The Man Who Outwitted the Luftwaffe


On the afternoon of June 12, 1940, Frederick Lindemann, whom British prime minister Winston Churchill had simply appointed as his scientific adviser, convened a gathering on the Air Ministry. Lindemann, identified to everybody as “the Prof,” prolonged a last-minute invitation to 28-year-old Reginald V. Jones, the comparatively obscure deputy director of intelligence analysis. The only real matter of the assembly was Germany’s progress in creating and deploying defensive radar techniques, analysis that Britain was already doing with its personal secret Chain Dwelling radar stations. Because the assembly got here to an finish, Jones surprised everybody within the room with an alarming piece of intelligence he had realized about solely that morning. He now believed, he informed the others, that the Germans had made a breakthrough in digital bomb-aiming that, if efficiently applied, might very properly trigger Britain to lose the warfare.

Jones, the son of a London postman, was, from an early age, one thing of a tutorial prodigy. By age 22, having earned a doctorate in physics from Oxford College’s Balliol School, he launched into a civilian profession within the Air Ministry that inside only a few years had him within the company’s No. 2 intelligence place, specializing in digital and radio defenses towards air assault.

The arrival of economic broadcast radio within the mid-Nineteen Twenties was as near magic as anybody might have imagined. It was solely three a long time faraway from Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi’s preliminary discovery that radio waves might ship messages via the ether, which led to his pioneering transatlantic long-distance radio transmission in 1901 (from St. Johns, Newfoundland, to Cliveden, Eire). Initially, the system might transmit solely the dits and dahs of Morse code, however inside a number of years voice transmission grew to become doable. With that growth and some available parts, anybody at residence with a little bit of technical talent might assemble a workable hi fi and, as Jones would later write, “conjure speech and music out of the air.”

Firefighters in Birmingham, England, tread via the rubble on August 25, 1940, after the Luftwaffe begins pummeling town, an necessary industrial middle, with high-explosive bombs and incendiaries. (Mirrorpix/Getty Pictures)

Within the mid-Nineteen Thirties, Jones’s analysis targeted on detecting infrared radiation emitted from scorching plane engines approaching the British Isles. Whereas that intriguing work finally led to a useless finish, it superior his rising repute as a younger man to look at. Most necessary, his work had caught the attention of Frederick Lindemann.

Jones first got here to Lindemann’s consideration in 1931 whereas the previous was nonetheless a graduate pupil in physics at Oxford. Someday, the prickly Prof informed Jones in a post-examination interview that no pupil had ever answered his questions so successfully. Neither might have identified that years later they’d be working collectively on very important protection work on the Air Ministry.

On the morning of June 11, 1940, Jones obtained phone calls from each Lindemann and Group Captain Lyter Fettiplace Blandy, the top of the Royal Air Power’s Y Service, which was liable for intercepting and decoding German radio alerts. Every name invited Jones to a gathering the next day. Lindemann’s afternoon assembly was to debate Germany’s functionality to detect incoming plane through the use of radio waves; Blandy’s morning assembly was extra of a casual replace on Y Service actions. Jones carried the best safety clearance, together with entry to intercepts from Bletchley Park, the place British intelligence analysts often decoded German radio messages despatched via their Enigma cypher machine community as a part of an Allied intelligence program often called Extremely. 

Blandy opened a drawer in his desk and received proper all the way down to enterprise. “Does this imply something to you?” he requested Jones, handing him a scrap of paper. “It doesn’t appear to imply something to anybody right here.”

Jones learn the Extremely English translation: “Cleves Knickebein is established at place 53 levels 24 minutes North and 1 diploma West.”

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Jones immediately realized that the required place was a degree in England, decided to be on the Nice North Highway a couple of mile south of Retford within the Midlands. He knew that Germany had a radio beam transmitter known as Knickebeinat Cleves (or Kleves, a metropolis on its western border) and that the British had confirmed the existence of this slim wave beam over England. To Jones, the title Knickebein (“crooked leg,” in English) steered an intersection of some kind, maybe a second beam that intersected the primary—briefly, a precision “X marks the spot” bomb-dropping system. Additional, he mentioned, it offered a possibility to place up a false cross-beam that will trigger the Germans to drop their bombs on decoy targets. In any occasion, the decoded message meant that the Luftwaffe, the German air drive, was creating the flexibility to precision-­bomb England in any climate, day or evening.

When Jones was requested about Germany’s defensive radar capabilities on the Lindemann assembly, he mentioned that whereas he was satisfied the Germans had them, he knew few particulars. He talked about what had change into often called the Oslo Report—an eight-page paper on German expertise anonymously despatched from Norway that solely Jones and some others had taken significantly. Close to the tip of the assembly, Jones matter-of-factly dropped a bomb of his personal. He reported his evaluation of the KnickebeinUltra transmission, which he had learn that morning in Blandy’s workplace; with that, he mentioned, the items all match collectively, leaving him satisfied that the Germans had an digital two-beam intersecting system for bombing England. Requested to develop on his extraordinary assertion, Jones mentioned that primarily based on this proof and secretly recorded conversations of Luftwaffe prisoners, he believed Knickebeinhad been derived from the German “Lorenz” blind-landing set put in in German bombers: an digital help designed to information plane safely to the bottom in any climate by following a radio beam.

British prime minister Winston Churchill scans the sky from an antiaircraft submit; Reginald V. Jones, the scientist who would repeatedly foil the Nazis; Frederick Lindemann, Churchill’s prime scientific adviser. (Clockwise from prime: Keystone-France/Getty Picture; Robert Hutton Assortment; Fred Ramage/Getty Pictures)

The idea actually wasn’t new to the Royal Air Power; it had an analogous low-frequency radio-range-type touchdown system put in in its plane as properly. What was new, Jones defined, was this new built-in two-beam precision bomb-dropping functionality. Jones had been tipped off to Germany’s scheme in a dialogue with a Royal Plane Manufacturing facility engineer who had examined a few of its crashed bombers. The person had talked about that the one factor uncommon concerning the Lorenz system was that it was way more delicate than can be required for blind touchdown.

These blind-landing, “within the soup” cockpit radio-range touchdown gadgets had change into absolutely mature within the mid-Nineteen Thirties. Pilots additionally used them for point-to-point navigation and holding patterns. These versatile techniques had varied names, together with “four-course radio vary,” “A-N,” “Adcock radio vary,” or typically merely “the vary.” With the Lorenz, the pilot, after establishing on closing method, would take heed to the Morse code alerts coming via his headset. If the airplane was to the left of the specified touchdown course, he would hear the A stream (a repeating letter A in Morse code: di-dah, di-dah, …); if he was to the proper he would hear the N stream (dah-dit, dah-dit, …). When he corrected and at last heard a gentle tone, he knew he was on the “equisignal”: on correct heading to land. (American pilots known as this being “on the beam.”)

If Jones’s concept—and to Lindemann and the others it was nonetheless a concept—was right, and the Lorenz system had been cleverly modified in addition to hid, the Germans would be capable to bomb England with close to impunity. Nearly predictably, the at all times troublesome Lindemann was the largest skeptic. The beam wouldn’t work, he mentioned, as a result of the brief waves wouldn’t bend across the curvature of the earth. Jones, armed with computations from Thomas Lydwell Eckersley of the Marconi Firm, assured Lindemann that the waves would bend. The subsequent day Jones met with Lindemann and confirmed him Eckersley’s report. Lindemann then withdrew his objection and despatched a be aware to Churchill concerning the significance of the brand new system. On June 14 a freshly captured Luftwaffe prisoner of warfare admitted throughout interrogation that Knickebein was certainly a bomb-dropping system involving radio beams. To Jones, the proof was virtually conclusive.

On June 21 Churchill chaired a high-level assembly with Lindemann sitting on his proper and Lord Beaverbrook, the minister of plane manufacturing, on his left. Throughout the desk sat Air Minister Archibald Sinclair and all of the senior leaders of the Royal Air Power. Jones was admitted 25 minutes after the assembly began. His first impression recorded the shortage of any secretaries; clearly this was to be an off-the-­file dialogue. After sitting silently for a time, he was startled when Churchill abruptly requested him “about some level of element,” as Jones later described it.

“Wouldn’t it assist, sir,” Jones responded, “if I informed you the story proper from the beginning?” Momentarily shocked, Churchill then mentioned, “Properly, sure, it might!” 

German troopers man the 10-foot-wide radar dish that got here to be often called a Würzburg-Riese (Large Würzburg). (Bundesarchiv)

Jones proceeded to talk with poise and with out notes for 20 minutes. “When Dr. Jones completed,” Churchill would later recall, “there was a normal air of incredulity.” Specifically, Sir Henry Tizard, an influential scientific adviser to Churchill, vehemently opposed Jones’s conclusions. After a moderately chaotic dialogue, Churchill lastly lower to the chase. Turning to Jones, he requested: “What can we do?” The existence of the beams, Jones replied, ought to first be confirmed via a flight take a look at. Then, he mentioned, it was important to develop countermeasures to foil them. A lot to Jones’s delight, Churchill agreed, setting the plan in movement. Two years later, Lindemann informed Jones that Churchill had mentioned, “If we had listened to Tizard in 1940, we must always not have identified concerning the beams.”

The very subsequent day three two-engine Avro Anson utility plane had been despatched up, fitted with U.S.-made Hallicrafters S-27 wide-band receivers (primarily ham radio tools), in addition to operators, to find the Knickebeintransmission frequencies. After a protracted interval with out end result, one of many Ansons lastly picked up a beam. Then they discovered a second sign. The bearings had been in keeping with transmitters at Cleves and Bredstedt, Germany. Jones was jubilant. “In the middle of ten days [we went] from a conjecture to a certainty,” he later wrote. “[My work had] introduced me from obscurity to the best stage of the warfare.”

By September 1940, the Knickebeincountermeasures had been working properly, particularly throughout German evening raids when different visible aids had been typically unavailable. The digital countermeasures had been made more and more highly effective, to the purpose the place they degraded the enemy Morse code patterns into a lot static. The German beams had been nicknamed “Complications,” so it was solely becoming to name the British jammers “Aspirins.”

From left: Chain Dwelling, Britain’s radar protection community, employed towers like these at Woody Bay, Isle of Wight; plotters and obligation officers at work in a Royal Air Power Fighter Command operations room at Wiltshire in 1943. (Imperial Conflict Museums)

Regardless of this success towards Knickebein, for a number of months Jones had suspected that the Germans had been creating one other two-beam navigation-bombing system. Its existence was quickly confirmed by Extremely intercepts, coupled with but extra surreptitious recordings of latest Luftwaffe POW chitchat. The Germans known as the system X-Gerät: X referring to the intersection of the beams, and gerät which means “system or equipment.”

British radio course finders had recognized the transmitting stations as Cherbourg and the Pas de Calais, each on the French coast. Inside a number of weeks that summer time, the alerts had been linked to a single bomber unit, Kampfgruppe 100 (KGr.100), which seemed to be working independently of different bomber items. British jammers had been shortly modified to dam these new “X-beams.” Following the sooner “Aspirin” precedent, the brand new jammers had been known as “Bromides.” However a supremely tragic communication error relating to jammer frequencies resulted in a failure to disrupt an X-beam assault on Coventry on November 14, 1940, and Luftwaffe bombers devastated town. (Some historians have posited that Churchill lined up advance data of the Coventry raid to protect the Extremely secret, however Jones’s guide contradicts such assertions.)

Jones’s unrelenting work within the “Battle of the Beams” led him in that busy fall of 1940 to find one other radio navigation-­bombing system. The principle clue to its existence was one thing he had lengthy suspected from references within the Oslo Report. He had additionally held behind his thoughts a mysterious Extremely intercept from June 27, 1940, which learn: “It’s proposed to arrange Knickebein and Wotan set up close to Cherbourg and Brest.” What was this Wotan? Jones puzzled. He then telephoned Frederick “Bimbo” Norman, a pal and fellow Bletchley Park affiliate, whose scholarship in German heroic poetry was extremely regarded, and requested him about Wotan.

“He was head of the German Gods,” Norman informed Jones. “Wait a second…he had just one eye.” However then Norman excitedly exclaimed “One eye—one beam!” and requested Jones if he might consider a system that will use just one beam. Jones mentioned that certainly he might, and the ensuing dialog opened the door to the potential for a 3rd, and doubtlessly most devastating, radio bombing system the Germans had devised.

This Nazi propaganda photograph montage depicts a Heinkel He 111 releasing bombs over the Surrey Business Docks in southeast London throughout the Blitz in September 1940. (Imperial Conflict Museums)

In November 1940 an Extremely-encrypted message intercepted from a German transmitting station contained solely a single set of coordinates for a goal. When cross-checked on a map, the coordinates matched a British Military coaching middle in Dorset. All of it clearly pointed to a navigation system that wanted just one beam: the Germans had cleverly modified X-Gerät to re-radiate a second sign on a barely completely different frequency. The improved system supplied a distance measuring sign to go together with the course line beam. When the alerts overlapped, the enemy bomber can be over the goal. In line with Extremely, the Germans had named this third beam variant Y-Gerät.

The British instantly developed new countermeasures, which, oddly sufficient, utilized the British Broadcasting Firm’s giant business transmitter in London. By February 1941, the British had been capable of shoot Y-Gerät beams again on the enemy on the identical frequency, solely with a lot larger energy. However by Could 1941, with Operation Barbarossa—the invasion of the Soviet Union—imminent, the Luftwaffe had transferred most of its bomber forces to the Jap Entrance. With that, the “Battle of the Beams” was largely over, although the digital tit for tat continued on and off for the remainder of the warfare.

As World Conflict II floor on, Jones stepped up his personal warfare towards German expertise. The Oslo Report was frequently reviewed for brand spanking new leads; references earlier dismissed obtained renewed scrutiny. Jones had lengthy been haunted by a specific reference within the report back to radar, a expertise the British—with their nonetheless secret Chain Dwelling community—regarded with virtually proprietary curiosity. In July 1940, throughout the identical interval he was uncovering the Knickebeinand Gerätsecrets, Jones got here throughout a cryptic enemy intercept that talked about an air protection warning system it known as “Freya.” Jones acknowledged Freya as a Norse fertility goddess, however that alone wasn’t of a lot assist.
On additional investigation, nonetheless, Jones found that Freya had a necklace, guarded by the watchman Heimdall, that gave her the flexibility to see from horizon to horizon day or evening. Now we’re getting someplace, Jones thought: Heimdall had imaginative and prescient equal to radar. (These compromising German code names, by the way, are the first purpose that secret tasks at the moment are given utterly random names.) 

From left: An Avro Lancaster B Mark I releases the aluminum-foil strips often called “Window” in October 1944
to hide its location from German radar; a British manufacturing facility employee tends a machine that cuts the foil into strips. (Imperial Conflict Museums)

As Jones and his associates sought to find the Freyaearly warning radar stations, an Extremely decrypt talked about a second, comparable German radar—confirming yet one more merchandise within the Oslo Report—code-named Seetakt(Navy Tactical). This shipboard and coastal radar was dedicated to finding British ships. At that time the British nonetheless didn’t notice that the Germans had been in lots of respects forward in radar expertise. In 1939 Seetakt techniques had been put in within the mild cruiser Königsberg and the heavy cruiser Graf Spee. The 2 Seetakt-armed cruisers prowled the Atlantic, sinking British ships till April 1940, after they had been sunk and scuttled. By the point the British found Seetakt, the Germans had been deploying it principally in destroyer-­measurement patrol boats within the English Channel, they usually quickly had been compelled to fall again on optics as their major maritime range-finding methodology. 

By mid-1941, for Jones and his colleagues, the “Wizard Conflict,” because it was typically known as, had hit full stride. They had been now specializing in the Freyanetwork, rightly judging it to be the better risk to Bomber Command than X-Gerät. Unbeknownst to the British on the time, the Germans had first used Freya efficiently in December 1939, when it detected a daytime raid on Wilhelmshaven by a drive of Vickers Wellington twin-engine bombers. It isn’t properly understood even at the moment that in 1941 Freyawas extra technically superior than the British Chain Dwelling system, providing larger decision and detection of smaller targets. The British have efficiently nurtured the parable that their Chain Dwelling radar was technically superior throughout the early warfare years, however it was as a substitute the distinctive means of the warning system’s Filter Room at Bentley Priory, Fighter Command’s headquarters, to kind out out there intelligence and erect the absolute best protection.

By early 1942 the tables within the “secret warfare” started delivering favor of the Allies.

Happily for the British, throughout the Battle of Britain the Freya community was incomplete, leaving giant gaps in its protection, whereas Chain Dwelling was absolutely operational. Some students have steered that this disparity took place as a result of the British had been in a defensive posture, whereas the Germans, with essentially the most highly effective navy on the planet, had been strictly offensively oriented and had a blind spot when it got here to their very own protection.

Nonetheless, by late 1941, on account of Britain’s intensifying assaults on their cities, the Germans had change into absolutely engaged in strengthening their air protection community, with Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring placing Colonel Josef Kammhuber in command of the trouble. The Allies dubbed the brand new air protection community, which included the Freya stations, the “Kammhuber Line,” and it proved very efficient. The RAF Bomber Command aircrew losses had been staggering, with greater than 55,000 males killed in motion out of a complete of 125,000; the U.S. VIII Bomber Command had about 44,000 crew members killed in motion.

By early 1942 the tables within the “secret warfare” started delivering favor of the Allies. Jones, who was now primarily concentrating on digital countermeasures towards enemy air defenses, was turning into more and more influential in different areas. On studying of the unfastened formations and timetables of Bomber Command assaults, for instance, Jones urged a shift to regular, concentrated bomber streams, which overwhelmed German defenses. In the meantime, the introduction of the Allied Gee and Oboe radio navigation bombing techniques (combining digital course and distance alerts) to air operations made deep penetration missions much more profitable. The preliminary use of this new bomber stream tactic resulted within the immensely profitable first 1,000 RAF bomber raids towards Cologne on Could 30, 1942. But the cat-and-mouse sport continued: German digital defenses as soon as once more caught up when the Kammhuber Line was accomplished and Luftwaffe fighters loved renewed success towards British bomber raids.

It was throughout this era of the warfare that Jones’s repute as a scientist soared. As early as 1937, he had posited that metallic foil falling via the air would create radar echoes. After warfare broke out, he and Welsh physicist Joan Curran devised a means for British bombers to masks their method by dropping strips of foil, which they known as “Window,” lower to the wavelength of the enemy’s radar. (The identical expertise, now often called chaff, continues to be used at the moment.) Window was first used within the weeklong Operation Gomorrah towards Hamburg in July 1943, with excellent outcomes.

Close to the tip of 1941, one other line of Jones’s analysis led to considered one of his most spectacular accomplishments. Analyzing what the Nazis had been calling the Würzburgradar, Jones had change into more and more satisfied that it was now the RAF’s major radar risk. He requested intensive aerial reconnaissance missions over the numerous identified Freyasites, hoping that they could come across a Würzburginstallation as properly. On November 22, 1941, a Photograph Reconnaissance Unit Spitfire introduced again grainy photos of a radar website at Bruneval, a coastal village close to Le Havre, France. The pictures revealed a suspicious object on the finish of a well-trodden path main from the station.

From prime: One of many grainy reconnaissance pictures of the German radar website at Bruneval, a coastal village close to Le Havre, France; the British captured this sighting system for the Freya system in a raid on Bruneval in February 1942. (Prime: Imperial Conflict Museums; Beneath: Musée de L’Armée, Paris, CC BY-SA 2.0)

A daring PRU Spitfire pilot, Flight Lieutenant Tony Hill, volunteered to make a harmful low-level recon move over the location on December 5. His footage revealed a 10-foot-wide radar dish—what got here to be often called a Würzburg-­Riese (Large Würzburg). Jones was galvanized. He realized the British had way more to study this long-sought thriller radar, which Extremely intercepts had hinted at. Though he hesitated to advocate a commando raid, fearing that many lives can be misplaced, he lastly determined that such a raid was justified. After rigorously analyzing the radar’s location on detailed maps, he discovered a close-by seaside with a sloping method that was practically perfect for a raid to seize as a lot of the location’s tools as doable. With Prime Minister Churchill at all times smitten by such adventures, Jones’s proposal shortly made it up the chain of command. The Bruneval raid—code-named Operation Biting and led by Main John Frost on February 27, 1942—was an ideal success.

A very powerful results of the Bruneval raid was a fuller understanding of the capabilities of German air protection radars. The British found that whereas the Würzburgtypes had been a lot better constructed than their very own radars, they’d no provisions to deal with countermeasures. The British would go on to deftly exploit this key weak spot.

Yet one more of Jones’s counterintelligence coups was throughout the latter phases of the Malta Siege of 1940–1942—what some have known as “The Nice Malta Bluff.” The Germans had put in highly effective new jammers on Sicily, which rendered ineffective the radar on the British-held island of Malta, a mere 60 miles south of the Sicilian coast. Malta was straight within the path of enemy transport lanes from Italy that supported Italian and German forces in North Africa. The brand new enemy jammers might take out the island’s air protection early warning system, leaving Malta extraordinarily susceptible. The island’s Alerts Group requested Jones and his group in England for assist. No digital countermeasures had been out there. Jones knew, nonetheless, that the Germans judged the success of their jamming by monitoring British radio and radar exercise, and missing an alternate, he signaled Malta to proceed radar scanning usually and provides no clues that they had been in problem. The bluff labored. After a number of days, the Germans gave up and switched off their jammers.

In October 1940, after the British shot down this Messerschmitt Bf 110 “destroyer,” it was placed on show outdoors Finsbury City Corridor in London. The fighter-bomber grew to become essentially the most photographed Luftwaffe airplane of World Conflict II. (Popperfoto/Getty Pictures)

Jones didn’t be taught the identification of the writer of the nameless Oslo Report till an opportunity encounter within the early Fifties, a reality he didn’t reveal till after the writer died in 1987. Appalled by Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Ferdinand Mayer, a German mathematician and physicist, had elected to ship his eight-page report back to British intelligence. Although he can be arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 for political exercise and despatched to focus camps, Mayer survived the warfare. The Nazis by no means realized concerning the Oslo Report.

In recognition for his function within the conception and planning of the Bruneval raid, Jones was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire. It could be the primary of many such honors. In the meantime, his warfare “wizardry” continued via Could 1945, most notably unraveling the Kammhuber Line; discovering V-2 rockets at Peenemünde, Germany, and Blizna, Poland; discovering the launching tracks of the primary V-1 pulse-jet “buzz bombs” within the Baltic; and intelligence gathering for D-Day at Normandy. Jones, who died in 1997 at age 86, was undoubtedly liable for saving the lives of 1000’s of Allied troopers.

In 1993, as a closing testomony to his twin positions because the “father of digital countermeasures” and dean of the World Conflict II intelligence wizards, the U.S. Central Intelligence Company created the R. V. Jones Intelligence Award to acknowledge “scientific acumen utilized with artwork in the reason for freedom.” Fittingly, the primary recipient of the award was Jones himself.



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