March 2021

Battle of the Atlantic – Radar’s Role

80 years ago on March 7, 1941, Winston Churchill coined the phrase ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ deliberately echoing the Battle of Britain to emphasise its importance.

Science and the new technologies played a big part in the fight. Radar, which could see over great distances and through fog and dark, was introduced on ships in 1940 -Type 286. The first sea battle using radar was fought on March 17, 1941, 400 miles off the Shetland Islands.  HMS Vanoc using Type 286 radar sank the U-boat, U-100.  Aviation was also transformed by ASV (Aircraft to Surface Vessel) radar, the development of which began prewar at Bawdsey with Bowen’s work on AI (Airborne Interception).

Several visitors to the Transmitter Block over the years have talked of their experiences of getting radar onto ships in the early days.  One visitor viewing ‘The Magic Ear’, the original exhibition in the Block, was reduced to tears on reading the Battle of the Atlantic panel.  A close relative of hers was drowned on one of the convoys and when spoken to she explained how she felt little was made of the enormous sacrifice of merchant seaman in WW2 and to see it mentioned in a radar exhibition was overwhelming.

      HMS Vanoc


     U-Boat  U100

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Battle of the Atlantic  – Radar’s Role