took a degree in electrical engineering at Liverpool University in the mid
1930s. He subsequently stayed on for a PhD researching into the
performance of insulators under high frequency and high voltage stresses.
in 1939, following the suggestion of a colleague Eric Seward, Bill applied for
an appointment at the Bawdsey Research Station. Following an interview in London, he was accepted for a post
and told to report to Bawdsey Manor as soon as possible.
Bill continued work
to finish his PhD. In September 1939
war was declared. In November he had an appointment with the Joint
Recruiting Board suggesting he would like to join the Royal Engineers.
When they saw his letter of appointment to the Bawdsey Research Station, they
looked in a reference manual - and said that the Bawdsey job had top priority
- so he should take that position up as soon as possible. Bill finished
typing up his PhD as quickly as he could.
In February 1940 Bill joined the
radar team which had now moved to the Teacher Training College in
Dundee. After learning about the background to the radar work, which was
top secret, he started development work to improve the transmitter performance
on Chain Home - experimenting on the tower at Douglas Wood.
In May 1940 Bill
moved to Worth Matravers near Swanage. He was assigned, with John
Duckworth, to improve the performance of the latest version of the Chain Home
Low (CHL) radar. There was a CHL station on the south edge of
A-site. An experimental station was also set up on the clifftop at St
Aldhelm's Head. This showed that high, clifftop sites were much better
for this type of radar, and so an operational station was then built on the
The 'radial time base' display was being developed by Geoffrey Dummer
and others - the genesis of the circular map-like radar display we are
familiar with today. Bill was in the team which adapted a Chain Home Low
radar to demonstrate the new kind of display. Air Marshal Joubert saw a
demonstration in summer 1942. This was significant as the beginning of
radar displays which could show attacking bombers and defending fighters on
the same radar screen.
After the war Bill remained with the
Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) through the name changes to
the Radar Research Establishment and Royal Radar Establishment (RRE) becoming
director in ?1960? He stayed with the Scientific Civil Service holding
various senior appointments including director RARDE (Royal Armaments Research
& Development Establishment) and Chief Scientist for the Army. In
?1976? he was appointed Controller Establishments Research - responsible for
all the government research & development establishments - until his
retirement from the civil service in 1977.
Work with GEC.
Bill retired to
Swanage and in the late 1980s he started asking his wartime colleagues to
write reminiscences of their time in Purbeck. These have become the 'Penley
Radar Archives' - and some of the documents have been made available
on CD-ROM. Together with Tony Viney, he started the Purbeck Radar
Museum Trust which had its inaugral meeting in 1991 - see background.
He has written booklets, given talks
and helped with setting up exhibitions to raise awareness of the significance
of the radar work to the war effort - see milestones.
See Bill's Penley Radar Archives biography for more
information - link below.
Dr William 'Bill' Henry Penley CB CBE
born: 22nd March 1917
died: 27th January 2017
more information visit: www.penley.org