In the years immediately following the Great War, protecting the UK from attack was discussed at length by those responsible for the country’s defence. It took more than a decade for an air-defence exercise to be carried out.
In 1934, more than half of the bombers involved in the exercise got past the defences, despite their routes being known. This less-than-satisfactory outcome led the Air Ministry to investigate the idea of radio ‘death rays’ which would eliminate or disable pilots and their aircraft.
On 24th September 1937, RAF Bawdsey became the first fully operational Radar station in the world. Remarkably, this was only a short eighteen months after the first experiment, conducted by Robert Watson Watt and Arnold Wilkins, which established that by using transmitted radio waves it was possible to detect an approaching aircraft.
‘Watson-Watt dismissed the idea of death rays but said that radio beams could be bounced off enemy aircraft to detect them.’
Bawdsey Radar was used as an RAF base through the Cold War until the 1990s when the Bloodhound Missile was the last ‘tenant’ in this base.