"We were always extremely close to the front lines to make sure that our radar was as accurate as possible."
My name is Ralph Moyer. I'm a veteran from World War II. I spent four years overseas and I was a radar technician for all that time. It's rather interesting that people in the Army that worked on radar thought we were the only ones that had it. And people that were in the Air Force that worked on radar thought they were the only ones. However, our radar was used in anti-aircraft work, where we controlled the anti-aircraft guns to, hopefully, shoot down enemy aircraft. And the radar gave the guns the position of the aircraft so they had more precise firing.
So we went across to France just a few days after D-Day with our equipment. And we went along with the Canadian Army of course, and followed up along the north coast of France. Started out around Caen during the major battle there. Our radar was later on modified so we could do what we called mortar spotting. So if enemy mortar fire was shot at some of our troops, they would send us the information. And if the radar could follow two mortar rounds, we could extrapolate where the mortars were coming from and turn the guns on them. Later on in the war, as we got closer to the front, we were no longer being used as anti-aircraft because there was practically no enemy aircraft in the air at that time. So we worked on an artillery spotting mission along with the British Army, where during the day, high flying aircraft would pick out enemy troop placements or marshalling yards or whatever. And they would give the coordinates to the radar and at night, we would control small Auster aircraft flown by British artillery officers and we would direct them by radar to that particular site. And they would drop flares and they would sit up there and give the corrections to their artillery fire so they would be very accurate in night firing on enemy emplacements.
We were always extremely close to the front lines to make sure that our radar was as accurate as possible. One thing we weren't very impressed with was the fact that we were using mobile radar, which was just developed about the second year of the war. The majority of the radars earlier on were very large, heavy emplacements. Not mobile and then the magnetron transmitting tube was discovered and the first Canadian radar was manufactured with this high frequency, high-power transmitting tube making it very highly mobile. So much so it was completely secret and every place we went on the continent, we were followed by a Bofor's battery, a very fast firing light anti-aircraft gun and we had one following us all the time with orders to blow up the radar if the Germans ever broke through, because they didn't want them to get the secret of the magnetron. So as we were close to the front, we were living under a slight concern about (laughter) maybe our own gun turning around and blowing the daylights out of us.
So when I finished into Holland, just at the end of the war, we were put in charge of a prisoner of war site for the last little while. Before we were transferred back to Canada. And when I decided to join the Air Force after my release from the Army I, of course, got back into radar again. And the only thing then was that I was working on airborne radar rather than ground. And it was a never-ending effort to keep the radars operating in these airborne aircraft and make sure that they were operating to the best of their ability.
We did have a few situations when we were flying and had problems with our radar. And had to work on them actually in the air with the aircraft doing some very violent manoeuvring in some cases. We had a little problem around Caen when we first got onto the continent. We had moved within a few miles of Caen when the main fighting was going on there. Of course everybody had to dig slit trenches and keep well covered up because of all the, not only small arms fire, but shells that were fired back and forth between the different combatants. And, of course, a couple of times, at Caen as well, we were hit with friendly fire. It happened many times in World War II.