Britain Gave Away Technological Innovations to Secure US Support in WWII

5 Feb, 2007 | Science And TechnologyTdp

A long title I know, but to the point. We traded technological military secrets for financial aid at a critical point in WWII.

As Bowen knew, the seemingly ordinary solicitor's deed box - for which he was personally responsible - held the power to change the course of the war.

Inside lay nothing less than all Britain's military secrets. There were blueprints and circuit diagrams for rockets, explosives, superchargers, gyroscopic gunsights, submarine detection devices, self-sealing fuel tanks, and even the germs of ideas that would lead to the jet engine and the atomic bomb.

But the greatest treasure of all was the prototype of a piece of hardware called a cavity magnetron, which had been invented a few months earlier by two scientists in Birmingham.

"[The cavity magnetron] was a massive, massive breakthrough," says Andy Manning from the Radar Museum in Horning.

"It is deemed by many, even now, to be the most important invention that came out of the Second World War".

Professor of military history at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, David Zimmerman, agrees: "The magnetron remains the essential radio tube for shortwave radio signals of all types.

"It not only changed the course of the war by allowing us to develop airborne radar systems, it remains the key piece of technology that lies at the heart of your microwave oven today. The cavity magnetron's invention changed the world."

The best bit though:

Earlier that morning, radar expert, Dr Edward "Taffy" Bowen - a vital member of this Tizard Mission and responsible for looking after the metal deed box [which carried all the secret documents] that was to become known as "Tizard's briefcase" - almost lost it.