antenna. The lower half does ‘all the work’ so that is the part which must be in the vertical plane.

73, John D. Heys (G3BDQ)

Return to the index of Vital Spark articles or you may like to look at a selection of John Hey’s interesting and quite rare QSL cards.

G3MGQ’s Month on the Air

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Vital Spark Archive

Vital Spark newsletter articles

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Used Ham Radio Equipment

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Club Photographs

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UK Amateur Radio Repeaters

UK repeaters

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GB3EB 2m in Uckfield- Active
MB6EB 2m DStar Node in Eastbourne - Active
MB6RY Wires-X DigiGate in Broad Oak - Active
GB3HE 70cm in Hastings - Active
GB7HE 70cm DStar in Hastings - Coming soon
GB3ZX 70cm in Eastbourne - Low Power
GB3JT 23cm ATV in Hastings - NoV cleared
GB7RY 70cm X-Wires Repeater Rye - Active
GB7ES Eastbourne - DSTAR Rpt. - Active
GB3ES 2m in Hastings - Active

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Popular pages

Get your amateur radio licence - Find out more about amateur radio licence training.
Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
BBADL - Bath Based Distance Learning Course.
Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
Other Newsletters - Excellent newsletters and magazines from other clubs.
TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

Amateur Radio Resources

Other Radio Clubs & RAYNET

BSARS - Brede Steam Amateur Radio Society

RAYNET - The Hastings and Rother RAYNET Group.

HERC members sites

Sigord - Gordon Sweet
Hastings Radio Comms - Andrew Haas-Campbell
Hoofbags - Liz Costa