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joy; in his account1 of the show he notes that Rowe showed 'no detectable signs of excitement or elation'. However he needn't have worried, Rowe gave him a green light in his report to the Tizard Committee; he wrote':

'It was demonstrated beyond doubt that electromagnetic energy is reflected from the metal components of an aircraft's structure and that it can be detected. Whether aircraft can be accurately located remains to be shown. No one seeing the demonstration could fail to be hopeful of detecting the existence and approximate bearing of aircraft approaching the coast at ranges far in excess of those given by the 200 ft (sound) mirrors.'

Orfordness

Apparently it was possible for Government departments to move fast; only two weeks after the demonstration a small party, which included A. E Wilkins, E. G. Bowen and L. H. Bainbridge-Bell, left the Radio Research Station at Slough for Orfordness. Ostensibly their purpose was to work on the ionosphere, but their very secret agenda was to start the development of radar or, as it was called in those days, RDF (Radio Direction Finding). They went to a group of elderly Air Ministry buildings near a small airfield which lies across the river Ore from Orfordness; it was a bleak, windswept place with a bombing range, bird sanctuary and lighthouse. It didn't take them long to get a radar working. They started at a wavelength of 50 m with the transmitter and receiver connected to half-wave dipoles at a height of 25 m; the transmitter used two Naval silica valves (NT46) giving a 25 us pulse with a peak power of about 20 kW On l7th June 1935, only five weeks after their arrival, they saw a clear echo from a Scapa flying boat at a range of 27 km; by the end of the year they were using pulses with a peak power of 100 kW and could detect aircraft at ranges of about 100km.

The essential steps of measuring the direction and the height of an aircraft took a bit longer. In August, Wilkins started work on a system of measuring the angle of elevation, and hence the height, of the target by comparing the strength of the signals received in aerials at different heights above the ground. In October, Watson-Watt suggested that the direction might be measured by comparing the signals received in horizontal crossed dipoles connected to a goniometer.

By the end of 1935 the small team at Orfordness had demonstrated not only that an aircraft could be detected by radar at distances well beyond the range of sound locators but also that its position could be measured in three dimensions.

In those early days Watson-Watt visited Orford from his base at Slough almost every weekend. He and his wife Margaret used to stay at the Crown and Castle where he would entertain Wilkins and Bowen and an increasing number of official visitors. After dinner he would hold wide-ranging discussions of the future of ground radar, airborne radar, naval radar, radar for guns, the problem of identifying friend from foe, and so on far into the night.

One of the main topics in those discussions was an ambitious plan to build a chain of radar stations. The work at Orford had been so promising that in December 1935 the Treasury sanctioned a plan to build five radar stations covering the approaches to London, the most northerly being Bawdsey and the most southerly South Foreland.

Bawdsey Research Station

By this time it was clear that the work needed a more


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Updated 18/12/00

Constructed by Dick Barrett

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ęCopyright 2000 Dick Barrett

The right of Dick Barrett to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.