Before There Was Radar There Were Great Big Hearing Aids

A German observation post, 1917.  The ear horns were used to detect the sound of incoming enemy aircraft and to help spot them, the goggles acted like binoculars.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led commemorative services this week to mark the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War 1.

Vimy Ridge has come to symbolize Canada’s coming of age.  For the first time Canadians from all across the country fought together under Canadian command.  Their decisive victory over the Germans cost 3,598 Canadian lives.

In honour of the occasion here’s something a little different.  The following pictures depict a very odd type of hearing aid that first appeared on the battlefields of World War 1.

This was a war when fighter planes and bombers made their debut.  It was also a time before the invention of radar so the best way to detect incoming enemy aircraft was to listen for the sound of their engines.

Of course, the further away you could hear them the better you could prepare so these early warning “acoustic listening devices” were developed.  Here are some weird and wonderful examples:

This Czech device was tested by the Dutch military.  They concluded it had “fundamental deficiencies”.




This Dutch device called “The Personal Parabola” is one of my favourites. Although this soldier apparently doesn’t seem too thrilled with it.
This huge double trumpet system was deployed in 1921 at Bolling Field, an airbase in Washington DC.
These Japanese detectors were nicknamed “War Tubas” and are seen here being inspected by Emperor Hirohito in 1935.

The “acoustic detection” era ended with the development of radar in WW2.

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