The following is intended as a very brief description of the above radio jamming system and the reasons behind its development. There are published books, which deal with this system in some detail, written by people far more qualified than I, but if I succeed in sowing the seeds of interest I will have achieved my aim!
Every year, on the first Weekend in September, 101 Squadron hold their Annual Sunday Reunion in the village of Ludford. Amidst the medals and many memories there is always recollection of their use of A.B.C. equipment in helping Bomber Command fight for the freedom we all enjoy today. Within the crowd of former aircrew gathered on this day are a tiny group of men. These are the ‘Special Operators’ who played their part in history.
Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with former 101 aircrew that served at Ludford Magna. It is from my experiences of being in the company of one former ‘crew’ in particular that I have collected the majority of the following information.
Since the end of the war, the subject of ABC has been shrouded in secrecy having coincided with the 50 years official secrets, information although available has been limited. It is therefore with great pleasure that I am able to have access to lecture notes used by the Squadron to brief the relevant parties on the subject during the height of conflict in 1943. And it is with kind permission of Pilot Officer Russell ‘Rusty’ Waughman that I am able to refer to his notes and personal recollections in preparing the following account of ABC.
‘Rusty’ Waughman was the pilot of SR-W at Ludford Magna during the latter part of 1943 and the early part of 1944 leading up to D-Day. His original aircraft ME565 SR-W ‘Wing and a Prayer’ was written off following their mid-air collision and subsequent crash landing. Although this aircraft was rebuilt and returned to the Squadron, it was allocated SR-Q and a new crew. In the meantime, Rusty’s crew had been allocated a new Lancaster LL757 SR-W ‘Oor Wullie’ which they used until the end of their tour.
In addition, I have had the great privilege of being in the company of and regularly corresponding with the surviving members of Rusty’s crew, who have also contributed to my understanding of the subject with their own experiences and recollections, for which I am eternally grateful:
Pilot – Russell ‘Rusty’ Waughman
Flight Engineer – John ‘Curly’ Ormerod
Navigator – Alec ‘Jumbo’ Cowan
Wireless Operator – Idris ‘Taffy’ Arndell
Mid Upper Gunner – Tommy Dewsbury (Deceased)
Rear Gunner – Harry ‘Tiger’ Nunn
Bomb Aimer – Norman ‘Babe’ Westby
Special Operator – Edward ‘Ted’ Manners
It provides additional authenticity to my understanding of the subject by being able to speak with the men who actually used the system. It is hoped than as I spend more time in their company I will be able to add further information and personal experiences.
There is little doubt that A.B.C. owes its existence, at least indirectly, to the use by Bomber Command of ‘Window’, whereby large quantities of metallic foil were jettisoned by the attacking bombers at strategic points in order to ‘blind’ the German radar upon which the Luftwaffe relied heavily, both fighter ground control and the individual fighters.
Largely deprived of the benefits of radar, the Germans were forced to seek an alternative defence strategy. The chosen method seems to be fairly simple, in theory at any rate, but it was certainly effective, as Bomber Command found to its cost!
It had been noted by the Germans that during a ‘bombing run’, when fires began to burn, particularly in a city, the bombers were clearly visible to any of their fighters which happened to be flying above, silhouetted as they were against the glow of the flames on the ground. In this situation, the German fighters could target the bombers visually, but they needed to be informed about the approach of the bomber stream and its likely target in order to be positioned when the bombs began to fall. This information was provided by the various German ground stations as a bomber stream passed in the vicinity, using conventional radio. A lone twin-engine fighter could also supply additional information if it could infiltrate the bomber stream at an early stage, unobserved under the cover of darkness.
The German night fighters relied on getting reliable information about the bomber stream; otherwise they would stumble about all night possibly without seeing anything. No Bomber Command raid in October 1943 was over its target for more than 26 minutes. They didn’t want some 200 controllers giving information to 200 night fighters. So, the German co-ordinated commentaries from only a few stations with one controller in charge of them. VHF radios fitted to German night fighters covered the frequencies 38 – 42 MHz.
It could even be argued that the use of ‘Window’ was now becoming counterproductive as it was easily recognisable to the ground station’s radar and could actually help them identify a bomber stream!
So now, the urgent problem for Bomber Command was… how to disrupt the Luftwaffe night-fighter/ground control radio communications.
The idea of ABC started with a radio counter measure device called ‘Jostle’. There were 15 Ground Stations with transmitters to jam the German broadcasts to their night fighters. This was conceived at the Telecommunications Research Establishment at Malvern in early 1943. This was to counter the German control frequencies in their Kammhuber night fighter boxes. It was known as Ground Cigar and had a range of 140 miles. It became operable on 30/31 July 1943. The approach was to install a number of ground transmitters in England, which could deliver a sound barrage over the frequency range, used by the German fighters. Unfortunately, with its limited range it was clearly ineffective for raids deep within Germany. The logical way forward was to design an airborne version.
In early 1943 Air Commodore S. O. Bufton ordered ‘Jostle’ to be fitted into aircraft to increase the range of its use. Officially it was stated that…”It is designed for use on bombing raids over enemy territory to interrupt enemy communications by jamming particular frequencies on which radio messages are being sent to night fighters from ground control stations. The aircraft required must be capable of proceeding with, and through, the bomber stream to provide protection”. Initially in its infant stages, ‘Jostle’ used a simplistic form of frequency jamming. A microphone mounted in one of the engine compartments was found to be effective. I don’t think anyone who has heard the sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine under full power would disagree! However, later developments relied upon an undulating pitch that served just as successful in preventing the transmission of instructions to the Luftwaffe night fighters.
It was agreed that as ‘Jostle’ was merely a form of ‘Ground Cigar’ it should be renamed ‘Airborne Cigar’. In a telegram to Bomber Command HQ, Air Commodore Bufton said…”In view of the brevity and simplicity of the term, it is requested that you refer to ‘Airborne Cigar’ aircraft as ABC aircraft in future communications”. So ABC came about. It was technically known as T3160.
It was originally to have been supplied to 100 (Bomber Support) Squadron. However, as they were already earmarked to have use of H2S and because the aircrafts power supply could not cope with this and ABC equipment, the next numbered Squadron was chosen, hence 101 Squadron. Also, because of its size and weight (604.75 lbs) a large aircraft was required, the Lancaster being the obvious choice.
Trials of ABC started on 4/6 September 1943. On the 8th a test flight was flown over the North Sea to within 10 miles of the enemy coast. This was under the guidance of a radar specialist, Flt Lt F Collins.
To use the equipment, an extra crew member was included making a crew of eight instead of the usual seven on the Lancaster. They were going to be called ‘Cigar Operators’ but they didn’t like this so these Special Duties Operators were, for the sake of brevity, known as the SDO. The Special Operator would have been selected as a volunteer from existing Bomber Command aircrews and ground crews, and was required to have a reasonable command of the German language. In addition to being familiar with the language, he had to learn certain code words such as ‘Kapelle’ for target and ‘Karussel’ to fly in orbit. He did not have to speak to the German night fighters because they could easily tell a foreign accent. The Germans were saying, ”The English accent would not have fooled a deaf German in a thunder storm”.
The Germans referred to ABC as ‘DUDELSAC’.
Most of the SDO’s were English, however 101 Squadron did have some of German extract including Sgts Shultz, Liersch, Englehart and Herman. These took an enormous risk for if they were shot down they could face a terrible fate. In fact one German SDO did in fact bale out over Germany. It appears no one on the Squadron ever knew why.
It was on 22nd September 1943, when 18 aircraft were sent on an operation to Hanover, that the first German words were heard on ABC. These were “Achtung – English Bastards Coming!”
On the 18th November 1943, on an operation to Berlin, the Germans got a complete ABC set when Flt Lt McManus was shot down.
On the 30th November 1943, the German Engineer Intelligence Officer responsible for captured enemy equipment, sent information to Field Marshall MILCH that he had the complete ABC equipment. But even their electronic specialists could not work out any effective countermeasures. ABC could be jammed and homed onto by their night fighters using their FuG16ZY D/F sets, but it was used for only seconds at a time, and for some reason the jamming was not taken up.
What about the equipment? As afore mentioned, it weighed 604.75 lbs and took a total of 3,000 man-hours to install in a Lancaster.
A.B.C. involved the use of a panoramic receiver designed to pick up enemy transmissions. Three 50-watt transmitters were provided – each tuneable to any chosen frequency within the required range – to deliver the jamming interference. Three 7 foot aerials were employed, two mounted on top of the main fuselage between the w/ops blister and the mid-upper turret, the other one below, and to the right of the nose. It had a range of about 50 miles. The frequencies, to start with, covered a waveband of 38.3 to 42.5 MHz. Later, in January 1944, the lower range was increased to 31.2 MHz. The waveband was swept 25 times per second. The SDO would watch for enemy transmissions picked up by the receiver, using a small cathode ray tube. Any contacts were shown as a vertical blip on a horizontal strobe line. Once spotted, he would identify the frequency and ‘mark’ it on screen. He could then via his earphones, listen to the dialogue. Having established that it was from an enemy ground station he would tune one of the transmitters to the frequency now marked on the cathode ray tube and transmit the interference in the form of a Wig-Wog noise from a device in the aircrafts engine. The operator could then at regular intervals silence his transmitter to check if the enemy was using a new frequency. With three transmitters at his disposal he could of course transmit interference at up to three separate frequencies simultaneously. The Germans would, at times, switch off their transmitters momentarily and come on again on a new frequency. But, as it only took a few seconds to cover a new blip, German operators would get very frustrated and angry. Many new German swear words were learned!
What about the German countermeasures? They tried high-pitched female voices and morse code. They used the captured ABC set to jam their own frequencies, fading it out when orders were to be passed. This was done hoping to fool the 101 Squadron SDO’s so that they would not jam another, seemingly, 101 operator’s jamming. Another method was for the Germans to speed up their R/T in the hope that they could pass their instructions before the SDO could tune in. They also broadcast a continuous stream of music; breaking off to snap out instructions, then back on with the music again. The Germans were only too aware that the ABC operators had to periodically stop jamming so as not to interfere with the regular broadcasts of winds that were sent to the bomber stream. In essence it was a continuous game of ‘cat and mouse’.
It was decided at the outset to equip only one Squadron with the new equipment, and as earlier mentioned, 101 Squadron based at Ludford Magna in Lincolnshire was the choice. This meant that in the future, every important raid would include aircraft provided by 101 Squadron, even if their own Group were not operating that night. Bomber Command also decreed that, because A.B.C. had an effective range of only 50 miles that 101 Squadron should provide at least eight A.B.C. equipped Lancaster’s on every raid. The ABC aircraft were spread throughout the main stream, with two aircraft in front of the stream, then every two minutes, the last ones being two minutes after the stream. These Lancaster’s would also be expected to carry out their normal duties, albeit with a slightly reduced bomb load to compensate for the weight of the Special Operator and his equipment. However, unofficially the majority of 101 Lancaster’s did take off from Ludford Magna with a full bomb load AND the Special Operator with equipment. In the eyes of former crew - NOT the most enjoyable experience considering the frequent ‘cross winds’ encountered on the Ludford airfield.
As a consequence of this instruction, 101 Squadron almost certainly took part in more raids than any other Squadron in Bomber Command, and their heavy losses reflect this. Non-more so than on the raid to Nuremberg on 30/31 March 1944 when SEVEN 101 Lancaster’s were lost out of 26 dispatched with 47 aircrew killed. This being followed on 3/4 May 1944 over Mailley-le-Camp when a further FOUR 101 Lancaster’s were lost out of 20 dispatched with 31 aircrew killed. This period of the war saw 101 Squadron suffer its heaviest losses. The ‘Book of Remembrance’ in the Ludford Church certainly brings home the impact on the Squadron during the months leading up to D-Day.
‘Rusty’ Waughman recalls,” There were hectic nights. On 30/31 March 1944 we sent 26 aircraft on the Nuremberg raid out of a main force of 795. P/O Adams on his last but one trip, out of a tour of 30, was killed. The air was thick with fighters. The Germans were using nine speech and two morse channels. The SDO’s found and jammed some, but the German signals were so powerful and numerous that they could not all be covered. Besides, the met’ forecasts were badly wrong. The forecast 50 mph winds turned out to be more like 90 mph, and the usual narrow bomber stream was some 50 miles wide. We lost seven crews that night out of the 26 that were sent. 56 airmen in all, killed or missing! In that one night, Bomber Command lost 96 aircraft, not counting those that crashed at base and those that were damaged beyond repair. Some 545 aircrew. In all of the summer months of the Battle of Britain, 507 aircrew were lost!!”
It is worth noting here that the sole survivor from the 4 aircraft lost over Mailley-le-Camp, was the Rear Gunner of SR-Z Jack Worsford. His personal experience must be considered one of the ‘Miracles’ of the war. The tail of his Lancaster was severed from the main fuselage in mid-air. With his parachute still in the main fuselage his rear turret fell from 5,000 feet. Fortunately for him, the twin Lancaster tail assembly saved his life, spinning to earth like a sycamore seed and after hitting overhead cables and trees he survived to spend the rest of the war in captivity. I wonder if the Germans believed him?
Although there is no firm evidence to suggest the use of ABC contributed to the high losses experienced, it is clear that the feeling amongst aircrew was that IT DID! Just as the earlier use of ‘Monica’ as an early warning device to the presence of night fighters proved to contribute to an aircraft’s downfall with the Luftwaffe being able to tune into its frequency transmission. The belief is purely that more planes in the air means more losses!
Because 101 Squadron had the means of knowing the fighter activity, and because of the losses, it was the first Squadron to be fitted with the Rose-Rice Rear Turret with 2 x .50 guns instead of the standard 4 x .303 guns.
‘Rusty’ Waughman recalls,” I tested these one night. We vectored a night fighter on to us, but when Harry, the rear gunner, pressed the firing buttons nothing happened. The anti-freeze grease that had been used was too solid. Fortunately there were contrails about which we escaped into.”
The system was fully operational by late 1943, and was employed with great success for the rest of the war. It is impossible to put a figure on the degree of protection it offered, but what is certain is that a very many airmen owe their lives to it.
One further point of interest… F.I.D.O. – the runway fog dispersal system was only installed in a small handful of airfields due to its vastly high operating costs. (200,000 gallons of high-octane petrol per ‘burn’ was not uncommon!) The fact that Ludford Magna was one of the chosen few is a measure of the importance Bomber Command attached to this Squadron!
On a cold September Sunday afternoon, to be in the company over a hot meal in either the ‘Black Horse’ or the ‘White Hart’ public houses, amongst the men who were there, it is not difficult to imagine a similar situation nearly 60 years ago when the same men were relaxing in the village when they were not flying. The difference was then, for some it would be their last pint!
March 2006 Update: Sadly Harry 'Tiger ' Nunn passed away in 2005.