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Over the hump and onwards : Royal Australian Air Force Radar Station no. 50 in WWII

Culvenor, Alex G. ; Mann, Warren, writer of introduction


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69 pages : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 21 cm. #290422
RAAF radar station flown over the Owen Stanley Mountains to Dobadura, Papua-New Guinea, to cover the American troops advancing up the coast towards Buna. Wing Commander A. George Pither
Air Commodore Alfred George Pither, CBE (16 October 1908 – 2 July 1971) was a Royal Australian Air Force officer. During the Second World War he established a chain of long-range radar stations throughout Australia and the South West Pacific. After the war, he helped in planning the Long Range Weapons Establishment, which he named “Woomera”.
On 23 October 1939, shortly after the outbreak of Second World War, Pither was posted to the staff of RAAF Headquarters, where he developed the signals training regimen for the Empire Air Training Scheme, introducing a new curriculum for Wireless Mechanics and Signals training at Point Cook. In September 1940, he was sent to the UK for a training course on radar, then a new and secret development.[4] Promoted to temporary wing commander on 1 January 1941, he returned to Australia by way of the United States and Canada, where he studied the latest developments. While he was in Canada, he married a Sydney-born woman, Lillian Ruth Ball, at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver on 13 April 1941.[1]

Returning to Australia in May 1941, Pither became the head of Section S7 of the RAAF Directorate of Signals, which was responsible for radar. He established a new school, No. 1 Radio School (later renamed No. 1 Radar School) to train specialists in the operation and maintenance of radar sets. The school officially opened on 4 August 1941, although 23 mechanics had already commenced the first course on 29 July. The course was based on the ASV Mk. I radar set, the only model available in Australia at the time. Later in the year, an RAF officer and three NCOs, with a Chain Home Low set made it possible to also give courses in ground-based radar. On 7 November 1941, the War Cabinet ordered that a series of early warning radar installations be established across northern Australia.[4]

Pither, whose S7 Section became the RAAF Directorate of Radar in January 1942, found himself engaged in a desperate race against time after Japan entered the war, and Japanese aircraft soon began appearing over Australia. The only unit under his control was No. 1 Radar School, but he liaised with the Allied Works Council, RAAF airfield construction squadrons and local government bodies, to prepare the required radar installations. He worked closely with the Radio Physics Laboratory (RPL) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which developed radar technology, with the New South Wales Government Railways Workshop, Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG), Gramophone Company (HMV) and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) (AWA) that built the radar sets, and with the University of Sydney and the Melbourne Technical College that helped train his radar officers and mechanics, respectively. The Australian Light Weight Air Warning Radar (LW/AW) radar was a success, and was used by the British and American forces as well. By the end of 1942, 136 officers, 500 mechanics and 1,000 operators had been trained, 100 aircraft had been fitted with radar sets and 57 radar stations were operational.[4]

This was not accomplished without cutting red tape and treading on toes. In October 1943. Pither was sent to the UK on exchange. There he worked on the radar arrangements for Operation Overlord. In July 1944 he joined No. 80 Wing RAF. He was placed in command of a radio-jamming unit in southern England that was specifically established to jam the electronic guidance systems of German V-2 rockets. His unit followed in the wake of the allied advance into Belgium, continuing its campaign against the V-2 rockets. He returned to Australia in December 1944, and became head of the Directorate of Radar once more, but the crisis had passed and there was little to do.[1][4]

Australia. Royal Australian Air Force. Radar Station 50 — History. | World War, 1939-1945 — Australia — Radar. | World War, 1939-1945 — Regimental histories — Australia. | World War, 1939-1945 — Papua New Guinea — Radar. | Australian

Additional Information

Author Culvenor, Alex G. ; Mann, Warren, writer of introduction
Number of pages69 pages : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 21 cm.
PublisherThe Author, Newstead Vic
Year Published2010
Binding Type


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