The Battle of the Beams

The Battle of the Beams

The secret science of radar that turned the tide of the Second World War


'Deeply researched and engagingly written' The Times
'Has the pace and style of a well-crafted thriller' Mail on Sunday
'Chock full of memorable characters and
written with all the drama and pace of a Robert Harris thriller' Rowland White, author of Mosquito

Summer 1939. War is coming. The British believe that, through ingenuity and scientific prowess, they alone have a war-winning weapon: radar. They are wrong. The Germans have it too.

They believe that their unique maritime history means their pilots have no need of navigational aids. They are wrong. Most of the bombs the RAF will drop in the first years of the war land miles from their target.

They also believe that the Germans, without the same naval tradition, will never be able to find targets at night. They are, again, wrong.

In 1939 the Germans don't just have radar to spot planes entering their airspace, they have radio beams to guide their own planes into enemy airspace.

This war will be fought on land and sea and in the air, but it will also be fought on the airwaves. It will be fought between scientists on both sides at the forefront of knowledge, and the agents and commandos they relied on to bolster that knowledge. Thanks to one young engineer, Reginald Jones, the British develop radar technology that went on to help the Allies win the war.

Relying on first-hand accounts from Reginald Jones as well as papers recently released by the Admiralty, The Battle of the Beams fills a huge missing piece in the canon of World War II literature. It is a tale that combines history, science, derring do and dogged determination and will appeal as much to fans of World War II history as to those fascinated by the science behind the beams that changed our lives.

The radio war of 1939-45 is one of the great scientific battles in history. This is the story of that war.


  • Many histories claim without justification that their particular area of study changed the course of the Second World War. Whipple's deeply researched and engagingly written account of the secret science of radar is, by contrast, a genuine contender.
    The Times

About the author

Tom Whipple

Tom Whipple is the science editor at The Times. He covers everything from archaeology to zoology. He writes news, features, reviews and commentary across the paper, as well as appearing regularly on Times Radio. He joined the paper in 2006, shortly after graduating with a degree in mathematics.
During the course of his job he has visited the tunnels below Cern and the top of Mont Blanc above it. He has seen the inside of the world's hottest sauna and the world's most irradiated nature reserve. He has interviewed Stephen Hawking and Jedward. He has been arrested in three different countries.
As well as The Times, he has written for the Guardian and The Economist. He was named science journalist of the year for his coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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