Radar pioneer Alan Blumlein was not the only one mourned when his aeroplane crashed at Welsh Bicknor, Herefordshire, in 1942.

The converted Halifax bomber in which he was flying also carried 10 other men, and they will also be saluted by the Hereford Times memorial to Blumlein at the spot where he died.

Garth Lawson recounts their role in the doomed mission.

IN May 1942, the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), responsible for radar research and development, and located near Swanage, moved to Malvern College, Worcestershire.

At the same time the Telecommunications Flying Unit (TFU), later named the Radar Research Flying Unit (RRFU), which operated flight trials on behalf of the TRE, transferred its aircraft to RAF Defford, an airfield purpose-built on the grounds of Croome Park. This site, just east of the Malvern Hills was to become one of the most secret places in the country – the wartime home for more than 2,000 service personnel and scientists testing and developing airborne radar.

On the afternoon of Sunday, June 7, 1942, a Handley Page Halifax bomber equipped with the experimental radar code-named H2S took off from Defford.

The aircraft was operated by a five-man RAF crew from the TFU.

The captain was Pilot Officer Douglas Berrington, an experienced pilot.

His other crew members were Second Pilot Flying Officer Algernon Phillips, Observer Flight Sergeant Gavin Millar, Flight/Engineer Brian Dear and ACII BCF Bicknell.

The TRE personnel comprised two RAF liaison officers, Squadron Leader RJ Sansom and Pilot Officer CE Vincent.

Geoffrey Hensby, more of a scientist, was a vital cog in the H2S radar team who worked under the auspices of Dr (later Sir) Bernard Lovell.

Three engineers from EMI, based in Middlesex, were Cecil Oswald Browne, Frank Blythen and Alan Blumlein.

EMI had been granted the production contract for H2S, and it was Blumlein, the pioneer of stereo sound and the 405-line television system used by the BBC, who was leading the company’s radar initiative.

The Halifax headed to the Bristol Channel area to provide the EMI engineers with a demonstration of the H2S radar, but at 4.20pm the bomber was seen over the Forest of Dean, trailing smoke from one of its four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines.

Just two minutes later the starboard wing detached and the aircraft crashed 130 metres north of the Wye at Welsh Bicknor. All 11 on board died instantly.

A few days after the accident Dr Lovell was informed personally by the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, that H2S radar development must retain its priority status.

H2S went into action with Bomber Command in January 1943 and provided crews, for the first time, with a means of navigating accurately to targets as far afield as Berlin.

The experiments and developments carried out at Defford were of great historic significance, for they played a vital part in helping the Allies to win the war, and paved the way for many electronic applications that we now take for granted.

In 2002, exactly 60 years later, an RAF Defford Memorial was unveiled by Sir Bernard Lovell on the village green in Defford.

It commemorates those who lost their lives in accidents while carrying out scientific research. 

It reads: "Dedicated to the memory of those Royal Air Force air crew, scientists, engineers and civilian personnel who lost their lives in the furtherance of radar research while flying from RAF Defford 1941-1957".

How to support our Blumlein appeal

Donations for the Hereford Times Blumlein memorial can be made at: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/glawson

Or by cheque made out to Hereford Times Blumlein Memorial Appeal c/o Garth Lawson, Hereford Times, Holmer Road, Hereford HR4 9UJ.