University of Sheffield Radar Archive

Ref: MS 260

Title: University of Sheffield Radar Archive: a collection initiated by Donald H. Tomlin, graduate of the University of Sheffield 1940

Documents, books and offprints on the history of the development of Radar from 1921

Dates: 1921-
Level: Fonds
Extent: 46 boxes; 73 volumes; 113 binders
Name of creator: Donald Hugh Tomlin; John Beattie

Administrative / biographical history:

In February 2001 Donald Tomlin presented his collection of documents, including some which he had himself written, relating to the early development of Radar and his own work within the field, to the University Library, a donation which complemented his earlier presentation of books and offprints when he stated: "The collection of books and papers is being presented to Sheffield University in grateful thanks to the University for the training I received in the Science Faculty in the years 1937 to 1940 and which led to a lifelong career working in Radar and Electronics... The books...represent... a cross section of those books available to workers in the new subject of RDF, later to be renamed by our American colleagues RADAR in 1943. The subject of Radar was entirely new as far as practice was concerned, in 1936, and therefore no information was available on the subject. One had to fall back on books on radio, telephony and electromagnetic waves". The documents in this later collection include original papers, copies of significant documents on the history of the development of radar both published and unpublished, some photographs and Tomlin's own memoirs.

Donald Hugh Tomlin (1918-2013) was born in Sheffield and educated at the Central Secondary School for Boys. He showed an early interest in Radio, helping to form and acting as Secretary of a Sheffield `Short Wave Club´. He graduated in Physics at Sheffield University in 1940, and during his studies proposed, as a potential postgraduate, investigating Radio reflections. His early interest in Radio led to his obtaining an Artificial Aerial Transmitting Licence, which was cancelled with the outbreak of war; however, he was directed by the Joint Recruiting Board to complete his degree, and was then sent to join the ADEE (Air Defence Experimental Establishment) at Christchurch, Hampshire, where work was in progress on experimental RDF (Radio Direction Finding) equipment. In 1941 the establishment was renamed the Air Defence Research and Development Establishment (further changes of name and organisation were to follow over the years), and in 1942, following a successful British raid on a German Radar installation on the Channel coast the Establishment was ordered to evacuate to Malvern, Worcestershire. From November 1940 for the duration of the war he worked on the new magnetron systems, and then on the development of a new 10cm. RDF set, the Anti Aircraft Gun Laying Set, which developed various other applications such as meteorological, mortar location and aircraft `talk you down´ functions. In 1946 work began on an Army requirement for early warning Radar to provide information to gun batteries guarding defended areas. This work later found application as Air Traffic Control Radar for military aircraft. From 1960 he became involved with a future RAF Air Defence System and the production of a new generation of high powered Radar sets, becoming generally responsible for Ministry of Defence coordination of multi-equipment contracts for the development and production of major Air Defence Systems, and an MOD representative with NATO on a new Radar Control System. After his retirement in 1978 he acted as a consultant, and also as a historian of the early development of Army, and, from 1953, of RAF Defence Radar.

The collection includes three framed photographs, two being of Radar equipment and one of an operating control room.

As a Sheffield graduate, Donald Tomlin took an interest in the Sheffield University Association, and was an Executive Committee member of Convocation from 1985, and a member of the University Court from 1997. He died in December 2013.

In 2015, the Beattie Papers on Civil Marine Electronics were added to the University of Sheffield Radar Archive. The collection of binders containing documents relating to all aspects of civil marine electronics was created by John Beattie, former Director of Decca and responsible for many of their post-war radars and navigational systems, and was transferred to Sheffield by Dr. Phil Judkins of the Defence Electronics History Society after John Beattie’s death.

  • Related collections: None
  • Source: Donated by Donald H. Tomlin and Dr. Phil Judkins
  • System of arrangement: Chronological and by subject
  • Subjects: Radar - Great Britain
  • Names: Air Defence Research and Development Establishment (Malvern, Worcestershire); Tomlin, Donald Hugh (1918-2013); Malvern (Worcestershire); University of Sheffield - Department of Physics; Beattie, John; Electronics in navigation
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: According to document
  • Finding aids: Listed