back to article Worcestershire's airborne electronics warfare wonderland

When you first see the view from Croome's church, it looks like an English utopia. The landscape, designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown during the 1750s, features a lake pretending to be river, winding lazily through fields dotted by scenic trees. To the left is Croome Court, a grand Palladian country house built over the red …

  1. JimmyPage
    Thumb Up

    Embarrassing ...

    I live about 15 miles from there, and never knew.

    Thanks El Reg, that's somewhere for a nice Sunday with the Good Lady Wife in 2018.

    If people are in the area, I could also suggest a visit to Witley Court. It's an eerie shell of a stately home, with nice gardens and the Andromeda fountain is one of Europes larger fountains.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Embarrassing ...

      I live 5 miles from there and never knew. That said, last time went to Croome Court was about 5 years ago.

      Witley court was much better before it was "restored", especially on Halloween. It's also not very techie.

      You could do Drakelow (about 30 - 45 mins drive) when it's open. It was a top secret hush hush bunker, except everyone in within 10 miles knew exactly how to find it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Drakelow ...

        Tx for tip. Accessibility for the wifes wheelchair needs to be checked.

        1. SA_Mathieson

          Re: Drakelow ...

          Accessibility for wheelchair users looks pretty good, details are here: The RAF Defford museum is all on one level and just by the car-park and reception.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Embarrassing ...

      I live about 15 miles from there, and never knew.

      I've been to Goodrich castle, even have photos of my niece & nephew sitting in that window embrasure, and I didn't know Croome was there. On the list for next time, thanks.

    3. Excellentsword

      Re: Embarrassing ...

      Malvernite (by blood) here, never heard of it either!

    4. Brian0735

      Re: Embarrassing ...

      Croome Court and Witley Court are both well worth a visit.

      The problem with Croome, for these without transport, is the two mile walk from the bus stop. While Witley has a bus service that will drop you off at the gate, admittedly it is not a frequent service.

      I did know people who worked at Defford, but that is many years ago.

    5. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Embarrassing ...

      "Andromeda fountain is one of Europe's larger fountains"

      But if you want to see the largest gravity fed fountain in the world (and the largest fountain in the UK), you don't have to go too far to Stanway House.

      The fountain is powered by a pond on top of the hill and reaches 300ft.

  2. Bangem

    Lovely article

    My part of the world and have visited this site many times.

    If your the running type there's a year offroad running race held here by the local running club. The race gives you the opportunity to run around the stunning grounds and to see a large portion of the estate that many miss when visiting.

  3. MJI Silver badge

    Gardens are nice

    Been there before. Went there before the house was opened.

    Definately signs of some wartime stuff there.

    We got in for free as well as at the time NT members

  4. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    important as radar was, it required command and control, arguably where the Brits won.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and, of course, don't forget the importance of a carrot based diet!

    2. GrumpyKiwi


      For which he and Keith Park were rewarded by the RAF immediately after the end of the Battle of Britain by being removed from command. After all they'd broken the Bomber Command bible of "The Bomber will always get through" and we can't have that now can we chaps.

      Fighter Command then spent the next two years doing exactly the same stupid things the Germans had done over southern Britain only doing it over northern France instead. Trafford Lee-Mallory should have been awarded the Iron Cross for his services to the Reich for that.

  5. wyatt

    I think this is where my mum worked in the 70's, I'll have to ask her as she did research for the MoD. I also use to work at RAF (now or use to be PSSGS) Oakhanger where one of the Satellite Ground Stations was, the other being just outside Bath. Defford was always known as the 3rd SGS but it's condition/availability was never known so probably not somewhere that could be brought into service at short notice.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Croome is one that I've always managed to miss. Must definitely make the effort to get there next time I'm in that area.

  7. Dave Harvey

    I'd only heard of it via my father

    They sponsored his MSc (at the then very new University of Bath) in the late 1960s doing some early work on composite (II-IV-V2) semiconductors. The ironic thing is that most of the papers referencing his publication were in Russian!

  8. MJI Silver badge


    Used to be a lot of railway track, got used on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, where it was laid is still called Defford Straight. Just north of Chicken Curve.

    1. SA_Mathieson

      Re: Defford

      That is an impressive bit of recycling. Didn't have space to include this as it's not tech-related, but another bit of Croome, the tapestry room from Croome Court, ended up reconstructed in the Metropolitan Museum in New York -

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Wilkes also went on to come up with the idea of "microprogramming" instruction sets.

    Without which implementing most large instruction sets (all mainframes and x86 architectures) would be an even bigger PITA.

    There is at leas one memoir of one of the staff at TRE during WWII which I stumbled across in an old copy of New Scientist called something like "Biologist at War." The UK was so short of physicists and electronics engineers they were re-training anyone with some kind of technical education to help with new design.

  10. rjs397

    Book recommendation: Most secret war

    If you are interested in WWII radar (as mentioned in this article) then the book "Most Secret War" by R.V.Jones is really worth a read.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Book recommendation: Most secret war

      It has been argued by some historians that the development of radar and everything about it, on both sides of the Atlantic, was far more important to winning the war than the Manhattan Project. I seem to recall reading that I I Rabi, who was in charge of science at the Rad Lab at MIT, felt that the Bomb unfairly overshadowed their work, and when you look at how important microwaves have become today, perhaps he was right.

    2. Mike Pellatt

      Re: Book recommendation: Most secret war

      And the TV series "The Secret War". narrated by William Woollard. It was that series, broadcast in early 1977, that spawned said book (1978). Available on DVD.

      It was also this book and TV series that brought the story of Enigma, Colossus et al into broader public knowledge, notwithstanding Winterbotham's earlier book (1974). RV Jones was much more accurate, too (having been at the centre of it all)

  11. MrT

    Really interesting write-up...

    ... thanks. It nicely fills some additional information into the stories of the work and those who did it.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A small correction.

    The article refers to Maurice Wilkes thus:

    "Maurice Wilkes, who following the war built the first practical general purpose stored-program electronic computer in Cambridge."

    Actually, Wilkes headed the project which built EDSAC, which was the second practical general purpose stored-program electronic computer to go into service - the first being the Manchester Mk 1, which was was put into service in the month prior to EDSAC's first run of a program: April 1949 rather than May 1949.

    Both machines were put into service as soon as they were working.

    BINAC (in the USA) would have a good claim to being the first such device had it ever worked after being delivered to its customer, the Northrop Aircraft Company. Apparently it worked well in testing (March-April 1949) but it never worked properly after being delivered.

    EDSAC was a grand achievement indeed - but it wasn't the first.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A small correction.

      "EDSAC was a grand achievement indeed - but it wasn't the first."

      I agree (and I posted the same thing recently on another thread). The weasel words being used in a number of places are that EDSAC was the first "practical" computer.

      However, the Manchester Baby ran its first program in June 1948, and was a true digital computer. The Mk.1 ran an error free program almost exactly a year later. Manchester really had nearly a year of priority.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A small correction.

        "The weasel words being used in a number of places are that EDSAC was the first "practical" computer."

        The weasel words are more than usually weaselly in this case, because the Manchester Mk 1 was a full scale practical computer and it was in service before EDSAC. Both machines were high tech marvels in their day, both were very useful, and neither of them was fully developed when first put in to service. But Manchester beat Cambridge to the post, if only by a few weeks.

        The Manchester Baby was indeed a true stored program electronic general purpose digital computer, but it was built purely to test the technologies intended to power a full scale machine. From what I've read, the main aim was to ensure that the Williams-Kilburn storage tube would work in practice as part of a computing machine, and also to demonstrate that the theoretically functional computing circuitry actually performed as intended, with useful reliability.

  13. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

    Pay extra for Gift Aid?

    What is all that about?

    You pay more money so the NT can claim back your income tax?

    I can see that working if you are on higher rate tax when you can claim it back, but for mere mortals this doesn't seem to make any sense.

    Are they saying they will refuse a gift aid declaration if you pay the lower price? Crazy stuff.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Pay extra for Gift Aid?

      "You pay more money so the NT can claim back your income tax?"

      That's the first time I've ever seen a separate price for Gift Aid. Normally, it's the same price but you give your name and address over and they then claim the tax back on that amount. Maybe that's all they are saying there. We all pay the same price, but when the tax is claimed back it adds up to the higher price, ie they are telling you how much they get from your entrance fee as a way to encourage people to use the scheme.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pay extra for Gift Aid?

        Maybe that's all they are saying there. We all pay the same price, but when the tax is claimed back it adds up to the higher price,

        No, you really do pay more for Gift Aid admission. As explained by the National Trust here, you pay an additional 10% voluntary contribution, which then allows them to claim back standard rate tax on the whole admission price paid. The reason is that charities have two options for admissions to qualify for Gift Aid: the 10% extra voluntary contribution approach, or to offer free re-admission for 12 months to Gift Aid admissions. The NT have clearly gone for the former.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Pay extra for Gift Aid?

          Thanks. I've only come across it at larger attractions where we'd not likely be going back within 12 months anyway, ie we're on holiday. We have a family lifetime membership for NT so I never look at the prices there anyway :-)

  14. gypsythief

    A Geek's Guide to the World!

    I've just updated the Geek's Map* with this entry along with the recent Osowka one (, which was filed under bootnotes.

    I posted a quick comment on that article, but as it is already a bit old and might not be noticed, I thought I'd re-post here: is the Geek's Guide going to expand to Europe? Heck, why not get the American and Australian Vultures involved too?

    A Geeks Guide to the World! It would make for some fun diversions whilst on holiday.

    * is a map of all the Geek's Guide to Britain sites for those who don't know. (But please try not to boot me off Mapbox again for exceeding my free views! (although they let you straight back on again, so whatevs :))

    1. SonofRojBlake

      Re: A Geek's Guide to the World!

      Quick question: why is Dunsop Bridge marked? I can't see any articles referencing the place on the Geek's Guide. Would like to know as I reasonably often bomb out there on a paraglider and would like to know what I've missed...

  15. SkippyBing Silver badge

    'tested new airborne radar systems that allowed aircraft to detect underwater submarines,'

    Strictly speaking they detected the bit of the submarine above the water, radar being generally rubbish at penetrating water. Having said that I believe they were managing to detect periscopes and snorkels which is tricky even with 1970s era radars (I haven't used anything more modern than a '70s radar with a '90s DSP although I'd imagine modern digital processing would improve things).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Having said that I believe they were managing to detect periscopes and snorkels which is tricky even with 1970s era radars"

      I may be remembering quite wrong, but wasn't there something about the apparent noise of early radar sets actually picking up the (fairly long distance) wave patterns of periscopes and snorkels, something that was then forgotten in the race to ever shorter wavelengths?

      Certainly the Soviet Union was said to be using quite primitive long wave radar to detect nuclear subs by the surface patterns from their props (interference).

    2. GrumpyKiwi

      Apparently the snorkel didn't make much of a radar signature. From what I've recently been reading on the Battle of the Atlantic, once the snorkel came into common use (mid-late 1944) the ratio of submarines sunk by aircraft vs. those sunk by the escort ships dramatically shifted in favour of the escorts as the aircraft were no longer detecting submarines recharging on the surface.

  16. LeoP


    It's time to say that once: As a non-british reader (Austria tbp), very much into 20th century history, I very much appreciate this series - quite a couple of the recommendations here are on my to-do-list on my next tour of Britain.

    If they allow me in of course.

  17. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    Defford's work on airborne radar helped sink Hitler's U-Boat packs. Photo: Shutterstock

    That would Admiral Dönitz's packs but anyway:

    Frankly that looks like a WWI submarine. Any war nerds around?

  18. Jon P

    Not Defford, Malvern!

    OK - I know that good work happened at Defford, but as far as memory serves, the airfield was the site of the transport part of TRE research, rather than the R&D, science and engineering work. That almost entirely happened at Malvern, and not just at Malvern College, as suggested in the article. From the moment that Bawdsey was evacuated to Malvern (not Defford) when the invasion threatened, most of the town was involved in some way or another. After the war, this continued, and by the end of the 70s, and well into the 80s, what was then the Royal Radar Establishment covered multiple sites in Malvern, with two principle establishments, North Site and South Site. North Site closed in 2003 but the main site still flourishes as one of the key Qinetiq R&D sites. Those of us who grew up in Malvern from the 60s onwards all had mums and dads working at the site, many of whom were eminent (but top secret!) experts in radar scanner design, laser radar, LCD display development, 3D radar and many more curious things. What is little know is that at one point during WW2, a German prisoner of war camp was built and occupied within a mile or two of the main TRE site. It didn't take too long before someone asked up the chain of command, enquiring discretely, why the camp had been built near a certain top secret research site. The P.O.W. camp was swiftly dismantled...

  19. Jon Smit

    Not one word

    about Robert Watson-Watt, who actually invented RDF.

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