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Our Projects

Bentley Priory

The Association has a long-standing affiliation with the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Museum. Bentley Priory was the headquarters from which the air defence of the United Kingdom was organised and managed from 1936 until 2000. It has been said that Bentley Priory is the spiritual home of the Fighter Pilots. In reality, Fighter Controllers have been intimately and directly involved with Bentley Priory - and were a key component of the command formations that were based there - for 60 of those years ... and thus have an equal claim, alongside their fighter pilot colleagues, to call it their spiritual home.

The Association has sponsored the installation of three stained glass windows into the fabric of the building at Bentley Priory, telling the story of the first air defence command and control system in the world that became known as the Dowding System. It was the military need to man and operate the Dowding System that led to the creation of the Fighter Control specialisation - and more recently the Aerospace Battle Manager Branch.

The three windows depict the two key tasks of the Dowding System and the technologies that made the system possible. The first window salutes the tactical picture-building process while the second tells the story of tactical control. The third tells the story of the development of radar and the key role of communications.

The next project working with the Priory will be to undertake further enhancements to the Filter Centre in the museum that the Association did so much to create.


Tactical Picture

The main features of the window are:

  • The triangles symbolise the triangle on the Dowding System operations room clock
  • The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force symbol honours the significant role the WAAF played in the Dowding System.
  • The air threats that the UK faced during the Second World War: manned bombers, fighter-bombers, unmanned aircraft and ballistic missiles
  • The Iconic Dowding System operations room clock . The hands are set at the time the first raid crossed the coast on 15th September 1940
  • Type 1 radars of the Chain Home provided the long range surveillance and were the mainstay of the surveillance system
  • Radar site at Dover is depicted to convey that radar was the front line of defence and the fact that the radar sites were subjected to direct attack attack
  • Radar operations room – radar display and radar operations team.
  • Operators converting plot range and bearing information to a grid coordinate and transmitting the report to the Filter Centre.
  • The Filter Centre where the recognised air picture was compiled and disseminated to all operations rooms. WAAF personnel were increasingly employed on filtering duties as the war progressed
  • Air Marshal Sir Raymund Hart was a key military figure in the development of radar for military use and was mentioned in Dowding’s despatch on the Battle of Britain for his work on the development of the filtering process

Tactical Control

The main features of the window are:

  • The triangles symbolise the triangles on the Dowding System operations room clock. In this window the triangles are shown pointing inwards. Both inward and outward facing triangles were used on clocks during the war
  • The Portcullis was the Fighter Command crest and it is used in the window to depict the process of centralised command and decentralised control implemented by Air Chief Marshal Dowding to control the air battles over the UK. This concept was implement utilising the complex system of defence that became known as the Dowding System
  • The Plan Position Indicator allowed both enemy aircraft and friendly fighter aircraft to be viewed on one display relative to one another. This was one of the significant technological advances that made the precision tactical control of fighter aircraft for night interception possible.
  • Three principal techniques for tactical interception control were developed for GCI operations. Two are shown in the window at the top of the depiction a curve of pursuit interception is illustrated. The complex process of calculating a cut off interception to minimise enemy incursion was done using a Cole Mark 9 protractor.
  • The Type 7 radar was developed to enable the precision interception of enemy aircraft. It was deployed widely throughout the UK at permanent Ground Control Interception (GCI) Units and continued in this role after the war ended
  • The system of tactical control allowed commanders to use fighters effectively and prevent the defences being surprised and aircraft destroyed on the ground. Fighters are depicted on ground alert and being scrambled against an enemy raid.
  • Sector controllers operating in Sector Operations centres undertook the tactical control of fighters. It was these centres from which the minute-to-minute tactical control of an air battle was directed. To the left of this row a Sector Operations centre is illustrated.
  • GCI units exercised precision tactical control in the United Kingdom. To the right of this row of windowpanes a GCI control team is illustrated.
  • Sir Henry Tizard was one of the leading scientists behind the development of the air defence system and he was at the forefront of the concept of using radar for the precision control of interceptions
  • The Sector control of fighter forces was achieved using the recognised tactical picture displayed on a large map table. Calculating the interception vectors for fighter formations was challenging especially when the enemy formations changed course. Sir Henry Tizard developed a technique for quickly calculating interception vectors which was adopted across the UK and was dubbed the ‘Tizzy Angle.”

Radar & Communications

The main features of the window are:

  • The triangles symbolise the triangles on the Dowding System operations room clock.
  • Number 60 Group was a formation within Fighter Command that was responsible for the deployment, maintenance and operational effectiveness of the UK radar system. It is the forgotten Group of Fighter Command.
  • The multi cavity magnetron was an important British invention that made possible the creation of small radar sets for use in aircraft. In air defence the development of night fighters with Airborne Interception (AI) radar, used under the tactical direction of GCI units, delivered victory in the night battles against the Luftwaffe.
  • Mercury, the winged messenger, depicts the communications systems that bound the Dowding system together. In addition to an extensive network of landlines the system also used a Wireless Telegraphy network and Radio Telephony for ground to air communications. Mercury is shown handing the multi cavity magnetron to the USA.
  • The first tactical control radars that were used were mobile systems designated Type 8 radars. This radar equipped the initial deployment of GCI units and was the radar that delivered enabled victory in the Blitz and that formed the evolutionary basis for modern radars. The Type 8 went on to be used in mobile operations in other theatres of operation.
  • The Type 1 radar, which formed the radar Chain Home (CH), was the first radar system deployed in the UK but it was a technological cul-de-sac and modern radars evolved from radars with rotating antenna systems.
  • Bawdsey manor was where radar was turned from an experimental system into and operational one. It is widely recognised as the home of radar
  • Sir Robert Watson Watt was the scientist behind the discovery and development of radar
  • The discovery that electro magnetic radiation could be used to detected aircraft was made in February 1935 in what is now known as the Daventry experiment. This was the first step and from this experiment the most important technological development of the Second World War emerged. Radar was born.
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