Alfred Cassidy's fellow radar operators pose for a photo in in England in 1942.Alfred Cassidy
Alfred's Radar station in England during the war.Alfred Cassidy
Members of Alfred's radar unit celebrate the end of the war in 1945.Alfred Cassidy
A piece of shrapnel from an anti-aircraft shell that Alfred picked up after a raid in London during the war.Alfred Cassidy
A Nazi flag that Alfred picked up while he was in Germany towards the end of the war.Alfred Cassidy
"What we were actually doing and the results of what we did was terrible, barbaric. Destroying cities and women and children."
I was sent to Yatesbury [England], which was a main radar training place for the RAF [Royal Air Force] in the UK. Took a course on Oboe radar. And from there went onto a mobile radar unit. Then from the unit, we moved across to France. Going up first to Mons [Belgium] and then we went up to [La Roche, in] the Ardennes Mountains to get operational and we’d just became operational when we received instructions to move our unit to a place called Mutzig [France], a few kilometres outside of Strasbourg in the Vosges Mountains. And less than two weeks later, there was the Battle of the Bulge occurred and hit it, and the radar station in the Ardennes was right in the way of that, it was not far from Bastogne, the famous battle by the American Army.
And we became operational in Mutzig and that’s where they controlled the RAF Bomber Command aircraft over Germany. And did a lot of damage.
Well, Oboe was the blind bombing control of the Pathfinder Force, the Mosquito bombers which are a special force that the RAF developed. They could fly high and fast. And because there were no navigation systems still working over in Germany, there had to be some way of navigating it as you can imagine at night, no markers, very difficult to see the land below, so they developed this Oboe. My job specifically, as a radar mechanic, was to set up all the multiple settings that we had to do in regard to sending those signals out.
We’d send the signal out but what we called a transponder would be in the aircraft. So we would be able to get the signal back regarding the distance. And it was a very complicated system, technically, and very interesting to work on and certainly from an operational point of view, we weren’t on the sharp end of the bombing force but we set the equipment up and made sure it was all tuned up for the night operations.
A typical night of operations in the, these trailers with the radar scopes in front of you and signals going back and forth, then pressing a button and just like an early videogame, really. At the end of the night, in the morning, when the raid is all over and until you go off watch, we didn’t know it at the time but basically, when we went off duty at night, another city was destroyed. And from our point of view, we weren’t there but I’ve seen pictures since and I’ve heard stories of the air crew who had been over the city seeing the whole city destroyed. Our targets were not railway stations. And the occasional time they were.
The other side of the coin as far as I’m concerned, since the war has been of great concern to me, what we did was a great technical job that we were doing, interesting. For example, I heard a few years ago on an anniversary of the bombing of Dresden [Germany] and that really shook me when I heard that 32,000 people died that night. What we were actually doing and the results of what we did was terrible, barbaric. Destroying cities and women and children.