Eighty years ago on 26th February 1935, Robert Watson Watt and Arnold Wilkins changed the course of history and proved Stanley Baldwin’s pessimistic assertion wrong when they conducteda the Daventry Experiment, using the radio waves from the BBC Empire Transmitter in Daventry to prove conclusively that an aircraft could be detected up to 8 miles away.
On the back of the success of the experiment, the British Government went on to fund the development of Radio Detection And Ranging (RADAR) and the first operational radar station at Bawdsey Suffolk. The Bawdsey radar station was soon replicated around the coast of Britain to become the Chain Home (a series of radar stations that could detect any plane approaching the country) – the world’s first working RADAR system.
One of the 20th century’s most significant technologies, radar played a vital role in winning the Battle of Britain, delivering crucial intelligence that enabled the RAF to overcome the Luftwaffe’s 2,400 planes with just 640 of their own.
The Bawdsey Radar Trust [Alliance member] will be commemorating the anniversary of the Daventry Experiment as part of their campaign to conserve the Transmitter Block at Bawdsey, the site not just of the world’s first operational radar station but also the first radar-training school.
The Trust is actively working to tell the compelling story of radar and its impact on the world we know today, not least the role of women in technology, with the WAAF playing a major role at Bawdsey, thanks to Robert Watson Watt’s candid observation that women made better radar operators than men.
Mary Wain, chair of the Bawdsey Trust, is available for interview, as are several of the WAAF operators whose exceptional abilities were central to the success of radar in WW2, to which their continuing sharp recall of that time bears testament!
For more information see the Bawdsey Radar Trust website.