10th July 1940. Battle for the Skies.

Today in 1940 the Battle of Britain began with attacks on coastal ports and shipping passing through the English Channel. Known as ‘hell-fire’ corner, it carried vital supplies such as coal, protected only by a token naval force.

From August 8th there was an all-out abortive attempt to destroy Fighter Command in the air. However it was only when the enemy changed tactics to attacking the airfields that a serious threat was posed to our survival. The Battle was set to last until the end of October.

Chain Home tower at Great Baddow.

Chain Home Tower at Great Baddow.

One of the key figures was Air-Marshall, Hugh Dowding who was one of the first to recognise the importance of Radar Stations, which developed as The [Dowding] System.

This was first wide-area, ground control interceptor network which controlled the air-space from the north of Scotland to the south coast of England.

This used dedicated land-line telephones to collect information from Chain Home Command Radar Stations to build a map of the air-space for effective enemy interception.

Thus forewarned RAF fighter squadrons could position themselves to engage enemy aircraft aided by the development of Radar.

Radar an acronym of Radio Direction and Ranging, came from the growing discoveries of scientists, a product of military rivalry between the wars; the German Navy had its own radar system by 1933.

Early primitive experiments in Radar had taken place in 1928 with enormous concrete, curved ‘sound-mirrors’ at Greatstone on Sea, Kent. Designed by the now forgotten Dr William Tucker, they were abandoned in 1937 as a result of the Tizard Committee of 1935.

New developments on radio-location by Robert Watson-Watt pointed to the future when after conducting experiments on the steering methods of bats, found that they determined their position by bouncing radio waves off objects.

Early experiments were conducted using a van and equipment to show what happened when planes flew over the radio masts in Bedfordshire, but the outcome was the chain of radar stations and masts set up along the East Coast of England, giving us vital time for our fighters to scramble.

However despite all the wonders of technology no victory would have been achieved but for the gallantry of the fighter pilots in those early days of war.




wikipedia.org/radar/Pic of Tower.


bbc.co.uk/scotland-tayside/Pic of Notice.


Watson-Watt used the ideas of a brilliant son of a mill hand, Sir Edward Appleton (6.9.1892-21.4.1965). Appleton had worked under Rutherford and his investigation of the Kennelly-Heaviside Layer led him to the discovery of a higher region of ionized gases in the Ionosphere.

The Appleton Layer with diurnal and seasonal effects on radio caused short-wave radio waves to be deflected back to earth. This work was important for long-range radio transmission and Radar.

Oliver Heaviside (18.5.1850-3.2.1925).


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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