Radar Recollections - A Bournemouth University / CHiDE / HLF project


The prototype CH system - The Biggin Hill Experiment

1936: The beginnings of 'Fighter Control'

Sir Henry Tizard drew upon his recollections as a First World War pilot and he realized that even if radar location of an enemy plane was achievable, it would still be necessary for the defending pilot to be guided to the right location both in terms of space, time and strategic advantage.

Against some strong resistance from senior military figures, he instigated a number of 'trials' at RAF Biggin Hill to allow pilots to become familiar with the idea of being 'controlled from the ground' and for controllers to develop the necessary special skills. Those early experiments were problematical and showed just how vulnerable the RAF and Britain were to airborne attack. The trials also convinced (and thus prompted) Tizard to pursue the idea of airborne radar [AI].

Eventually, these 'AI' units would be fitted into the fighters so that, once directed onto a target by the ground controllers, they could 'lock on' to the enemy and thus maintain their strategic advantage. It was 'Taffy' Bowen who was seconded to this complex research and it was to be carried out at Bawdsey…

Whilst the RAF senior staff were skeptical of the value of ground control, one senior figure was not, Air Chief Marshal Dowding and
he suggested that a set of code words be developed to contact pilots in battle. A whole series of scenarios were worked out for both ground contact to flight leaders and vice versa…

the system became known fondly as 'Pipsqueak'

The experiments were repeated in the Autumn of 1937 using the 5 CH stations then in existence and the results were judged to be very pleasing indeed.

Marshal Dowding
Air Cheif Marshal Dowding