Jack Nissenthal – unknown hero
Bawdsey Radar played an important part in the secret education of a major player in the Radar War of WW2 – the unknown hero Jack Nissenthall.
On Thursday 17 January 2019 Linda and Basil Samuels visited Bawdsey Radar museum to see where Linda’s father, Jack Nissenthall, worked as a radar technician, working with Robert Watson-Watt to develop radar technology.
The Samuels also presented the museum with a book written by Jack – ‘Winning the Radar War’ which they have very kindly donated to the museum.
Martin Sugarman, archivist and historian of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, Jewish War Veterans of the UK, was also in the visiting party. Martin has told Jack’s whole ‘boys own’ story in a complete chapter in his book ‘Fighting Back’ (published by Valentine Mitchell in 2017).
Who was Jack Nissenthall?
Jack was a cockney Jewish East Ender from Bow. He left school to work at the British Electronics Company EMI in Tottenham Court road in London’s west end, as he had a fascination with electronics and radio.
Jack and Bawdsey Radar
In 1936, a uniformed officer, wearing no badges, recruited Jack, with his employer’s permission, to attend training at Robert Watson-Watt’s then top-secret experimental Radar centre at Bawdsey Manor, near to the present-day local Bawdsey Radar Museum.
As the Samuels tell us “Jack was part of the ‘weekend volunteers’ at Bawdsey working as a civilian radar technician. He would travel to Bawdsey in a Fiat Cub owned and driven by Bob Brown and they were accompanied by Peter Friese-Green.
Jack was working at the time for EMI in television not only repairing and maintaining television sets but installing them in the West End. It was these skills that the team at Bawdsey needed”.
When war broke out Jack was sent to RAF Radar stations to finetune his extensive skills on the new devices that were to help win the war. He joined the RAF in 1940. Whilst at Hope Cove RAF station in south Devon, he was asked and volunteered to go to Dieppe and the rest, as they say, is history.
Dieppe Raid August 1942
Jack volunteered for an incredible and most dangerous mission: to break into the German Freya radar station at Pourville, to the west of Dieppe. His job was to prise open its secrets for the Allies and return to Britain with the information. He was accompanied by 12 bodyguards of the Canadian South Saskatchewan Regiment who had direct orders not to allow him to fall alive into enemy hands.
During the raid, by climbing and cutting the German radar communication landline cables, whilst under direct, intense enemy fire, Jack enabled UK Radio Detectors across the Channel, to listen in to the secrets of how the radar worked, thus enabling the Allies to perfect how to intercept and neutralise the radars without the Germans knowing.
Jack was never officially recognised for his expertise nor his immense courage on the raid that day, where he exposed himself to death on many occasions during the battle. But he survived to tell the tale which can be read in his book “Winning the Radar War’.
Bawdsey Radar played a major part in the secret education of a major player in the Radar War of WW2 – the unknown hero Jack Nissenthall.
More information is available on Jack via this link –
A film is due to be made about Jack’s mission to France.