Early forms of radar were being pioneered and operated in the UK by 1940. This assisted the Spitfire squadrons in identifying incoming attack aircraft. Nevertheless it’s still early days for radar. But it was just in time to provide that absolute crucial assistance.
Of course there were early developments in this field during the 1930’s – but there was still a very long way to go – before there was any serious effective defence from attack from the air. In fact – the defence system that was eventually set up – even by 1940 – was extraordinarily elaborate – and had been developing at an awe-inspiring rate.
The story of the development of radar – is truly amazing – one author has described it as a miracle – and much of my focus will be of the time when radar development was based at Worth Matravers, 2 miles from Swanage, Dorset. During the time it was based there – from May 1940 to May 1942 – some of the most significant developments in radar took place.
As just stated – I can add that it was agreed by all – that in some ways the most significant developments in radar – were developed at Worth Matravers, 2 miles from Swanage. But after 2 years of phenomenal, frantic and desperately urgent work (by what was described by one person at the time as ‘Mad Scientists’) – it was believed unsafe to stay there any longer – with the Germans now established on the coast of Northern France. It was especially feared at this time that there would be raids – radar equipment captured – as well as bombings – and this gave way to an urgent need to move back from the coast to a safer and far less obvious area. Thus the whole elaborate TRE establishment – with so very many of the best young scientists fresh from universities – alongside older and very experienced scientists (from various related backgrounds) at Worth Matravers and the surrounding areas – felt that they had no other choice in terms of security – but to move from the absolutely beautiful, idyllic small town on the coast, and from the surrounding high breathtaking rugged and wild hills of Worth Matravers. It was decided that the whole intricate, elaborate – by then immensely complex establishment comprising in their different various fields around 2000 ‘personnel and workforce’ – should move lock stock and barrel to Malvern in Worcestershire England.
Later of course – this idyllic area of Swanage and its surrounds – would be occupied by many from the American 1st Infantry Division – who had come over from fierce hard and backbreaking fighting in Sicily and Italy – arriving in November 1943 – battle hardened and being prepared for their next destination – completely unknown to them at the time of course – that of The Normandy Landings. Described and agreed by many afterwards – as The Greatest Invasion in the History Of The Earth.
I will be going into this – in very fine, extensive and intricate detail – focusing especially upon the times in Swanage, and the surrounding areas in Dorset.
If one visits Swanage today (which many did in years past – since the war – from The American 1st Infantry Division, including the children of those troops who were once there) – it is just such a peaceful calm and idyllic place with beautiful high rugged hills, and from where one can look over a vast panoramic area of the English Channel – the peacefulness and natural beauty – are such that one could never imagine – that this was once an unbelievably vast military base – right across the county – with a purpose so great – that of the liberation of Europe from tyranny.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the RAF – relevant to this website – particularly in regard to the Battle of Britain which took place from 10 July to 31 October 1940 – more than 3000 young pilots went up to engage the invasion in the air. Basically – it could be seen – the first type of major air battle of its kind – where everything depended on the outcome of the air battle itself. Below as you can see I’ve given the link to the film about RJ Mitchell whose genius and dedication developed the Spitfire – which was motivated by what he could see was coming. Some say he worked himself to death – passing away at the age of 42. Leaving behind his wife Florence – who had supported him all away – and with whom he had had a good life. But to think – RJ Mitchell passed away on 11 June 1937 – just-in-time to hear that his creation for our defence – had been fully accepted and taken on board – and which heralded the planned production of 22,000 of these machines – to think that this was more than two years before the war actually started. So it was a combination – of the RAF in general – with more than 3000 dedicated and courageous pilots – and their team supports – and of course the Spitfire – that turned the tide. We must also include the sophisticated development of radar that aided our pilots very considerably. As it was – there was unexpectedly and surprisingly huge losses of aircraft from the vastly larger invading side – and then it was soon realised – that they would not be able to launch the planned for invasion across the English Channel – that they had so carefully prepared – not now without any adequate air cover. This left the coasts of the UK littered with defensive pieces and apparatus of various sorts – some of which can still be seen today – all along the South Coast and in Dorset. Two very large steel constructed piers in Bournemouth, Dorset – had been blown up in the centres (at that time Bournemouth was located just inside of the county of Hampshire till the border was moved in later years) – but these piers had been left with huge gaps in the middles of them – so as they would not act as landing stages for what was the deeply ominous gathering sense of an imminent and overwhelming invasion expected on our shores. This strategic battle – The Battle of Britain – paved the way for the preparations that took place in the UK – and in a very significant way in Dorset itself. This was the long arduous dedicated enormous and magnificent preparation for the D-Day landings that eventually took place on June 6, 1944 – with more than 2 million troops from the US alone arriving in the UK – first registering in Bournemouth – and remaining in the South of England and spreading out over the South-West of England. Troops of many other countries as well – and very notably Canada – which was a major force along with the British and the US troops in the D-Day landings. In the South and South-West there was this absolutely vast build-up of military equipment. All concealed and hidden and conducted in secret – so as not to alert the continent. It might be added that many more millions of American troops that joined the battle (after the D-Day landings had been successful) – came directly from the US to Europe. And it is of note – that in Dorset there were a vast number of US troops – of which I have very many stories. There are now not many people who remember the stories first-hand because of the time that has passed by – but nevertheless in May of this year I will be meeting someone – who was a young boy at the time – to hear some more incredible details about US troops in Weymouth, along also with some sad and traumatic stories related to the very many bombing and strafing raids on the South Coast. I will also be meeting another person – a young girl the time – who was witness to a number ‘dogfights’ seen first-hand in the Dorset skies.
D-Day itself – was the greatest invasion in the history of the Earth. Involving millions of troops, 7000 ships of all kinds and sorts, and more than 10,000 aircraft (some doing repeat sorties on that day) – with more than 156,000 troops landing on the first day – though of course – this did not take place without considerable losses on the beaches, and by far the most tragic at Omaha Beach!
The impregnable ‘Atlantic Wall’ had been breached.
THIS WAS WHAT MADE IT ALL POSSIBLE… this was the title that I had posted with a video link to YouTube – ‘The First of the Few’ – but the link has for some reason been deleted. But one can watch this directly on you tube – it was the inventor of the Spitfire – a most amazing and emotional story – can also be seen by typing the following into YouTube search – the film is around two hours long – well worth watching – try this (although the quality doesn’t seem so good): ‘Spitfire – the first of the few – by British Aviation Pictures – Leslie Howard, David Niven’.
a second attempt at posting the link is as follows:
In May 1940, the RAF were operating and further developing radar at their newly established base in Worth Matravers. It was known as the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) in November 1940 – and was situated 4 miles west of Swanage.
*This was part of the technical infrastructure which led up to the preparations for D-Day
It is agreed by basically all – that the most significant developments in radar – were developed at Worth Matravers, 2 miles from Swanage. But after 2 years of phenomenal and frantic work – it was believed unsafe to stay there any more – as the Germans had reached the coast of Northern France. It was feared that there would be raids – radar equipment captured – and bombings from being detected – and this caused an immediate and urgent need to move back from the coast to a safer and far less obvious area. Thus the whole elaborate TRE establishment – with so many very best young scientists fresh from universities – alongside older and very experienced scientists – at Worth Matravers and the surrounding areas – felt that they had no other choice – but to move from the absolutely beautiful, idyllic small town and surrounding areas of Swanage. The Germans arrival at the North Coast of France was very rapid – approximately one day – from breaking through the Maginot Line. Absolutely striking rapid advance – which took everybody by complete surprise. It was then immediately agreed that the whole intricate and elaborate by then complex establishment – should immediately move to Malvern in Worcestershire England. Later of course – this idyllic area of Swanage and its surrounds – would be occupied by many from the American 1st Infantry Division – who had come over from fierce fighting in Sicily and Italy – arriving in November 1943 – battle hardened and being prepared for their next destination – completely unknown to them at the time of course – The Normandy Landings.
I will be going into this – in very extensive and intricate detail – focusing especially upon the times in Swanage and the surrounding areas, Dorset.
If one visits Swanage today – it is just such a peaceful calm and idyllic place with beautiful high rugged hills where one can look over a vast area of the English Channel – the peacefulness and natural beauty – are such that one could never imagine – that this was vast military base – right across the county – with a purpose so great – that of the liberation of Europe from tyranny.