Radar Recollections - A Bournemouth University / CHiDE / HLF project


The Daventry Demonstration


A Handley Page
A Hadley Page Heyford Bomber
Heyford Bomber

Robert Watson-Watt
Robert Watson-Watt
1892 - 1973

A.P.Rowe had been appointed secretary to the Tizard committee and he asked Watson Watt for more technical elucidation of his ideas. Two weeks later this was received and in that memo Watson Watt suggests that a "a system of radiolocation using a pulse / echo technique be developed by the extension of known means". Rowe and Wimperis were impressed and so was Air Marshall Dowding. A grant of £10,000 was immediately proposed but subject to a successful feasibility demonstration taking place.

The BBC had a powerful short-wave transmitter Station near Daventry, the Empire Radio Station, with a power output of 10 kW. The wavelength was 49m and the continuous beam was about
30 degrees wide and with a 10 degree elevation. On 26th February, 1935, Wilkins (as operator), Rowe (as observer) and Watson Watt assembled in the aerial field whilst an old Hadley Page Heyford bomber made a number of passes at differing altitudes from 6000 ft down to 1000 ft.

Two receiving aerials fed into a sensitive mobile receiver connected to an oscilloscope. The equipment had been rigged inside a van to detect any echoes that were bounced back from the aeroplane. After careful adjustment, the results were dramatic; 'blips' appeared on the screen at distances of up to eight miles.

The Three men were delighted. Watson-Watt turned to Rowe and said: "Great Britain is an island again!"

The Daventry Experiment, painting by Roy Huxley