Radar Recollections - A Bournemouth University / CHiDE / HLF project


A.P.Rowe and his 'Sunday Soviets'

A.P.Rowe was a complex character but he was a pivotal figure in the process of convincing the government that radar research was essential to the survival of Britain. He had started his 'campaign' as far back as 1934. He became secretary to the Tizard committee in 1935 and by 1940; he was Chief Superintendent of TRE with overall control of all the research projects in hand. He was a respected physicist and could negotiate and explain the necessities to ministers and was well known to all those civil servants upon whom the research funding relied…

He was respected but his decisions were not always popular. 'Taffy' Bowen was critical of the lack of support he was given in 1938 for the development of airborne radar and W.B Lewis was appointed deputy to Rowe 'over Bowen's head'. Nevertheless, Rowe was able to achieve rapid development and continued support for the work at TRE.

A.P.Rowe in his office
A.P.Rowe in his office
Whilst at Worth in 1940, he conceived the idea of inviting senior military personnel to visit TRE on Sundays to meet with the rest of the research engineers and scientists working in the team. These gatherings were very informal and even the most junior staff were encouraged to contribute their ideas. If an idea was put forward that had merit, it could be adopted there and then because all the main decision-makers would be there. Such informality (and trust) at such a powerful level was unprecedented. A great sense of purpose was thus built up between the researchers and the military decision-makers.
The venue for the 'Sunday Soviets' was initially the Grosvenor Hotel in Swanage but when the TRE moved to Malvern they were held 'on site' at the college and continued there until the end of the war...
A 'Sunday Soviet' gathering
A 'Sunday Soviet' gathering
A. I. Llewellyn