Vincent

Vincent is modeled on two little-known British heroes of WW2.

The first is Dr R. V. Jones, who effectively led British scientific intelligence and countermeasures during that war. Churchill called him ‘the man who broke the bloody Beam’ (the Luftwaffe radio bombing aid), and the spy Kim Philby referred to him as ‘the formidable Dr. Jones’. As well as thwarting the radio bombing, he correctly deduced the German radar designs, and forecast the nature of the German V weapon offensives.

His love of practical jokes was very useful in warfare. When the Germans jammed the British radar defenses on the besieged island of Malta, potentially leaving it open to invasion, Jones advised the defenders to keep their radars lit up as if nothing had  happened. The Germans, seeing this, concluded that their jamming was ineffective, and switched it off.

He was also part of the massive (but little recorded) defeat of the Luftwaffe’s Operation Steinbock, its night bombing assault on the UK between January and May of 1944. Whereas in 1940 the British had virtually no defense against night bombing, by 1944 they had over a hundred centimetric radar equipped Mosquito night fighters, plus radar controlled AA guns, all pushed by Jones. The result was a route – only minimal damage was done, and between late December 1943 and May 1944 Luftwaffe bomber strength in northern Europe fell from 695 to just 133 aircraft. Nicely in time for D-day.

I wish I’d met the man, but you can do so vicariously through his excellent memoirs, Most Secret War.

The second exemplar is A. W. M. (Doc) Coombs, who was very kind to me at the start of my career when I was designing target recognition systems. He was near retirement then, and had a tic (I suspect from his exposure to vapor from the mercury delay lines used as early computer storage), but was a huge source of inspiration, knowledge and encouragement. Like Dr R. V. Jones, he was mischievous, and fond of elaborate scientific jokes.

It was only after he’d died that I found out that he’d been lead designer of the team that developed the Colossus computer at Bletchley Park during WW2, enabling the routine breaking of the German Enigma code, and our victories in the Battle of the Atlantic and elsewhere. The whole project wasn’t declassified until after I’d known him, so for most of his life he couldn’t talk about it. But that’s OK, he loved surprising people.

So Vincent is a homage to these two little known heroes: patriotic, contrarian, brilliant, normally mild but pugnacious in a fight, creative, persistent, modest, and mischievous.

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