Normandie's RADAR

Rob Lawes

I've recently been reading a book by a forner head Government Scientist called R.V. Jones who was at the forefront of the development of RADAR technology in the run up to WW2. In his book "Most Secret War he talks about the design of a type of RADAR that the French were fitting to Normndie to detect icebergs.

As this was around 1935, RADAR design was in its absolute infancy. I've had a look around the net and there isn't a great deal of infornation on it. Having seen a few models and pictures of Normandie I can't even recognise where the transmitter / receiver aerial(s) are. Does anyone have any knowlege of the set? Did it work? Etc.

Regards Rob.
That's an excellent book, isn't it? RV Jones was only in his late 20s when he just about won the war single handed.
Regarding radar, you probably saw in the book that once the war was over, Churchill - normally technically astute - told Jones to give radar to the Americans, as it was only useful in warships, and that other ships wouldn't need it in peacetime. A tad short-sighted for the august gentleman, but there you go.
I doubt therefore if Normandie had radar at all, and if she did it would be rudimentary, and I'm not sure that icebergs would show up on radar anyway; in any case she sank at her berth before she could be used for trooping, having been impounded once France fell to the Germans. In the 50s "Radar Assisted Collision" between the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm, it was not even possible to plot CPA of other ships on radar; it seems that other ships were just blips on the screen, though the Stockholm's and Doria's navigating officers could have used it to lay off their respective positions on the chart (neither did). Radar improved a lot after that, and now the ARPA sets just about take the guesswork out of it.

Wikipedia tells us that primitive radar was around from the beginning of the 20th century. It didn't just pop up out of nowhere in Britain. Normandie had an early French version.

"In France in 1934, following systematic studies on the Split Anode Magnetron, the research branch of the Compagnie Générale de Télégraphie Sans Fil (CSF), headed by Maurice Ponte, with Henri Gutton, Sylvain Berline, and M. Hugon, began developing an obstacle-locating radio apparatus, a part of which was installed on the liner Normandie in 1935."
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Jim Currie


In 1957... the year after the Andria Doria sinking, radar was in universal use on British merchant vessels. It had been so since 1950. That was the year I was awarded my RO Certificate. Here's a copy. In fact, it was very possible to plot another vessel's movements Using Standard Plotting Sheets. I was on the UK new York/ Gul of St, Lawrence run before and after that time and you are right... the echo from icebergs was very difficult to interpret. However, the echo from another vessel was not. So it was taken for granted that a 'ghost' echo in the iceberg region was probably an iceberg and appropriate action was taken.
RO Cert 001.jpg