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A Strategy for Celebrating 75 Years of 'Fighter Control'


History is a prologue for the future and we can promote our Specialisation through its history and achievements, portraying them in their proper context. That said, the job of promoting the current Branch is an MOD prerogative and we would be foolish to trespass in this area; thus we need to take a sensitive approach.

If we, as an association, do not act as the guardians of our heritage, no one else will - and our achievements, already largely ignored and misunderstood, will sink deeper into obscurity.  Promoting our heritage achieves many things which can be summarised as follows:

  • It is a cornerstone for building a sense of identity that, amongst other things, helps bind both serving and retired Fighter Controller communities together.  Interestingly, this also plays to our second Primary Objective.
  • It is a major contribution to building esprit de corps.
  • It helps establish the Specialisation as a distinct operational branch in the veteran community.
  • It identifies key and special achievements of the Specialisation.
  • It promotes the achievements of veterans and keeps them at the forefront of both veteran and public perception.
  • It can help place Fighter Controllers' achievements and roles into their proper historical perspective, context and importance.

Strategic Strands

The Association's first Primary Objective is to promote the Specialisation. Our history helped to shape who we are and the Association is using it as an important tool to help promote the Specialisation, its work and achievements. It is not undertaking historical research as an end in itself. The strategy has a number of distinct strands that are listed below:

  • Producing articles and papers and acting in a consultant role to provide information to other agencies and authors - the aim is to ensure the Specialisation gets equitable and balanced exposure.
  • Working with high profile initiatives and activities related to air defence, including the Bentley Priory initiative and the ‘Wing’ at Capel le Ferne.
  • Ensuring that the Specialisation is included in all major anniversary celebrations where it played a role.
  • Bringing 'Dowding System' World War Two veterans together and promoting their work to ensure that those remaining get the recognition they deserve whilst at the same time promoting the role of the Specialisation.

Since the work was started some 4 years ago a number of things have become apparent.

  • First, it has become clear that there was no organisation - equivalent to the Battle of Britain Fighter Pilots Association, which looks after the interests of the pilots (the Few) - promoting the work of those who manned and operated the Dowding System and its counterparts overseas. In essence, no-one and no organisation was 'guarding' the Dowding System heritage.
  • The true contribution of the Specialisation to victory in every theatre of operation in World War Two has been obscured by a number of factors.
  • Secondly, Lord Dowding’s arguably greatest achievement was the creation of the system that bears his name, but this achievement has really never been properly promoted. Further, Lord Dowding is the father of what is now the Aerospace Surveillance and Control Systems (ASACS) Specialisation and this has never been properly acknowledged. In this regard, Dowding, who it can justifiably be claimed was one of only 3 military leaders who prevented the UK from invasion and possible subjugation, is usually only mentioned almost in passing when the Battle of Britain is discussed. This is in part a legacy of the way Dowding was treated after the Battle of Britain. It is interesting to note that his statue was not erected until 1988, only to be tucked away at St Clement Danes, and it is most telling that the RAF Club did not have a portrait of him when our Chairman enquired about one in December 2013.
  • We have veterans who operated during the Battle of Britain and have never been invited to major events associated with the Battle.
  • Finally, there has been a resurgence of interest within the ASACS Force Command in heritage as a way to engender a sense of identity and esprit de corps.

Strategy for 75th Anniversary Year

The 75th anniversary of both the Battle of Britain and the birth of the Specialisation takes place in 2015 and it is the last significant anniversary year in which most of our veterans - who were our founding generation - will either be alive or fit enough to participate.

Using the 75th anniversaries and carefully crafted messages presents us with a major promotional opportunity and also embraces our second Primary Objective in that we can have a great party (extra-special) for our members and veterans. It is also a chance for us to support the RAF ASACS authorities in any process of shaping the perception of the Branch and Specialisation.

Enabling activities for the 75th year are listed below:

  1. Hold a high profile event to celebrate our birthday and act as a lead into the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The event will:
    • Be staged at Bentley Priory
    • Be combined with our AGM
    • Include VIP guests and Dowding System Veterans - especially our Battle of Britain veterans.
    • Have a fly-past
    • Be supported by the Central Band of the RAF and the Salon Orchestra.
    • Be held on weekend of 12th to 14th June 2015
  2. Produce an anniversary collage - offer limited edition prints.
  3. Plan to unveil the last two Dowding System Windows at BP - during the 75th weekend.
  4. Run a media/social media campaign – possibly with a special 75th Anniversary logo, to include key nuggets of information, photos, sound-bites and 'then and now' images of 'our veterans' in the run up to the Anniversary and the dinner.
  5. Seek to work with the Bentley Priory Museum and the ADRM to support any activities they may be planning. Consider developing new displays to support our objectives.
  6. Liaise with RAF Heritage and Events teams to track any events and ensure we are considered in the planning process.
  7. Work with the ASACS Force to identify how they could best contribute to the strategy if they so wish and how best we can support them in any celebrations they may be initiating or involved with.
  8. Liaise with the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust (BBMT) to establish a proper relationship.
  9. Ensure we are properly represented at (and, in particular, that our Battle of Britain Veterans are included in) any major celebrations such as:
    • BBMT Memorial Day at Capel-le-Ferne.
    • The Battle of Britain National Celebration at Westminster Abbey - ensure they get VIP treatment.
    • If held, ensure our Battle of Britain Veterans are invited to CAS' reception after the National Celebration.
    • Seek to ensure we have radar veteran participation at launch of Watson Watt film - if it is launched in 2015.

Messages for the 75th Year

General Messages about the Specialisation.

  1. The FCA is the guardian of the heritage and legacy of the Dowding System
  2. The Dowding System and its derivatives overseas were pivotal to delivering victory in the air during WW2.
  3. The FC Specialisation is the only operational specialisation that has performed its principal operational role at sea, in the air, on the ground and underground.
  4. The only formed RAF operational units on the ground at Arnhem and over the beaches on D Day were Fighter Control Units.
  5. The Fighter Control organisation was in the front line in countering the V1 threat
  6. The Fighter Control organisation was central to the defensive measures against the V2 in both the UK and on the Continent.
  7. ASACS units were directly involved in all major land/air campaigns and battles during WW2.
  8. A totally interdependent mix of GCI units and AI equipped Fighters defended the UK during the Blitz.
  9. The first Fighter Control Ace was Wg Cdr Laurence Brown with over 150 kills. He was killed on the ground at Arhhem commanding the FC units that were deployed in Gliders.

Messages Concerning the Battle of Britain

  1. The role of the Dowding System and its surveillance network was to provide an Air Picture Production and Command and Control network for the commanders to direct the battle.
  2. The OOB has constantly ignored the fact that radar units were in the line of battle
  3. Number 60 Group ran the radar system and should appear in the OOB with the other Fighter Groups.
  4. The role of filtering and its importance in producing a common picture from which commanders at all levels could manage the battle was a deciding factor in victory in Battle of Britain.
  5. The role of the GPO in providing the ground communications for and extensive and diverse system needs to be fully explained.
  6. Dowding was treated very badly after the battle and in the years that followed. This coupled with the fact that his achievements were marginalised by the understandable but distorting focus on the Few has consigned his contribution almost to a supporting role.
  7. The emphasis on the Few has also distorted the way a battle is traditionally viewed by history. There is a need to try and bring balance.
  8. Those that manned and operated the Dowding system in battle were a direct part of the command battle organisation and should not be dismissed by sound bites that lump them as the many.
  9. Battle of Britain veterans of the Dowding System should be acknowledged for their work and included as ‘VIPs’ in national celebrations in a way the Few have for the last 74 years.
  10. The Dowding System both shaped BM tactics and facilitated the rapid adaption of BM tactics as the nature of the threat changed.

Internal to the Association (and ASACS Force)

  1. The emphasis on branch history is a way to promote the branch and its achievements and to foster a sense of identity; it is not being undertaken as an end in itself.
  2. Fostering a sense of identity crosses over into our second Primary Objective which is: unifying and sustaining a spirit of comradeship among serving and retired members of the Fighter Control Branch.
  3. The Association is the only viable organisation in a position to act as guardians of our heritage and particularly the Dowding System heritage.