The Anonymous Widower

The Amazing Jack Nissenthal

Jack Nissenthal was a remarkable man, whose tale of heroism in the Second World War is now all but forgotten. I first came across his story, when Radio 4 did a piece about the RAF Sergeant and radar expert who went on the raid at Dieppe to try to find out more about German radar. He was accompanied by eleven Canadian soldiers who were under orders to not let him get captured.  In the end he didn’t meet his objective of dismantling the German radar station at Pourville, but by his quick thinking and his deep knowledge of radar systems, he was able to make the Germans give away enough of their important secrets, so that on D-Day, they were effectively without any useful radar systems.

After the raid he returned with just one of his Canadian escorts.

It is all described on this web site and a book called Green Beach.

A follow up web site tells what happened to him afterwards.

Many including Lord Mountbatten, felt he should have been given a high award for gallantry, if not the highest. He eventually went to live in Canada, where his heroism was very much recognised. This is an extract from the web page.

In August 1967 Jack returned to Pourville for the 25th anniversary of the landings and met many old and decorated friends, including Les Thrussel. Les had always told friends the story of how he had orders to shoot a top British scientist on the raid had he been in danger of capture, but nobody believed him.
Now he met Jack and told him to tell Les’s friends the truth!
In a cafe in Dieppe that evening Jack sat reminiscing with the three VC’s of the raid – Merritt, Porteous and Foote. There was a loud knocking on the door and several young Canadian soldiers serving with NATO walked in. “We heard Jack Nissen was here and we want to shake his hand”. Jack recalled afterward, “There I was sitting with three VC’s and these young men wanted to shake ME by the hand. I was in tears. This was my reward and the highlight of my life”.

But he is not mentioned in any lists of famous people from the East End of London.  He is mentioned in Wikipedia, but doesn’t have a section of his own.

May 8, 2011 - Posted by | World | ,


  1. […] the web site on the BBC relating the story of Jack Nissenthal, it says that he was born in Cottage Row in […]

    Pingback by In Search of Jack Nissenthal « The Anonymous Widower | May 12, 2011 | Reply

  2. It was my research that gave popular publicity to his story and the chapter in my book on him can be found in ‘Fighting Back’ by Martin Sugarman. Also online in the Jewish Virtual Library. He was a Jewish lad from the East End and I am in regular touch with his family.

    Martin Sugarman (Archivist of the AJEX Jewish Military Museum)

    Comment by Martin Sugarman | September 4, 2014 | Reply

  3. Thanks for commenting!

    I’m glad that the Jewish Chronicle has published the story. They do miss out the story of his time in South Africa, where if I remember it right, he was thrown out for his modern attitudes to the black population. A similar thing happened to a friend of mine.

    My father used to call himself a London Mongrel, as before WW2 he had something to with the League of Nations and the Nazis there called him a mischling, as he was part Jewish, with a great-great-grandfather, who was a tailor from Konigsberg. So as a bit of a comedian, he added London to the direct translation. My mother had a Huguenot father and a mother of Devon ancestry, so I’m even more of a London mongrel than my father.

    Like my parents, I’m very much an atheist. I’m also fairly certain, that my coeliac disease was inherited from the tailor from Konigsberg.

    Comment by AnonW | August 19, 2022 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: