Radar Museum visit: RAF Air Defence Radar Museum, Neatishead, May 2017
This was a dip into not-too-distant
history on a day that reminded us of
the blissful weather in which the
Battle of Britain was fought and won,
very much with the help of radar.
Our group was warmly welcomed and specially treated by the volunteer workers, who provided an introductory talk followed by two background talks on World War II and the Cold War. These talks are open to all visitors but somehow we felt that it was just for us!
There was a bit of
radio waves, first made
in the 1880s, led to the
rapid development of
radar in the 1930s. How
it was noticed that
planes flying between
radio masts interfered
with the signals, leading
to a good idea! This was
something Britain got on with well before 1939, and when the Germans came the east coast was enveloped by a mass of radar stations from Scotland to the Isle of Wight. They were detected 120 miles away. Our pilots were well rested and took off with full tanks to surprise an enemy almost at the limit of their flying range.
We were in the very spaces used during the
early years of the war. We stood round
those huge circular tables on which young
WRAF ladies pushed discs, arrows and small
blocks bearing cryptic messages about, using
long wooden sticks. Do you remember them
from the war films?
Done with skill, intensity and urgency, but
meaning nothing to us. Well, now we know!
Did you think “Angels one five” meant
altitude 15,000 feet? Wrong. 15,000 feet
yes, but “angels” meant enemy pilots. We
found out why the clocks had coloured
triangles between the numbers, the same
colours as the discs used on the tables.
Apparently it was all very simple! We were
allowed to have a go, using actual wartime equipment.
All this is only a tiny part of what Neatishead has to offer. Sitting among the higher tech equipment used in the Cold War was awe-inspiring and a little chilling. There are still radar stations in Britain keeping an eye on what President Putin is up to, and also air-borne radar defence used in close contact to help escort Russian planes away.
Our children and grandchildren learn about World War II in Primary School. If I was still a teacher I’d be taking them to Neatishead as well. Gramps and Nan, think about it.