This is a very small volume, only sixty-eight pages, discussing one small facet of Canada's overall effort during the Second World War. However it is one with which your reviewer has a very personal connection.
As is well known, one of the most significant technical accomplishments during the Second World War was the development of radar. The initial deployment was, of course, in support of the successful defence of England during the Battle of Britain. What is perhaps less well known is that very shortly thereafter radar systems were deployed on Royal Navy ships. This led to an extremely urgent requirement for officers with the technical background and training required to be able operate and maintain these systems while at sea, independent of shore-based resources. The requirement was of such importance to the Royal Navy that an urgent formal request was sent to Canada seeking suitable personnel.
As examples of the impact of naval radar, radar played a vital role in the pursuit and eventual sinking of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941, and also in the desperate naval battles off the coast of Norway in defence of the Russian convoys.
The officers selected for this service had to be extremely knowledgeable and extremely resourceful. Not only did they have to have good general knowledge of electronics, but they also had to have knowledge of very high power very high frequency electronics, at the time at the very cutting edge of the art. And they had to be able apply this knowledge on board ship isolated from shore-based back up and in the extremely hostile salt water environment.
The upshot of all of this was that special courses were established at the University of Toronto to train suitable personnel for this service. The first course of about thirty men graduated in August 1940. Subsequent courses were mounted annually from 1941 through 1944.
These officers were soon assigned to some of the leading ships in the Royal Navy where they were, in fact, in great demand. They all served with distinction and, as highlighted in the book, four of them died on active service.
In the last chapter of the book, Prof. Burton identifies the personnel who organized and presented these courses. Prof. J.M. Anderson is named as being primarily responsible for this work.
The personal connection is that Prof. Anderson was my father. For years, we children heard periodically about our father's involvement in training naval radar officers during the Second World War, but I could find no record of this effort. Then a few years ago a friend, a retired naval engineering officer deeply involved in naval history, put me on to this little volume. The problem was that the volume was accessioned only by title, so that one had to know exactly what to look for in order to find it.
With this information, I was finally able to find a copy in the Military History Research Centre at the Canadian War Museum and, subsequently, other copies in other reference libraries across Canada.
The other people named in Prof. Burton's acknowledgements were frequently mentioned at our dinner table at home; the bonds of shared experience were clearly strong.
My father earned his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1933. This was in the depths of the Great Depression, so Dad taught high school physics for a few years before joining the Physics Department at the University of Toronto as a Demonstrator in 1937. He was promoted Assistant Professor in 1942, Associate Professor in 1945, and full Professor in 1962. He retired in 1970, and passed away in 1984.
After the war, my father continued to be involved in defence-related research. Several of his Ph.D. students went on to senior positions in telecommunications work with the Defence Research Board.
In the grand scheme of things, one might surmise that the endeavours chronicled in this little book were not so important. But great accomplishments frequently depend on a foundation made up of a very large number, perhaps an infinite number, of small accomplishments. It is important that we never lose sight of these contributions. Hence I was very glad/relieved to finally find this little book, and now to be able to commend it to you.
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|Last updated: 03 July 2022|