Radar and Malvern’s Secret Scientists
The country’s Telecommunications and Radar Establishment (TRE) came to Malvern in May 1942. It was responsible for radar for the RAF (ground and airborne) and for the Fleet Air Arm. Most of the scientists who came with TRE were fit, young, clever men and women. They lived either in a large former hotel in the centre of Malvern, or were billeted with families. None wore uniform, and none seemed to have any intention of joining the forces or helping the war effort at all. Consequently, they were despised and disliked by the local people whose young folk had either joined the forces or the merchant navy and put their lives at risk, or were engaged in other war work. Of course, the scientists were helping with the war effort, but their work was top secret and could not be disclosed to anyone.
Radar Operation Bases
There were two main areas of operation in Malvern. One was based in the school buildings of Malvern College, and hastily erected huts in the grounds. This is where TRE carried out its research. The second base was at Pale Manor in Malvern Link. Here members of ADRDE (Air Defence Research & Development Establishment) undertook research. Malvern scientists worked closely with RAF Defford. Aircraft tested the latest radar equipment and many planes could be seen arriving and departing from the ‘hidden’ runways at Croome Court.
Two thousand scientists and their families had to be accommodated in Malvern virtually overnight. Local houses were inspected for spare bedrooms and hostels for the WAAF were opened in places like St Ann’s Orchard. Huts were erected near to the main bases and hostel accommodation, to include a canteen, theatre and washrooms, was built in Geraldine Road. For a while the Winter Gardens were converted into a canteen serving 1,500 meals three time a day! Secrecy had to be maintained at all times despite so many radar operatives living and working among the civilian population.
It was only after 1945 that local people learned just how valuable their work had been in winning the war.
Further reading: Putley, Ernest, Science Comes to Malvern: TRE a Story of Radar 1942-1953 (2009), (available at Malvern Museum)