war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper

The Birth of Radar



The plaque reads:

Birth of Radar Memorial
On 26th February 1935, in the field opposite,
Robert Watson Watt and
Arnold Wilkins
showed for the first time in Britain that
aircraft could be detected by bouncing
radio waves off them. By 1939 there were
20 stations tracking aircraft at distances
 up to more than 100 miles.
Later known as Radar, it was this invention more
than any other that saved the RAF
from defeat in the 1940 Battle of Britain



On the side of the memorial is another small plaque, which reads:

Memorial sponsored jointly
by QinetiQ Ltd of Malvern
and Mrs Nancy Wilkins
who unveiled it on
15th September 2001


We believe this is the field to which the memorial refers:

By the side of the memorial is an notice of explanation; below is a précis:

In 1934 it was feared Hitler was increasing the strength of his military. One possibility considered for defence against airborne threats was a "Death Ray" using radio waves. Robert Watson Watt and his assistant Arnold Wilkins calculated that this could not work; however detection of aircraft might be possible.

"The Daventry Experiment" was arranged as a demonstration. A signal from the BBC short-wave transmitter at Daventry would be used; Litchborough was chosen because the hills opposite the exact spot would diminish the too-strong signal. Arnold Wilkins set up two dipole aerials to pick up any signal bounces from a specially-provided Handley Page Heyford bomber. Joining him next morning, Robert Watson Watt and Archibald Rowe, secretary of a government defence committee, observed that the bomber flight produced fluctuations in the signal; the aircraft could be tracked some eight miles.

Experiments in "Radio Direction Finding" continued at Orford Ness, and at Bawdsey Manor, near Felixstowe, the system was developed until, as war began, there were twenty detection stations along the south and east coasts. By 1940 "Chain Home" was across the UK

The invention popularly gained its name of Radar (an acronym from "Radio Detection and Ranging") in 1943.

We have a full transcription of the notice on file - set 2644A


Copyright 2014 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved