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Post war planning - continued

Amazingly, the 1948 Defence White Paper envisaged no major defence problems and was generally hopeful. Nevertheless the Air Ministry estimates for radar, radio and electrical equipment in the 1947 and 1948 Defence White Papers rose to £4.4 million, £3.2 million of which was for radar and radio. I think it possible that the hopeful outlook was for home consumption and that the Government was protecting a war weary nation from the growing threat until confrontation became inevitable. As in the US, the British public mostly considered Russia as their war time ally.

Radar stations in 1947: The Defended Area (map - Watching The Skies)Government interest was by now focused on defence matters by the deteriorating global political situation and the 1949 Defence White Paper stressed the need for new equipment. The Air Ministry estimates for radar, radio and electrical equipment rose to £6 million, £4.2 million of which was allocated for radio and radar. Following the post war run down Britain's air defences were extremely poorly prepared and a Chiefs of Staff paper of 1949 (Air 2/5773) concluded that the UK was virtually defenceless if no warning of an attack could be given, and that at least four weeks warning would be required before any air defence could be available. A proper air defence system would require 1152 fighter aircraft, 265 Anti-Aircraft regiments and a Control and reporting System that covered the whole country. In reality the defences amounted to a mere 352 fighters, 75 AA regiments and a C and R system that covered the east coast from Flamborough Head around to the south coast to Portland Bill. The area so covered was called the Defended Area. Later this designation was changed to the Training Area or sometimes the Development Area. The map shows the Defended area as it was in 1947 (click on the map for an expanded view).

 

Two other significant events took place in 1949. Firstly, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April. There was then, and probably still is now, a certain pragmatism concerning the treaty. The European countries were still in severe economic difficulties and, unable to field a credible defence, needed US military support to counter the perceived Soviet threat. In their turn the US needed European and Mediterranean bases as a part of their counter Soviet strategy. Secondly, in the December, the North Atlantic Council announced that there was an urgent requirement to strengthen the defences of the free world.

In 1950 the United Kingdom announced massive increases in defence expenditure, doubling it in 1951 and quadrupling it by 1953, mainly on tanks and aircraft. Reservists, particularly those with specialist skills, were to be called up for regular training. The R.A.F. planned to recall 10,000 officers and men for 15 days training annually to enable them to man the Control and reporting organisation in an emergency. Any lingering doubts that the Government and politicians may have held regarding the need for increased defence spending must have been dispelled by North Korea's invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, starting a bloody conflict that was to last nearly three years. One month later R.A.F. fighters were put on armed alert to intercept unidentified aircraft over the North Sea.

Most of the information on this page is drawn from "Watching The Skies" - see References for further details on this publication


 

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Updated 12/12/00

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