Reply to post: Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

The Battle of Britain couldn't have been won without UK's homegrown tech innovations

I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing


Go to the Battle of Britain Bunker and museum in Uxbridge. You get a tour of the bunker where Fighter Group 11 was commanded from - and it's an eye-opening experience.

Having read a bit about it (mostly in more general histories of the war), it wasn't until I went there that I realised quite how extraordinary Dowding's system was. It was a massive network designed to populate one map (plus backups) with all the information needed to allow one person to process all the information to make effective decisions. And then to issue orders back down the chain to be carried out. It's a robust system designed to route round damage and with several backup sensor systems integrated to give the most accurate possible info.

When I say huge, we're talking something like 12,000 people in the Observer Corps posts, scattered round the country phoning in height, direction and speed of raids. They worked as a backup if radar failed - and also to give info on raids once past the radar picket. Also integrated was of course radar and radio direction finding. There's also a section of the control room for the anti-aircraft command, so they can know where to expect attacks and where to expect RAF planes, to avoid shooting at them.

So everyone passes info up the chain to these few HQs, who then make decisions and send them out again for the local command at sector, airfield and squadron to deal with.

it's a massive analogue network, I think they had 200 people on the telephone switchboards in the bunker. Here's a nice link to a piece with pictures.

It's a fascinating system that merits an El Reg article, given this is an IT publication. I can't think of anything else at the time that worked that way. Trains were still run from timetables and signal boxes, not central control offices. Obviously the forces had the intel officers of their units reporting up the chain of command so that all their HQs had up-to-date maps - but they weren't doing that linked into networks of modern sensors (plus 12,000 mark I eyeballs).

Contrast this with the Luftwaffe who didn't have radar. So as well as flying all those sorties across the Channel without getting the kind of rest periods the RAF got, they were also having to sit in their cockpits for days on alert to defend against Bomber Command raiders trying to bomb their airfields.

I think this is why the Luftwaffe so badly underestimated the time it would take to defeat the RAF. In Poland and France it was easy to hit lots of planes on the ground, but that was much harder in attacking Britain - because the RAF aimed to intercept every raid (even if only to disrupt them with a few attackers) - and there was warning and time to get planes off the ground. And that time didn't have to gained by having vast numbers of units on combat air patrol.

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