The next section of our course covered the Marconi Type 13 and Type 14 radar equipments. We found that these were based on the Naval Type 271 an early ship-borne device. In brief, a six foot high steel cabin contained the microwave transmitter and receiver and carried the reflector. Type 14 was a search radar and would normally rotate continuously or sweep back and forth over any sector by virtue of using the 'pivot mount' turning gear which we had encountered earlier. The Type 13 version was equipped with a nodding aerial to enable an operator selectable narrow section of the sky to be scanned up to 60,000 feet. Both versions could see reliably targets 150 miles away, and sometimes rather more.
[The technical details of this kit are covered elsewhere on the site and this link will take you there.]
We were now into the world of microwaves and almost the first thing our sergeant instructor did was to demonstrate the peculiar danger of getting too close to this type of concentrated RF energy. The classroom contained a working modulator and transmitter but of course as there was no aerial a dummy load had to absorb the output of the magnetron. Our Instructor disconnected this from the output waveguide and ran up the modulator to about half power. Then he held a boxwood ruler a few inches from the open end of the waveguide. In a very few seconds the ruler burst into flames and we were duly impressed, little realising that before too many decades had passed, a rather more refined form of microwave cooking would become a standard feature in every home.
Once again we were issued with new sets of technical diagrams and our studies often extended into the evenings, going over what we had been taken through that day and picking each other's brain to resolve technical points that had been missed. By this time all the grumblers had long departed and without exception everyone was genuinely interested and keen to thoroughy understand the workings of the equipment. Furthermore the Type 7 training had taught us what to expect in any radar system and the novelty of the miniaturisation achieved by the use of centimetrics added to the interest. Moreover, when the Friday test had been successfully accomplished we were able to relax more during the Spring weekends.
One Sunday I was co-opted to assist the group of racing cyclists, two of whom were in our billet. They wished to carry out a 25 mile 'time-trial' and I had to act as the turning marker. We all rose very early on the Sunday morning, too early for a proper RAF breakfast and we had to make do with cereals and tea. The cyclists pedalled off very gently through Banwell to a predetermined point on the main Bristol to Bridgewater road. Then I had to despatch them off at minute intervals. With the last one away I leapt on my Douglas and scorched away in pursuit. I was amazed at the speed at which the cyclists went and was greatly relieved to overtake the first away before I arrived at the turning point twelve and a half miles down the road. Their research had been good, for this was a factory entrance area where I could park my bike. They duly arrived one by one and without pausing turned to set off in return. After the slowest man had turned I again had to race back to the starting point to clock-in the pretty much exhausted cyclists . I may be wrong but I think the fastest rider took just over the hour for the 25 miles.
At the outset of this training we were disappointed to learn that we would not be seeing a complete system in action and nor would we be even looking into the cabins of the mobile versions of these machines which were parked near the Bellman Hangar. All we could do was to inspect the exteriors of those in our own time. As I remember it, next to nothing was carried out in the way of fault finding on the classroom units either. However we were duly 'boarded' and endured the multiple choice exam paper, and again to our mutual jubilation found that we had all passed.
At about this point in our training we were required to do a weekend of guard duty. As at West Kirby we were required to spend the whole time living in a hut allocated for the purpose near the guardroom. Again we had to endure sleeping on the diamond shaped bed springs as again no matresses were in evidence. At each meal time we were marched down to the Mechanics cookhouse' and marched back. Guarding was carried out in pairs for a two hour period followed by four hours off and consisted of either stopping all those entering the main gate and requesting identification, or patrolling on set beats around the various buildings. All doors had to be tested for security and there was always the chance of encountering a prowling Duty Officer out to test our dedication. We endured heavy rain for the entire weekend and although our groundsheets protected us adequately when we were actually patrolling and not crouched under whatever cover we could find, the whole thing was a depressing experience, especially during the small hours. It was probably pointless too.
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