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
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
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.