‘The Man Under the Radar’
Are you ready for a story of outstanding bravery and courage beyond belief?
Here is that story and it belongs to Jack Nissenthall.
Jack was born in Bow in 1919, a cockney Jewish East Ender and the son of a Polish Jewish immigrant.
Jack was always fascinated by electronics and radio and he left school to work at EMI (Electric and Musical Industries) in west London.
In 1936, aged 17, Jack volunteered as a civilian radar technician for the RAF and started workingd part-time in Robert Watson-Watt’s team at the top-secret experimental radar station at Bawdsey Manor.
As Jack’s daughter Linda Nissen Samuels tells us “Jack was part of the ‘weekend volunteers’ at Bawdsey working as a RAF 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”.
In 1940 Jack joined the RAF and his skill and expertise in radar grew and developed, and he assisted with the running of the Dowding System as well as making technical improvements. He was already an expert in the field and this led to Jack being considered, and chosen for a top-secret mission in August 1942.
Operation Jubilee, also known as the #DieppeRaid, was a large-scale Allied combined operation on the port town of Dieppe.
Jack, aged 22, 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.
Jack was accompanied by 10 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 enemy 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 and his story is part of a brand-new exhibition ‘Dieppe 80’ at the Battle of Britain Bunker in Hillingdon.
The Bunker was home to No.11 Group Fighter Command in WW2 and fighter aircraft ops were controlled from there, and other Groups, notably during the Battle of Britain and D-Day using the integrated Dowding System of air defence.
Jack’s incredible story features in the exhibition alongside 5 other stories of astounding bravery, and is on till August 2023.
Linda Samuels @LindaSamu has written her father’s biography ‘The Man Under the Radar’ using Jack’s letters and accounts. The book is available from our museum shop at £9.99 or your usual bookseller.
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