Arriving back in NZ towards the end of 1939, Dr Marsden
brought with him complete plans, and key parts, for a high power 5 Metre set
known as the Navy type 279SA. He also also carried plans and parts for
an experimental model ASV (air to surface vessel) set.
Administrative responsibility for RADAR was held by the
Radio Development Board. As the Post office had the best resources and
largest number of staff skilled in radio technology, RADAR development and
production was initially made it's responsibility. The early
development work was undertaken on the 7th floor of the Wellington East PO
Building. This building is located near the bottom end of Cambridge
Terrace and close to Courtenay Place. In 1939 the upper floors of this
relatively new building had recently been taken over by Radio Section.
Initial work was carried out using NZPO Radio Section
staff and resources working with seconded personnel from the DSIR. The
project was under the direction of Dr Marsden. By early 1940 this
preliminary work was completed and contracts were given to Collier and Beale
for the manufacture of a complete
installation based on, and similar to, the
An experimental copy of the ASV design was made in Radio
Section and, operating from the 7th floor Laboratory, demonstrated the
potential of the technology to "interested parties". The decision was
made to develop this unit into a "Gun Ranging" unit and it was renamed as a
"CD" set. The first installation located in the Hauraki Gulf on
Motutapu Island was ready for trials by June 1940. A joint Army Navy
exercise proved the potential of the set. Development of these units
continued at Radio Section, including the installation of a set in a "Waco"
aircraft stationed at Wellington Airport. In 1941 responsibility for
ongoing development and manufacture of these ASV based sets was transferred
to Dr White at Canterbury University.
Responsibility for RADAR development was transferred
from the Post Office to the DSIR on the 31 May 1941 after the rapid ramp
up of staff and equipment outgrew the facilities at Radio Section.
After this date, much of the development work on RADAR was now
distributed across a number of different sites. Although RADAR
work continued at Radio Section throughout the war, after August 1942,
when the DSIR established it's own laboratory in Majoribank St, Post
Office involvement rapidly diminished.
An indication of the progress being made can be seen in
the performance of an early experimental 279SA type installation installed
on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf, which by October 1940 had been
improved to the point that it could track a Trans-Tasman flying boat out to
100 miles. The following year this unit was relocated to Mokohinau
Island becoming part of the early warning system being established for the