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 history. How observations about 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.

Noel Mitchell
Museum entrance

(Above: Museum entrance)
(Below: Introductory talk)

Introductory talk


(Above: Large antennae)
(Below: Huge circular tables)

              circular tables
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