AHC: Peerless Air Ministry

The Challenge
  • perfectgeneral

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    New title: AHC: Peerless Air Ministry

    Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister
    (later Lord, then Earl Swinton) is your stooge. He can turn down the peerage (for political capital) and make the ministry do your bidding. Can you undo ALL the mistakes and poor choices of the ministry June 1935 - September 1939?

    He is a lawyer of some intellect and has ministerial experience in Trade, Colonies and earlier in National Service. Rose to Major during the Great War and served with Winston Churchill for a time.

    Let us say you have him in your pocket. Bribery, blackmail, brainwashing, whatever. You only have knowledge available at the time to work from, but you can cherry pick the right knowledge given a believable excuse.

    Bonus if he stays on throughout WW2 and has further impact. Keep within his brief and plausible history for the period.
     
    Last edited:
    Accepted!
  • I do not think that Sir Philip can actually return the FAA to the Navy but he can certainly lay the ground work in preparation for it.
    So here goes so to speak to mix my metaphors 'In for a Penny in for a Pound here's my tuppence worth'

    Sir Phillip Takes the Helm. Part 1.
    June 1935 upon taking up his post, Sir Philip reviews all the various sub-committees working under the auspices of the AM. The Work of CSSAD (Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Defence) under the wing of Sir Hugh Dowding and Chairmanship of Henry Tizzard catches his attention. Upon being briefed by them of detail of the work being done on the electronic detection of attacking bombers and the associated fighter direction and control systems, Sir Philip comes to the conclusion that Balfour’s famous prediction of the "Bomber will always get through" is not necessarily a 'given'. With this insight also throwing into doubt the veracity of the entire 'Trenchard Doctrine' that formed the basis of the strategic role of the RAF, Sir Philip proceeds to quietly carry out a 'Root and Branch' review of the entire purpose and roll of the RAF in National defence.

    For the rest of 1935 Sir Phillip carried out a review of the capabilities of all branches of the RAF and of how new technologies available in the immediate future would change those capabilities. He gathered around him a small committee of serving officers, scientists, engineers and industrialists who could advise him, even if that advice could be considered partisan. Among those whose opinion and support he sought was that of Winston Churchill, though he was sceptical of Professor Lindeman's influence on him. Whilst dining with Churchill at the House of Commons in the autumn of 1935, Sir Phillip asked Churchill what had caused him more concern in 1917, the Botha bombing raids and the possibilities of civilian panic or the unrestricted submarine warfare and the potential starvation of Britain. Having thought for a moment Churchill replied that it was the submarines which really worried him.


    Shortly afterwards, Sir Philip had a private meeting, dinner again, with the First Sea Lord Chatfield. He surprised the first Sea Lord by informing him that he would support the return of the FAA directly to the RN and that this should take place as soon as the reorganisation of the RAF into separate commands took place in mid 1936. The sharing of abnitio pilot training and the retaining/transfer of RAF pilots until the FAA had a sufficient pool of Naval pilots was also agreed. The final date of transfer of command would be set once the extent of the required naval reorganisation and infrastructure had been assessed. Sir Philip explained that this transfer of responsibility was in line with his perceived change in the role of the FAA that the new technology of RDF would bring to the capabilities of naval aircraft both in attack and defence. The ability shipborne RDF to detect and attack and permit fighters to be directed to intercept it and the ability of the airborne system to ‘Find, Fix and Track’ the enemy fleet by day or night irrespective of weather and visibility was a quantum leap in capability. Sir Phillip at this time handed over to the First Sea Lord a briefing paper prepared by his advisory committee on the future naval application of RFD for the FAA. For there was every indication at that time that all the RN research on the subject was focused solely on RDF’s application to gunnery. Agreement was reached that the two gentlemen would occasionally dine together to exchange views and progress of developments pertinent to both of their services.

    Sir Phillip had reached some startling conclusions and knew that both Lord Trenchard and Lord Salmon would fight him tooth and nail therefore he needed a way to disarm them. As Sir Phillip saw it the primary strategic role of the RAF post 1935 and the development of RDF was to prevent a potential enemy from delivering the much vaunted “Knock Out Blow” because if any potential enemy had themselves matched the RAF development in RDF and Fighter control then the fear of the RAF Bombers as a deterrent from aggression would no longer a tenable position. So with the proposed re organisation of the RAF into separate commands as of the middle of 1936, Sir Philip proposed that the primary command would be Fighter command with Bomber command coming second. Until Fighter command could by both Day and Night provide a comprehensive defence against Arial attack it would remain the priority for both material and personnel. Sir Phillips heresy was that he considered that the RAF bombers were incapable of flying to targets of strategic importance and hitting them let alone actually destroying them. This conclusion was drawn from examining the results of the various bombing exercises and navigation tests flown. Sir Phillip’s keen legal mind quickly unpicked the bias and outright deceit hidden within the parameters of the exercises to arrive at his own conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the current RAF bomber force and found it distinctly unfit for purpose. He concluded that with the new technologies of RDF the RAF bombers would suffer unsustainable losses during daylight attacks and in a nigh time campaign would be ineffectual in hitting the enemy.

    I plan part 2 to take us up to the start of 1936 but I must dive back into my sources before completing the writing of it so it will not be posted till at least later today.
     
    Sir Peter Takes the Helm
  • Sir Peter Takes the Helm, Part 1 (with additions)
    June 1935 upon taking up his post, Sir Philip reviews all the various sub-committees working under the auspices of the AM. The Work of CSSAD (Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Defence) under the wing of Sir Hugh Dowding and Chairmanship of Henry Tizzard catches his attention. Upon being briefed by them of detail of the work being done on the electronic detection of attacking bombers and the associated fighter direction and control systems, Sir Philip comes to the conclusion that Balfour’s famous prediction of the "Bomber will always get through" is not necessarily a 'given'. With this insight also throwing into doubt the veracity of the entire 'Trenchard Doctrine' that formed the basis of the strategic role of the RAF, Sir Philip proceeds to quietly carry out a 'Root and Branch' review of the entire purpose and roll of the RAF in National defence.

    For the rest of 1935 Sir Phillip carried out a review of the capabilities of all branches of the RAF and of how new technologies available in the immediate future would change those capabilities. He gathered around him a small committee of serving officers, scientists, engineers and industrialists who could advise him, even if that advice could be considered partisan. Among those whose opinion and support he sought was that of Winston Churchill, though he was sceptical of Professor Lindemans influence on him. Whilst dining with Churchill at the House of Commons in the autumn of 1935, Sir Phillip asked Churchill what had caused him more concern in 1917, the Botha bombing raids and the possibilities of civilian panic or the unrestricted submarine warfare and the potential starvation of Britain. Having thought for a moment Churchill replied that it was the submarines which really worried him.


    Shortly afterwards, Sir Philip had a private meeting, dinner again, with the First Sea Lord Chatfield. He surprised the first Sea Lord by informing him that he would support the return of the FAA directly to the RN and that this should take place as soon as the reorganisation of the RAF into separate commands took place in mid 1936. The sharing of ab nitio pilot training and the retaining/transfer of RAF pilots until the FAA had a sufficient pool of Naval pilots was also agreed. The final date of transfer of command would be set once the extent of the required naval reorganisation and infrastructure had been assessed. Sir Philip explained that this transfer of responsibility was in line with his perceived change in the role of the FAA that the new technology of RDF would bring to the capabilities of naval aircraft both in attack and defence. The ability of shipborne RDF to detect and attack and permit fighters to be directed to intercept it and the ability of the airborne system to ‘Find, Fix and Track’ the enemy fleet by day or night irrespective of weather and visibility was a quantum leap in capability. Sir Phillip at this time handed over to the First Sea Lord a briefing paper prepared by his advisory committee on the future naval application of RFD for the FAA. For there was every indication at that time that all the RN research on the subject was focused solely on RDF’s application to gunnery. Agreement was reached that the two gentlemen would occasionaly dine together to exchange views and progress of developments pertinent to both of their services.

    Sir Phillip obtained via Churchill not only a copy of the 1919 submission for the future employment of the RAF but also copies of Trenchard’s earlier memorandum concerning the employment of the then newly fomed RAF and in Particular the independent air element command by Trenchard in France through the final stages of the war in 1918. From these papers he concluded that prior to having to justify the continued survival of an independent RAF in 1919 Trenchard had believed the air forces roll and actions to be defined by the following dictates.

    Assumptions fundamental to Trenchards doctrines from the first world war in 1918.

    • All air warfare is interdependent, Bombers cannot function in isolation.
    • All Air warfare is undertaken in support of the army.
    • offensive operations were essential to maintain the morale advantage
    Assumptions fundamental to Trenchards doctrines from his submission of the :-

    ‘Permanent Organization of the RAF Note by the Secretary of State for Air on a Scheme Outlined by the Chief of Staff’.

    This document was submitted to Winston Churchill as Air Minister, in lateDecember1919 and Trenchard’s new strategic doctrine was based on two key assumptions regarding the offensive capabilities of the bomber, firstly, that the morale effect of the bomber was twenty times that of the material and secondly that there was no viable defence against attacking aircraft.

    The technical development’s currently going on a Orfordness and soon to be subject to a full scale trial at the new Bawdsey Manor research station in 1936 had shown Sir Phillip that at least one of these assumptions was probably no longer ‘Written in Stone’ and that the first was actually dependant upon the veracity of the second.


    Sir Phillip had reached some startling conclusions and knew that both Lord Trenchard and Lord Salmon would fight him tooth and nail therefore he needed a way to disarm them and of course he had to keep a cordial working relationship with Sir Edward Elllington the chief of the Air Staff. So Sir Phillip decided to bide his time and keep his powder dry and only act when the ground work had been done. As Sir Phillip saw it the primary strategic role of the RAF post 1935 and the development of RDF was to prevent a potential enemy from delivering the much vaunted “Knock Out Blow” because if any potential enemy had themselves matched the RAF development in RDF and Fighter control then the fear of the RAF Bombers as a deterrent from aggression would no longer a tenable position. So with the proposed re organisation of the RAF into separate commands as of the middle of 1936, Sir Philip proposed that the primary command would be Fighter command with Bomber command coming second. Until Fighter command could by both Day and Night provide a comprehensive defence against Arial attack it would remain the priority for both material and personnel. Sir Phillips heresy was that he considered that the RAF bombers were incapable of flying to targets of strategic importance and hitting them let alone actually destroying them. This conclusion was drawn from examining the results of the various bombing exercises and navigation tests flown. Sir Phillip’s keen legal mind quickly unpicked the bias and outright deceit hidden within the parameters of the exercises to arrive at his own conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the current RAF bomber force and found it distinctly unfit for purpose. He concluded that with the new technologies of RDF the RAF bombers would suffer unsustainable losses during daylight attacks and in a night time campaign would be ineffectual in hitting the enemy.

    With RDF in it’s infancy but showing true promise Sir Philllip decided to bide his time until he had a fully worked up program of reform for the AM and the RAF, He therefore spent the flowing six months quietly seeking advice on a wide variety of technical points varying from engine design, airframe design, air Navigation and Bombs just for starters. He needed to be able to Judge not only what aircraft the RAF really needed but what was technically possible both now and within the lifetime of any proposed aircraft. His panel of experts helped him to formulate a list of conditions that would inform his determination of the viability of any proposed aircraft and its fitness for purpose. There were a number of factors that could be historically proven as a given within aircraft design and these he listed in no particular order as.

    Aircraft in each class tend to get heavier with each subsequent design.

    Each generation of engine gets more powerful.

    Speed is important in hostile airspace.

    An Aircraft must have a primary task and be designed for that task. Designing for secondary tasks cannot be allowed to undermine the achievement of the primary role.

    Navigation is the lifeblood of the bomber if you cannot find your target you cannot hit it.

    The bigger the bomb the bigger the damage radius.

    Each new generation of aircraft is more expensive than the previous one.

    When he looked at those aircraft coming into service when he was appointed he saw that both the Gloster Gauntlet and the Blackburn Overstrand would not have seemed out of place to him and his comrades in the trenches in 1918. However the Highspeed Mono Plane Fighters being built to specifications F36/34 and F37/34 would have been like something from an HG wells novel in 1918.

    Sir Phillip read every Operational Requirement issued since 1930 and reviewed the subsequent specifications issued to the aircraft imdustry. By careful analysis of these documents and asking advice from his committee of experts Sir Phillip began to get a feel for the assumptions and bias within the RAF that effected the formulation of the OR’s and industries response. Talks with Sir Hugh Dowding and Tizzard confirmed not only the reluctance of the RAF to listen to Scientists or external experts but also their utter faith in their own assumptions.



    Starting in January 1936 Sir Phillip had also started a study of the aero engine requirements and the state of the British industry. Very quickly he had come to the realisation that with the technological leap from wood and fabric built aircraft to the all metal mono plane more powerful engines were required. Whilst aircraft being delivered in 1935 would have engines of around 750hp those due to enter service in 1937/38 would require 1000hp or more. This was clearly illustrated by the specifications for the new fighter aircraft issued in 1934. F5/34 was based on an engine of 750hp pluss ( this attracted no less than five designs) yet issued at the same time were specifications F36/34 and F37/34 issued to Hawkers and Supermarine utilising the new Rolls Royce engine of 100hp pluss. Sir Philip saw quickly that basically the aircraft built to F5/34would could not match the performance of the F36 and F37 designs unless they two adopted engines of 1000hp of more and here Sir Philip came up against one of the paramount problems in the British aero engine industry at that time. Whish was that there was basically a reliance on just two manufactures to provide the most powerful class of engine, Rolls Royce for inline liquid cooled Engines and Bristol’s for Radial Air cooled engines and as of early 1936 there were no radial 1000hp plus engines in production. Having Talked to Sir Hugh Dowding in his role as Air Member for Supply and Development regarding the situation Sir Phillip thought that at least a second manufacture in each lass of engine should be encouraged. Napier seemed the logical choice for the second in line liquid cooled engine as they had a distinguished history in this field. The second radial manufacturer was not so clear cut as there were a number of other companies building radial of varying capacity. Eventually Alvis came forward as they were negotiating with Gnome Rhone to licence their Mistral engine. What was encouraging was that Alvis were proposing not only a new purpose built factory but to re-engineer the engine with newer materials for higher stress and to redesign those parts that had been shown to be problematical. Sir Philip agreed a letter of intent to purchase the new Alvis engine providing it passed its type test by mid 1937 at over 1000hp and was in production by early 1938. The AM would supply a number of test aircraft for the engine.

    As to the engine developments by Both Bristol and Rolls Royce as far as Sir Philip was concerned it was a case of wait and see.

    As to armament the 8 guns machine guns specified for the F5/34, F36/34 and the F37/34 was at the time of issuing the heaviest armament proposed for any fighter, however already the RAF was looking at arming aircraft with 20mm cannons to ensure that bomber could be fatally damaged in a single pass. This was formalised in early 1936 when the earlier specification F10/35 was rewritten and issued as F37/35 for a four cannon fighter with either single or twin engines. With the issuing of this specification Sir Phillip became interested in the licencing, production and testing of a suitable 20mm cannon as soon as possible.

    Part two will cover turret fighters and look at bomber development.
     
    Growing Caterpillars
  • Part 2 Growing Caterpillars.

    May, June and July had seen the reorganisation of the RAF to form Training Command, Bomber Command, Fighter Command and Maritime Command. Sir Phillip had had a fight with the entrenched RAF hierarchy on the formation of the last Command originally designated as Coastal Command. With the help of the First Sea lord and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence the Commands name had been altered to reflect the fact it’s task involved patrolling as far off shore as aircraft had the range to do so in support of both Naval and trading operations. This Change would help Sir Phillip to pursue his intention of providing coastal command with long range land based aircraft (LRLB). Explaining to the Treasury that LRLB aircraft would be cheaper than the big flying boats did a lot to persuaded them not to quibble to much over the issuing of suitable specifications.


    Having set Alvis on the road to being a second radial engine manufacturer Sir Phillip sought advice as to which company should be contracted as the second liquid cooled inline engine maker. Though Napier seemed to be the logical company there were concerns over the adoption of the unconventional sleeve valve system for the new Sabre engine. So as a back up Sir Philip cast around for another engine design. De Haviland had their inverted V12 and thought an X 24 version of this air cooled engine would be possible and give about 1100 hp on 87octain petrol but they were fully committed to producing Gypsey engines for their Tiger Moth Trainer aircraft. Though historically Richard Fairey had completely alienated the AM regarding his engine building enterprises, Sir Phillip decided that AM would give technical assistance to Fairey’s to develop their proposed H24 engine to a production standard. Discussions were also going on to see if a manufacturer would take on a licence for the Hispano-Suiza Y12 engine but were proving problematical. This search for alternative engines was given further impetus when the Hurricane prototype had to have three RR. Merlin engine changes in two weeks with internal coolant losses and cracked cylinder heads being the primary problem. Both Vickers and Armstrong-Siddley were approached to see if they would take on the Y-12. Meanwhile Earnest Hives and his team at RR were desperately working to solve the Merlin’s problems with all other engine projects slowed down.

    Meanwhile in July with the official announcement that the FAA was to be fully returned to the Admiralty control in 18 months but with the Admiralty taking responsibility for aircraft specification and production Via the AM immediately. To this end the newly promoted Vice Admiral Artur Dowding was appointed as Admiral Henderson’s assistant with responsibility for aircraft specifications procurement via the AM. Some noted his appointment and said it was only due to his brother being head of Fighter Command. Though Sir Arthur’s appointment was logical, as he had previous experience of working with the AM and had been captain of an aircraft carrier but the fact that Sir Hugh had been the Air Council member for research and development that did much to sway the first Sea Lord. So Sir Phillip now had a brace of Dowdings to deal with but hoped he never had to fire both barrels.

    Observers both inside and outside the RAF/AM had been surprised at the cordial relationship between Sir Hugh and Sir Phillip as the former was known to hold strong opinions and to be forthright in their expression. It was speculated that Henry Tizzard had a lot to do with helping to keep the peace.

    By Mid 1936 Sir Phillip had got the measure of the uncertainties and sacred cows of the higher echelons of both the RAF and the Air Ministry and nowhere is that better illustrated than the debate (some would say argument) over the F.37/35 four cannon fighter specification responses. There were proposals received from the following companies;- Westland, P9 twin engines (RR Perigrine) and variations with a single Hercules or Twin Turbojets. Bristol Types 153 and 153A, the 153 being a single engine (Bristol Hercules) and the 153A being a twin engine design (Twin Aquilas). Bolton and Paul F37/35 Single radial engine design. Fairey design project. Hawker F37/35 proposed development of the Hurricane. Supermarine Type 312 Spitfire development. With such a wide ranging set of proposals there was always going to be a need to whittle down the number and make a choice as all of these could not be built. The biggest debate was regarding whether or not a single engine aircraft would sacrifice too much performance due to the weight of the four cannons. With the problems of the Merlin clouding the waters somewhat There was also heated contention to not proceed with either the Hawker or Supermarine proposals due to the fear that work on the F37/35 projects would delay the production design and building of the Hurricane and Spitfire. Two things convinced Sir Phillip that both the Hurricane and Spitfire F37/35 projects should proceed and these were that despite the current difficulties with the Merlin the history showed that engine HP always grew as the engine matured towards its design limits and the second factor was that the AM had issued Specification F9/35 for a single engine turret fighter and the estimates were that the four cannon would weigh no more than the combined weight of the four gun turret and gunner, further the drag penalty on the cannon armed fighter would be less as well. To Hedge his bets Sir Phillip also issued a contract to Westland for their twin engine P9 design with the rider that they liaise with Power Jets so that the P9 could be fitted with twin turbo jets with as little redesign as necessary. The whole issue of the F37/35 specification caused Sir Phillip to query the validity of the OR which had resulted in the drawing up of the F9/35 specification. This led Sir Phillip to enquire of Sir Hugh Dowding as the new Head of Fighter Command if there was any way that the veracity of the turreted fighter concept could be tested. Sir Hugh considered that it would be difficult until both the new high speed single engine fighters were in service and the prototype turret fighters were available for comparative tests against the latest monoplane bombers. This gave Sir Phillip further pause for thought and he issued a confidential memo to both Hawkers and Bolton Paul suggesting that their F9/35 designs should if possible be able to take four wing mounted cannon in place of the turret ( For the Hawker F9/35 design that would simply mean fitting the Hurricane F37/35 wings and fairing over the turret location whilst ensuring the COG remained with acceptable limits. For Bolton and Paul design it would require a reworking of the wings internal structure to accommodate the guns and reposition the fuel tanks).

    With the proposed expansion of the RAF and the rapid technical developments Sir Phillip was apricating more and more the work of his informal advisory committee and that of the official CSSAD committee, though he was very sceptical of the work being done by the Re-Orintation of Air Defence sub-Committee of the Imperial Defence Committee. He was also convinced that all Command within the RAF would benefit from their own Scientific Advisory Committees and so commenced canvassing scientists and technological experts to sit on these bodies.

    The rest of the year was spent consolidating progress and coming to grips with the requirements of the new command structure. This included a review of the training aircraft and the new Bombers both an order and the responses to the latest set of specification issued.

    This threw up an interesting conundrum the AM were about to pace an order for the DH Don L2387 to specification T.6/36 when a memo from Training Command noted that whilst not conforming exactly to the requirements of T.6/36 the Miles Kestrel trainer design that had been submitted was a far closer performance match to the new generation of fighters than the proposed Don and therefore would be a much better advanced trainer for fighter pilots. It was pointed out that the ‘Don’ was nearly as large and no faster than the new Blenheim bomber which had first flown that summer. There was also the advantage that Kestrel was from an as yet un committed aircraft supplier and was made from wood with an obsolescent engine. Sir Phillip therefore requested that Miles complete and submit the prototype for comparative trials as soon as possible, this being done as a PV. Project with the prototype costs being recovered only on the placement of an order.

    Early 1937 would see final submissions of designs for both heavy bombers to specification B.12/36 and medium bombers to specification P13/36 and Sir Phillip foresaw that there would be a lot of contention over the allocation of prototypes and production for two aircraft he personally saw as being the future of RAF offensive bomber capacity.
     
    The chrysalis forms pt1
  • Part Three, 0.1 The chrysalis forms.

    1937 started with some disturbing news in that Folland the chief designer of the Gloster aircraft company was leaving. This left questions over both the Gladiator and the F4/34 aircraft that Sir Phillip considered needed settling hence a meeting with the boards of Gloster and their parent company Hawker aircraft was arranged as a priority. RR seemed to be making progress with the Merlin but the news from Bristol’s was not encouraging in that both their new sleeve valve twin row engines, the Taurus and the Hercules were having problems with overheating. Alvis had preproduction Pelides running and were approach readiness for their AM 50 hour Test. Elsewhere Vauxaul at Luton had expressed an interest in building the HS Y12 engine in a new shadow factory. After having been introduced to the work of Whittle at Power jets, Whittle a serving officer in the RAF is working on Jet propulsion in his graduate year at Cambridge, Sir Phillip had agreed some temporary funding on the proof of concept engine. Meanwhile a write up on the proposed engine has been sent to the RAE for evaluation.


    With Follond setting up his own aircraft factory at Hamble in Hampshire Sir Arthur Dowding has approached Folland to design a single seat naval fighter based on the F5/35 design but to be powered by the more powerful Alvis Pelides engine. Any objections from Hawker/Gloster that they own the design will be overridden on the bases that as this aircraft has folding wings and therefore doe not have the single continuous main spar from wing tip to wing tip of the Gloster aircraft and it is therefore a distinct and different design.

    The first formal meeting of the CSSAO (Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Offence) had proved to be more offensive than scientific with the C in C of Bomber Command Air Chief Marshal Sir John Steel being seemly disdainful that scientists could in any way contribute to the art of air warfare. Both Tizard and Sir Phillip were a little dismayed at this and could only hope that things would improve with time. Though Sir Phillip conceded that he might have to push the CAS for a change at the head of Bomber command. This was not the only problem with the committees, professor Lindemann had almost wrecked CSSAD resulting in multiple resignations forcing Sir Phillip to disband the committee and reforming it with Professor Appleton in place of Lindemann. Professor Lindeman had only been on the CSSAD Committee at the insistence of Winston Churchill. Sir Phillip could see further problems being caused by Churchill and Lindemann continuing to press their personal agendas and knew he would have to guard his back and possibly take action if the situation continued to deteriorate.

    Sir Phillip had been much impressed by the young scientist Edward “Taffy”Bowen, who at Bawdsey Manor the previous September had almost single handedly been responsible for rescuing the demonstration exercise of the prototype CH radar system from complete failure when he dashed to Orfordness and restarted the original transmitter. Shortly after this the first airborne receiver working on 6.8m meter wave length had been air tested and ‘Taffy” was hoping that his team working on Airborne Interception RDF would soon have a working prototype.
    Meanwhile there had been much debate within the CSSAD and at Bawdsey it’s self as to whether it was better to have both the transmitter and receiver in the night fighter or simply have the receiver only in the night fighter but using ground based transmitters. One advantage of the later system was that it was achievable now, as had been proven by the tests carried out using an RAF Heyford fitted with a proto type receiver and the new 6.8meter transmitter on the Red tower at Bawdsey Manor.
    This system would necessitate always having a transmitter or transmitters behind the pursuing night fighter. “Taffy” Bowen had already achieved a detection range of 8 to 10 miles and was certain that a detection range of 20 miles was practical.
    Watson Watt was not convinced and wished to solely pursue the research and development of a wholly airborne system. When this was discussed at the CSSAD meeting in early 1937 Sir Phillip requested that “Taffy” Bowen attended and he gave a presentation on his team’s progress and the pros and cons of developing each system, Pros were that the 6.5meter ground transmitter was working and a flyable receiver existed that could be worked on to make it lighter and smaller for installation in a two seat fighter. The biggest con and that highlighted by Watson Watt was that to obtain an accurate rage to the target aircraft the pursuing fighter had to be directly between it and the transmitter. “Taffy’ Bowen countered that if there were sufficient ground stations a pursuing fighter could always select one that was behind it. He also reiterated that the fully airborne system was probably at least two years from being developed to an operational standard whereas the receiver only system could be probably ready by the time the CH system was operational.
    To Sir Phillips question was to whether the adoption of the receiver only system as an interim development would enable experience with operating RDF guided night fighters to be gained without delaying the whole system. Having had reassurance from both Watson Watt and “Taffy” Bowen that they would ensure that the airborne receiver only system that was now nick named RDF 1.5 (the Chain Home system was known as RDF 1) would not delay the research and development of the fully Airborne system known as RDF 2.
    Sir Phillip with the agreement of the CAS authorized work to continue on both systems.
    Now the problem was to find a suitable fighter aircraft for use as a two seat RDF equipped night fighter.
     
    The chrysalis forms pt2
  • Part 3. 02 The chrysalis forms.

    As 1937 progressed there were a number of prototypes due to fly and Sir Phillip was concerned about what he saw as unnecessary delays. Glosters were building the Mark 1 Gladiator which was due to enter service in February 1937 and the Hawker Hurricane was due to enter squadron service by late 1937 despite the delay caused by the problems with the Merlin and the decision to wait until the Merlin II was available. Sir Phillip in discussions with the CAS was concerned that introducing the Gladiator Mk2 in late 1937 was a waste of Glosters design and development potential that should be going into getting the F5/34 and other prototypes finished for flight testing. When pushed by Sir Phillip, Hawker’s and Gloster aircraft confirmed that the first flight of the first F5/34 protype could probably be advance at least four months if such measures were taken and the second prototype with the Alvis Pelides would be ready no more than eight weeks later depending on the delivery of a flight ready engine. Stopping work on the Gladiator Mk2 would also advance the possible date for the commencement of Henley and /or Hurricane production at the Hucclecote factory by several months.

    The Hawker Henley and the Fairey design to P4/34 were the cause of much angst at the AM. These two aircraft seemed to have become side-lined or redundant since the adoption of the Fairey battle which was not that dissimilar. There were those in the AM who thought the Fairey P4/34 aircraft should be shelved so that the company could concentrate on producing the Battle and completing other design projects. As for the Henley it was being proposed that 200 of them should be built at Gloster’s as target tugs.

    Sir Phillip had been in intense discussion with the CAS and the CnC of Bomber Command on just how useful and survivable light day bombers might be with the advent of new faster and better armed fighters. For bombing in day light for Army support operations every indication was that as smaller more agile aircraft that could dive bomb would be better in both accuracy and survivability than a larger Aircraft. Sir Phillip proposed that trials with the Henley and the Fairey P4/34 and the New Blackburn Skua should be carried out as soon as possible after March when the Henely was scheduled for its first flight. These trials would include the new Blenheim bomber which was due to enter service soon.

    Negotiations for the licence for the Hisspano 20mm cannon were in an advanced stage and the finance was in place so the ROF could set up a production line. The acquisition of a belt feed system for the gun was taking a little time to finalise but was proceeding. ROF was tasked with having some test guns ready as early in 1938 as possible and were machining two sets of four dummy guns of the correct weight for installation trials on aircraft.

    With The Alvis Pelides engines ready for trials the pressure was on for it’s smaller cousin the Maeonides to be readied for testing as well. This engine was a 18 cylinder twin row radial Bore-4.8 inches, Stroke- 4.4 inches of 23.6 litres, dry weight around 1200 pounds and a power of 1000hp. It’s most important statistic was it’s diameters off only 41 inches. Also being worked on was the Alcides, being a powerful supercharged 18-cylinder two-row radial engine, with a power output of 1,650 / 1,725 hp (1,230 / 1,286 kW). 5.75 in × 7.09 in (146 mm × 180 mm) (bore x stroke), 54.24 Litres. The problem for Alvis was they could not bring three new engines to fruition at the same time and would need to priorities. The AM were in a dilemma as the Maoenides could act as a replacement for the Bristol Taurus and the Alcides could do like wise for the Bristol Hercules, whilst the Pelides being the most advanced development wise of the Alvis engines sat firmly in the middle.

    Once again a pragmatic stance was taken with effort being concentrated on getting the Pelides flying and ready for production whilst learning lessons pertinent to both other engines to speed their development.

    At this time the AM had engaged Charles Benjamin Redrup as am engine design consultant after the cessation of engine development by the Bristol Buss company in late 1936 had left him a free agent. His remit From Sir Phillip was to review all the engine designs submitted to the AM and evaluate them. His first two candidate were the trio from Alvis and Fairey’s new H 24 monarch engine. Redrup’s initial assessment of the Fairey Monarch design was that whilst the integral cast air passage ways were very clever and helped provide a light and stiff block he was concerned that an orifice of under 2.5x2 inches feeding air to each pair of cylinders with two right angle bends on the head of each cylinder would choke the engine and cause undue turbulence of the air supplied to the cylinders. Redrup noted that adding just 0.5 inches to each dimension of the air supply channels would increase its area by 50%. It was recommend that the RAE carried out some tests on air flow through the proposed configuration of the Monarch engine to investigate any adverse effects on air supply and pressure and that Fairey’s be asked to look at the possibility of designing a larger and smoother air flow system.
     
    (Interlude) Egos, Scientists, Committees and Cliques.
  • Interlude, Egos, Scientists, Committees and Cliques.

    Soon after taking up his post Sir Phillip had been faced with a crisis that had taxed all his political skills and Powers of Persuasion. By late 1935 the work of the CSSAD otherwise known as the ‘Tizzard’ committee was being completely disrupted by the intervention of Professor Lindemann who had been added to the committee at the insistence of Churchill. Unfortunately as Churchill had been granted a place on the influenceual IDC (Imperial Defence Committee) sub committee on Air-Defence he was able to push for this appointment over any objections by Sir Phillips predecessor. Prime Minister Antony Baldwin was really upset and concerned by the amount of confidential information that was being leaked to Churchill and used against the Government and to try and quieten him had added him to the IDC. With all the members (P.M.S. Blackett, Served in the RN as an engineering officer in WW1 now professor of Physics at Birkbeck college. A.V.Hill, Served in the Royal Artillery in WW1, sound ranging expert, Physiologist, noble Prize winner and Member of Parliament for Cambridge University. H.E. Wimperis was the first Director of Scientific Research at the Air Ministry) sending in letters of resignation form CSSAD at the same time Sir Phillip had no option but to take action.

    Sir Phillip reconvened the Committee without Lindemann (an Oxford man) replaced with Professor Appleton (another Cambridge man). At a meeting with the Prime Minister, in an attempt to keep the peace it was agreed to add Lindermann to the CSSAO which was then being formed. This meant that Sir Phillip could not pursued H.E.Wimpreris to serve on this committee which was a pity as he had designed the ‘course setting bomb sight’ used by the RAF and therefore had real knowledge on the technical problems involved. Though Sir Philip could mitigate that particular negative by asking Wimpreris to work with FAA on developing a dedicated dive bombing site for the Skua. Churchills support for the King in the crisis caused by the King’s love for Wallace Simpson had caused Baldwin serous problems and drove a further wedge between the two making it even harder for Sir Phillip to keep Churchill on side.

    To this end Sir Phillip did succeed on getting the Prime ministers tacit approval for the Claredon Laboratories in Oxford to work on fundamental research to air defence. Principaly on the Photo electric cell in the application to proximity fuses for both rockets and shells. It just so happens that Lindemann was not only in charge of the Claredon laboratories but he is also a partner in the countries major producer of photo electric cells, as well as being with Churchill a supporter of rockets in the AA role. This funding enabled Professor Lindemann not only to keep the London brothers Heinz and Fritz working at Oxford but also to retain Francis Simon and Nicholas Kurti well. These Jewish scientists were doing fundamental on semi conductors and nuclear physics and their retention in the UK was advocated by Ernest Rutherord, despite being a Cambridge man and head of a rival laboratory. Sir Phillip suggested that a young scientists RV Jones working at the Claredon laboratories was transferred to the Royal aircraft establishment at Farnborough to carry out research there which was agreed by Lindemann as quid co pro for the scientific funding. By these machinations Sir Phillip hoped to keep the peace in the scientific community divided by the rivalry between the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and the Claredon in Oxford.
     
    The Chrysalis Forms Pt3
  • Part 3. 03 The chrysalis forms.

    The first design and specification review of 1937 took place in at the AM at the end of February. Sir Phillip new this was going to be a major event as a number of projects were at a critical decision stage and other projects had obvious problems. In anticipation of this Sir Phillip had a number of briefing paper prepared both from within the AM and from his independent advisors. He opened the meeting by reminding the assembled company that no less than 6 new aircraft types were due to fly in the next six months and that no less than four new types would be in service at the end of the year and four new types would proposed to be ordered into production within that time before their respective prototypes had flown.

    Sir Phillip started by summing up the progress of the two medium day bombers ordered from specification B.9/32. Firstly the Handley Page H.P.Hampden, final design conference 15/9/36 at which all equipment for night bombing was added to the requirement. Prototype K4240 due at Martlesham for trials this September. An order for 100 aircraft has already been placed for an earliest introduction to service in mid 1938. The Vickers type271 Wellington, final design approved in late 1935, prototype K4049 first flight on 15 June 1936. Order for 180 aircraft placed in August 1936. The first production aircraft is not expected until late summer or early autumn. Next he went on specification B4/34, this resulted in a prototype ordered from Armstrong Whitworth known as the A.W.38 Whitley. Despite benefitting from the design and prototype construction undertaken to specification C26/31 the prototype K4568 was not flown until 17th of march 1936, with an order for 80 aircraft in August 1935. A second prototype K4587 was flown on the 24th of March to a revised specification with more powerful engines. The first of the Mark I aircraft are already being delivered but production will be changed after 34 aircraft to the revised MkII to complete the balance of the contact. One of these aircraft will be constructed as a protype MkIII aircraft to specification 20/36 slated to enter production by August next year.

    Currently it is taking five to six years to get a bomber from specification to squadron service despite placing orders before a flying protype is available, Sir Philip stated that this was not justifiable and the delays were unacceptable, though he accepted that the rapid technological advance in the last five years were a fundamental cause he reiterated that the system was to slow.

    Next for review was the specification B1.34 The Hadley page proposal has been withdrawn and the Vickers Type 284 Warwick was ordered to contract no. 441973/35 with two RR vulture engines on 7/10/35. Due to major design changes a mock up was ordered 14/3/36. Work is progressing slowly on a prototype K8178 and a first flight is scheduled for mid to late 1938 depending on engine availability. At the request of AM Sir Phillip Joubert de la Ferte a second prototype L9704 has been ordered this week to be fitted with two Fairey Monarch H24 engines and Maritime Patrol equipment. First flight of this aircraft will follow as quickly as possible after the first protype.

    Next on the agender specification 10/36 for a Torpedo/Reconnaissance bomber land plane. Two aircraft have been ordered off the drawing board to fulfil this requirement. Firstly, an order for 78 Bristol Beauforts with Bristol with Perseus VI engines and secondly 248 Blackburn B-26 Botha I aircraft again powered by the Perseus VI engine developing 840hp at take of. Due to changes in the specification since the placing of orders both design teams have expressed concerns that the aircraft are overweight and under powered. The provision of more powerful engines will exacerbate the weight problems and both designs will need to be reviewed. This is especially the case with the B-26 Prototype which is actually schedule to be the first production aircraft. Bristol’s progress on these aircraft will need to be monitored carefully to avoid delays and mitigate the design risk.

    Next on the agenda were the Heavy and Medium Bomber specifications, B,12/36 and P16/36 respectively. Prior to the meeting there had been much discussion of the limits put on these designs regarding wing span and take off runs. Also the use of catapult or trolley launching to achieve overload take off wights to increase range and bomb loads would have a detrimental effect on structural weight thereby having a negative effect on the performance in normal load configuration. Concern had been expressed that the wing span of aircraft was being artificially limited (as seen also in specification B.1/34) this was seen to be an attempt to limit the all up weight which along with the weight added by the assisted take off requirement was seen to be compromising the design unnecessarily. Also limiting the length of take off run thereby necessitating expensive development of catapult or trolley launch systems seemed a false economy.

    Sir Phillip quoted the AMRD, as stating that “Aerodromes should be made larger, the size of the aerodromes was a limiting factor in the development of better aircraft. We were handicapping ourselves in a way no other nation would allow itself to be handi-capped’.

    Using money to purchases larger airfields and therefore expanding the capabilities of the large bomber aircraft was recommend.

    Turning to Short’s initial response to the B13/36 specification which was the S29 using basically the same wing platform as the Sunderland flying boat then under development. This wing had a span of more than 100ft. Using an existing wing design would save time on both the wing and the production jigs. Sir Arthur recommended keeping the large un-restricted bomb bay even of the torpedo dropping requirement was discontinued as it would assist in minelaying and other task requiring large bombs. Additionally any requirement for assisted launch would be deleted to save weight with the money saved from not building of the catapult/trolley launch system being plowed into larger airfields. Sir Phillip apologized for the unintended pun.

    The decision to rework the Hadley page design to P16/36 from a twin engine to a four engine design caused some heated debate. The use of four engines in the 1000/1500 Hp class was seen as less of an engineering risk than having another design reliant on the untired 2000Hp class engines.

    It was noted that with so many protypes and trials aircraft due to arrive at Mastleon Heath both the staff and facilities at the test facility would need to be expanded.

    Sir Arthur Dowding confirmed that the RN was placing a contract for Folland aircraft to design a naval fighter using the Alvis Pelides engine. This fighter design would be armed with 20mm cannons from outset. with work commencing in January 1937 Sir Arthur stated that the prototype Folland Naval Fighter should be flying in the first quarter of 1938.

    At a private meeting Later Sir Hugh Dowding confirmed to both Sir Phillip and Sir Edward Ellington that the Biggen Hill experiments had demonstrated that it was possible and practical to use RDF to direct fighters to intercept attacking Bombers. Major-General E.B. Ashmore who was one of Sir Phillip’s “Council of Elders” had already confirmed as much. Tizard, Ashmore and Dowding all advocated that a version of the Biggen Hill experiments should be carried out for Night interception 1.5 at the earliest opportunity the hardware development permitted. Only then could the practical problems be addressed including the OR. For a radar equipped night fighter.

    Discussions then centre on the events in the Spanish civil war. The involvement of both German and Italian forces and the bombing of Madrid were of great concern. It was agreed that as much information as possible must be garnered regarding the air operations being carried out by both sides.
     
    The Butterflies Start To Hatch
  • Here is a re-write of Part 4.01 to correct a big error on my part.

    Part 4.01 The Butterflies start to hatch. Version 2

    Morris industries pulling out of aero engine construction had ramifications. Sir Phillip was not to concerned, Lord Nuffield had been offered the hispano 12Y licence but had turned it down (fearful perhaps that it would be competing with the RR engines that were already established). To ease things Sir Phillip was instructed by the cabinet that Morris industries were to be given the contract for a large aircraft factory at castle Bromwich. Sir Phillip was absolutely determined that the big Castle Bromwich factory which was scheduled to build both bombers and Spitfires, would build the latter as a priority and the contract would have stringent milestones and serious penalties for any failure to meet them, the ultimate sanction being the removal of control of the factory back to the AM.

    The first production Battles from Fairey’s factory were due in June 1937 with Austin owned factory at Coften Hacket entering production within a year.

    By Easter Martlesham Heath was getting very busy, The Blackburn Skua had first flown in February and was now at Martlesham Heath, as was Fareys P4/34 after it’s first flight on January 14th.The Hawker Henley had not flown till the 10th of March but had joined the others after an accelerated test program.Sir Phillip was absolutely determined that the big Castle Bromwich factory which was scheduled to build both bombers and Spitfires, would build the latter as a priority and the contract would have stringent milestones and serious penalties for any failure to meet them, the ultimate sanction being the removal of control of the factory back to the AM.

    These were all carrying out comparative trials along with one of the prototype battles and a Hurricane. The Vickers Vemon was also present to give comparative performance trails. The Miles Kestrel was due to fly in early May and would join the flight line as soon as possible. There was a steady stream of new prototypes due at Martlesham for the rest of the year. Amongst these was the DH Don, the first flight of which took place in June, Initial reports of the test flights were not favourable.

    By The end of July AM Sir Charles Burnett as head of Training Command consulted with Sir Phillip on the Orders for Training aircraft that were now becoming critical. On advice from the AM for Research and Development Sir Charles was proposing to cancel the Don after the last protype. He was aware that an order for 250 had already been placed. His proposal was to order additional Airseed Oxfords which would be available by the end of the year and to write a specification for a Modified Miles Kestrel as an Advance trainer. Whilst a prototype to the new specification he was proposing an order for sufficient Kestrels to be build to provide conversion training of Squadron pilots for the new Hurricane due to enter service later in the year. Pilots would currently simply be shown the “Taps” and sent of solo in the Hurricane having previously only flown biplanes with fixed under carriage. The Kestrel would give the RAF a modern dual seat monoplane with flaps and retractable undercarriage with a performance not far below that of the hurricane. By the time freshly Trained pilots finished their ab initio training the New Miles Master trainer based on the Kestrel should be in service.


    Also forming at Martlesham was a dedicated RDF development flight. This would originally made up of four Avro Ansons with other types being assigned as they became available. The boffins a Bawdsey manor were eager to get a couple of the new Battles or Blenhiems to give them a higher performance group of aircraft. This was especially to advance the work on ADF 1.5 and 2.


    Initial reports from Follond at his new company British Marine Aircraft where that the design work on the new N1/37 fighter design was progressing very rapidly and work on two prototypes would commence by the end of the second quarter of 1937. As long as air worthy engines were available from Alivis and Bristols by the end of the third quarter then the first flight of both prototypes should be achieved before the new year.

    Gloster’s were under pressure to get both their two F4/34 prototypes flying by mid-summer. For Bristol Mercury powered version was actually flying in May but the second prototype might have to wait for it’s Alvis, which although passing a 100 hour ground test had not yet flown. A Fairy battle was being pulled from the production line to use as a flying test bed but this was far from ideal. Gloster’s new Chief designer W.G. Carter was working on completing the design of the turreted night started by Folland to specification F34/35. With turreted fighter designs falling out of favour under Sir Phillips control of the AM, Glosters were informed that specification F34/35 would be superseded by another specification for a two seat day/night fighter with either twin Bristol Taurus or twin Alvis Pelides engines. Therefore the order for the prototype K8625 was transferred to the new aircraft. Operational Requirement OR49 and Specification F9/37 for a twin seat RDF equipped fighter armed with four 20mm cannons was issued to Gloster’s on June 1st 1937. Bristol Aircraft were sent a copy of OR.49 and requested to submit a design proposal.

    after the Meeting in February when decisions such as RDF 1.5 had been made, that decision had ruffled some feathers and Sir Phillip suspected that he might have stirred up a problem for later, “Taffy” Bowen and his small team at Bawdsey Manor had made great strides. In that they had settled on a wave length of 6.5m for RDF1.5 and had refined the transmitter into a rotating aerial mounted on a low tower approximately equal in height to that of the white tower at Bawdsey.

    At a meeting to discuss all the RDF developments at Bawday in May 1937 Rowe remarked that a 6.7meter wave length RDF unit would be able to detect an aircraft flying at 3000ft at a range of 80 miles if situated 120 ft above the horizon. Though RDF 1.5 was not limited by this horizon as the receiver in the aircraft would be above 120ft the range of the receiver was limited by the arial size on the aircraft and strength of the return from the target. Hence having a 360 degree radar to search for targets and the have a controller direct the RDF equipped fighter to within the detection range of the receiver on the aircraft was a vital part of the system.

    Watson Watt further advised that the 6.7 Meter wave length was the shortest one proposed for use in the CH RDF system so that aircraft fitted with RDF1.5 could use RDF1 transmitters to hunt for targets offshore and RDF1,5 transmitters could provide warning of aircraft flying below the minimum detection height attained by CH stations though the 1.5 RDF units would need a horizon height of 120 feet if they were to achieve a detection range of 80 miles, the lower the transmitter height the lower the detection range for a ground based receiver.

    It was at this meeting that Sir Hugh Dowding outlined to the gathered scientists his conception of a twin engine two seat cannon armed night fighter as being proposed via the AMRD in the soon to be issued OR.49 and invited comments or suggestions from the RDF scientists, particularly the articulate “Taffy” Bowen as the lead scientist in the RDF 1.5 and 2 team. Later after Sir Hugh had departed Sir Phillip spent a pleasant evening sitting on the lawn at Bawdsey watching the staff play cricket as the assembled scientists, technicians and engineers continued to discuss ideas and problems with him.
     
    The Butterflies stretch their wings.
  • Part 4.02 The Butterflies stretch their wings.

    Sir Phillip now had to tackle a very tricky problem and that was who was to become Chief of the Air Staff when Sir Edward Ellington retired in September. The problem was complicated by the fact that the next most senior serving officer in the RAF was Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding who many expected to be Sir Edward’s natural successor. Unfortunately, that assumption left Sir Phillip in a bit of a quandary as it was glaringly obvious to him that at this time Sir Hugh was far too valuable moulding Fighter Command into a comprehensive air defence system based on RDF. Further Sir Phillip was not convinced that Sir Hugh would thrive in the role of CAS as he shunned ‘politking’ and seemed to lack that ruthless streak required to side line deadwood . With what seemed an intractable problem to solve Sir Phillip decided to act divisively and openly inviting Sir Hugh for a private discussion at which he laid his cards on the table. Here he set out the options he had as he saw them;-

    A, Pass sir Hugh over for another Officer as CAS.

    B, Possibly persuade Sir Cyril to stay on for another year whilst Sir Hugh groomed his successor at Fighter Command.

    C, Appoint another Officer solely as a seat warmer until Sir Hugh had got Fighter Command to a condition where he could leave it.

    D, appoint Sir Hugh as CAS and hope that whoever was put in charge of Fighter Command would not ruin it.

    Sir Phillip and Sir Hugh then commenced a very candid and forthright discussion on the practicalities and the merits of each option. Sir Hugh was the first to agree that a change of Command at this juncture would be very detrimental to the progress being made with RDF and Fighter Command. Both options C and D seemed attractive but as Sir Hugh pointed out he was only one year into his normal term of command and it was quite likely that he would need to remain in his post for that full term. That would seem to preclude option B and option C to Sir Hugh seemed to be a very poor choice for the good of the RAF in strained circumstance prevailing. Staying in his current post for two years or longer would take Sir Hugh past his normal retirement age and therefore preclude him from ever being CAS and Sir Phillip understood how galling this might be. Reluctantly they agreed that another officer should be appointed and Sir Hugh would accept this for the good of the service he also acceded to Sir Phillips request that if asked he would remain in post beyond his normal retirement age to complete the RDF/Fighter Control project. However reluctantly Sir Hugh acquiesced to the situation he at least had certainty as to the rest of his career and a hand shake from sit Phillip that when Sir Hugh eventually hung up his brass hat he would be promoted to the Rank of Marshal of the RAF, the first officer not to be CAS to be given the rank. So it was that Sir Cyril Newall became the CAS designate.



    The first flight of the De Haviland Albatross four engine passenger plane had given Sir Phillip and Air Marshall Winifrid Freedman AMR&D an opportunity to visit De Haviland and to look at their works in progress. Here the Flamingo Drawings and protype construction were discussed, as a result of this De Haviland were asked to urgently present a modified design at the same time as the AM were writing a OR and a specification base on the modifications suggested. Once an agreement on the modified design could be reach De Haviland were to build the prototype as quickly as possible. The wooden construction of the Albatross was remarked upon as it was an alternative if wartime supplies of aluminium ran short.

    Flight testing a Martlesham was showing how disadvantaged the Skua was by its low cruising and top speed. The superiority in this regard shown by the Hawker Henley was quite marked. Mock attacks by the Vemon and Hurricane prototypes armed with camera guns on the Fairey Battle and Blenheim had given very useful data for analysis comparing the time on target and the ability of the fighters to make multiple attacks. A number of important factors and limitations were noted but over all the consensus was that a single seat fighter could achieve success against a bomber and number of fighters could simultaneously attack a formation of bombers and thereby split their defensive fire. Using the Skua as a stand in for the Roc the same tests showed up some glaring deficiencies in the Rocs capabilities, particularly it’s inability to actually catch a fleeing bomber. It was agreed that as soon as the Defiant turreted fighter was available further trials with more aircraft should be carried.

    The FAA Pilots assigned to test the Skua’s dive bombing prowess were returning to the airfield with smiles and bragging rights. The ability to consistently drop 500lb bombs within a cruiser sized area marked by flags was remarkable. This was further emphasized when the Battle and Blenhiem using the course correcting bombsight made level bombing runs at various heights between six and ten thousand feet. To say the results were scattered was being kind to the RAF pilots and crews, who ended up having to buy the FAA guys a lot of beer.

    In early July a Alvis Pelides engine was first flown on a Fairy Battle and an exhaustive program of testing was undertaken. The success of the early trial with the engine reproducing the power levels achieved on the test stand was encouraging and a pre-production batch of engines was assembled with engines being certified for flight trials sent to a number of manufacturers.

    Having got over the perceived slight of having their design criticised Richard Fairey and his chief designer Captain Archibald Graham Forsyth have redrawn the engine castings and the first trials engines are being assembled. Unfortunetly the test stand at Fairey’s is only capable of taking one half of the engine. Sir Phillips suggests development would be better served by either funding a new test stand or co-opting the use of another facility capable of testing the entire engine.

    Meanwhile at Bawdsey the speed of development was if anything increasing by Mid 1937 with the Government approval for the construction of the full CH the number of scientists and engineers at Bawdsey had pass 150 mark and would pass the 200 mark in early 1938. With new aerials and research buildings and additional support staff the place was a hive of activity. Sir Phillip was in discussions with both the Treasury and the Minister for Coordination of Defence over the future shape and control of RDF Research and Development in Great Britain. The other important topic of discussion with Inskip as MCoD was the integration and co-ordination of the separate RDF research being carried out by the RN and War Department. Bawdsey was seen as an AM fiefdom and the other services feared losing control and focus on the developments to solve their RDF requirements if everything was under AM control. All this was leading towards the setting up of a separate Directorate for RDF Research and Development.
     
    5.01 The Butterflies Gather
  • Part 5.01 The Butterflies Gather.

    At the start of 1938 Sir Phillip and the Airstaff once again reviewed all the specifications and development work carried out in the previous year. To see how that related to the OR’s and Specifications in the pipe line and those protypes already being constructed. Just looking at the sheer number of specifications issued in the years since 1934 showed an incredible number and variety of designs and projects, the majority of which fell by the wayside. On the other hand the increasing urgency of enlarging the air force was also reflected in the increasing number of production specifications issued.

    1934 27 specifications issued, 17 for new types 20 for production.

    1935 41 specifications issued, 34 for new types 7 for production.

    1936 47 specifications issued, 19 for new types 28 for production.

    1937 42 specifications issued, 24 for new types 31 for production.

    These figures made Sir Phillip enquire whether the RAF and hence the AM was tending towards quantity rather than quality. How many of those designs proposed were very close to ones built to a different OR. The Number of new types entering service in 1937 and those being trialled at Martlesham Heath certainly made impressive reading but were they the right aircraft.

    The returns for aircraft being test flown for trials and evaluation as set out in the official reports from Martlesham were impressive in their sheer number if nothing else.

    Aircraft arriving at Martlesham for Protype and Production trials in 1937.



    Blackburn Skua first flight 9th of February 1937 Blackburn Rock order April 1937

    The Hawker Henley first Flew on the 10th of March, 1937.

    Miles Magister First flight 20th of March 1937

    Miles Kestrel first flight May 1937

    Gloster F4/34 first flight early May 1937 at Martlesham for trials by mid July. Second prototype flight delayed waiting for flight worthy Bristol Taurus angine.

    De Haviland Moth Minor, first flight 22nd of June1937.

    De Haviland Don first flight June 1937 (250 ordered of the drawing board Order suspended August 1937)

    Airspeed Oxford first flight 19th of June 1937 entered service November 1937.

    De Haviland Albatross first flight in August 1937.

    Bolton and Paul Defiant first flight 11th of August 1937

    Vicker Venon type 279 first flight 17th of June 1936 no orders protype retained by AM for trials at Martlesham heath.

    Follond NF1 first flight 15th November Flown to Martlesham December 1st.

    Sunderland first flight 14 of October 1937

    Bristol 148 first flight 15of October 1937, K6551 Mercury engine, later swapped for an Alvis Pelides engine. K6553 Taurus engine first flight schedule for May 1938 due to Taurus engine delays

    Handley Page H.P.52 Hampden 9th of November 1937 Martlesham for trials

    First Production standard Wellington flight 23 of December 1937 (Vickers type 271 Wellington first flight 15th June 1936)


    As for aircraft entering service in 1937 the list was an impressive, eight different types. Of these Sir Phillip had been informed, two were at best obsolescent and three were training aircraft. So that left three of what could be called front line aircraft types entering service .

    Hadley page Harrow enters service 13th of January 1937

    Gloster Gladiator deliveries commence 16th of February 1937

    Bristol Blenheim deliveries commenced on 10 March 1937

    Fairy Battle entry into service June 1937

    Miles Magister in service October 1937

    Airspeed Oxford in service November 1937

    Miles Kestrel Deliveries commence November 1937 in limited numbers only.

    Hawker Hurricane Deliveries commence December1937



    Could the RAF do better by reducing the variety of types of aircraft and concentrating on the best. The debate grew quite heated and it was quite surprising when Sir Cyril Newall closed the debate by stating that however carefully Sir Wilfred Freeman and his department worked to produce the best new designs they could no one could really determine their worth till they had been used in earnest. Though Sir Cyrill did not say that he advocated Great Britain getting involved in the Spanish Civil War he did comment that the RAF was only learning second hand lessons whilst both the Germans and the Italians were gaining first hand experience. Which would inform their future designs and tactics.

    In January the order was confirmed for 200 Hawker Henleys built at the Hucclecote factory of Gloster aircraft. These aircraft were to be built to a revised specification as ground attack bombers and to have the same outer wing as a standard Hurricane but initially only two machine guns in each wing. Trials were on going to finalise the bomb load but this would include the capacity for a 500lb bomb on the centreline and fittings for a single bomb up to 250lb under each wing. This would necessitate some redesign of the bomb bay and wing which was being undertaken jointly by the design teams at both Kingston and Hucclecote.

    January 1938 and 111 Squadron becomes the first Fighter Command Squadron to convert to the Hurricane. This was much eased by having a training flight of the new Miles Kestrels with instructors attached for conversion training. All the pilots commented on the huge difference between flying their open cockpit fixed undercarriage biplane Gauntlets and the sleek Kestrels. The pilot's smiles after their first solo flights in the Hurricane had to be seen to be believed. The radical intervention by Sir Phillip to halt the Gladiator production after the first batch of aircraft and not place any further orders meant that the first Gladiator was delivered on the 16th of February 1937 and the last by the end of 1937 and totalled 252 aircraft. This enabled the Hucclecote factory to move onto constructing Hurricanes and later mix these with Henleys until the Hawker expansion factory at Langley entered serial production. The first Hucclecote built Hurricanes were expected by Easter 1938 and the Henley shortly thereafter. Under Pressure from Sir Phillip, Hawker Aircraft upon the departure of Follond as head designer at Gloster Aircraft had slowly started to integrate the capacity of the two design teams, This process was rather marred by Hawkers insistence on still keeping two separate design offices, One at Kingston and the other at Hucclecote. Howether whilst one office would be the lead design office on a project, work could be assigned to designers at either one. The design team at Glosters was currently concentrating on getting their new designs and prototypes airborne at the earliest opportunity.
     
    5.02 The Butterflies Get Stronger
  • Part 5.02 The Butterflies get stronger.

    In the same month a very perturbed Sir David Randall Pye, who had recently taken over as Chief Scientific officer at the AM, requested an immediate meeting with Sir Phillip to discuss urgent matters pertaining to ongoing Research and Development.

    The gist of the matter seemed to be interference in the research and development work by the British Security Services. Sir David illustrated two particularly frustrating cases. Firstly, there was the RDF 1.5 and RDF 2 projects at Bawdsey Manor. Apparently from late 1936 all of ‘Taffy’ Bowen’s teams work had been reliant upon a single receiver chassis originally built by EMI as part of their Television research and acquired by ‘Taffy’ Bowen by means unknown. Since then all efforts to get further chassis from EMI had been thwarted.

    Apparently the Secruruty Services were concerned that the American engineers working in their laboratories might steal the RDF designs, despite EMI’s assertations that no foreign national would have access to work done for the AM. There was a similar situation at Metrepolita-Vickers but that appeared to have been resolved so why not at EMI? Sir David stated that the Security Services seemed more concerned by the possibility of our erstwhile allies gaining information than a belligerent nation bombing the British people to pieces. Sir David bemoaned the delays that this was causing as currently the one receiver unit had to be moved from aircraft to aircraft as required and never mind the consequences if it was damaged or even destroyed.

    Sir David also commented that Bawdsey Manor were able to get supplies of American made Westinghouse ‘Acorn’ and ‘Doorknob’ valves so why the problem with EMI? The Other security problem was with Power Jets, where the application of the official secrets act was hampering the attainment of outside investment. Unless a way was found to enable adequate explanation to potential investors of the application and business potential of the jet engine then the Treasury would have to step in to provide the shortfall in funding or development would be invariable slowed.

    Sir Phillip undertook to raise the problem with both the Prime Minister and the relevant Security Chiefs strait away but he did ask whether discreet enquiries had been made with the BBC at television studio Alexandra Palace as to which British companies were developing television receivers, to see if they had or could built a suitable receiver chassis.

    Sir Phillip raised the issue at his next meeting with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister enquires had had an a immediate effect when some very shady looking gentlemen arrived unannounced at Bawdsey Manner and delivered half a dozen new EMI receiver chassis to Sir David Pye. His enquires via the BBC had some success when it was suggested that Sir Phillip should contact B J Edwards of the Pye Radio Company. By one of those sometime serendipitous coincidences on the very same day ‘Taffy’ Bowan had received a note from his old Cambridge professor, Edward Appleton, that he should visit the same company who were based in Cambridge. Upon arranging a visit ‘Taffy” discovered that the Pye company had literally dozens of 45/Mc/s TRF receiver chassis and were setting up a production line for their proposed television set. In one fell swoop the delays in series testing of 1.5m RDF 1.5 and of the air interception radar RDF 2 had been overcome.

    Sir David in discussion with ‘Taffy’ Bowan came to the conclusion that they should be in a position to carry out test interceptions with RDF 1.5 by May with RDF2 tests being possible by mid summer. One possibility ‘Taffy’ Bowan wanted to investigate was whether there was an advantage in fitting a night fighter with a combination of RDF1.5 and 2. Early Trials had shown that RDF 1.5 could locate an aircraft at ten miles or more if the illuminating ground radar was suitably located but homing in for the final attack was problematical. He surmised that the stronger signal at close range from RDF2 might give better definition and permit guidance to within cannon range or about 1000ft.

    Squadron Leader Hart and his research team ( known at Bawdsey Manor as the ‘Operational research’ team because they worked on how the RDF was employed rather than its hardware) at Bawdsey Manor had sent his report regarding the table top and paper trial exercise carried out to use the RDF 1.5 and the RDF 2 systems to achieve nigh time interceptions. The conclusions were that providing there was sufficient inland coverage on the 1’5m wave length by enough stations an Aircraft fitted with RDF 1.5 could fly a standing patrol and be vectored into the path of approaching hostile aircraft by the CH system now being built. If RDF2 was solely being used then controllers using the 1.5m wavelength RDF system were required to control and vector each fighter towards the hostile intruder aircraft. The report also noted that the requirements for the 1.5m RDF 1.5 units were very similar to those set out for the RDF sets required to fill ‘the low level gap’ in the CH system as well as the proposed Coastal Defence(CD) RDF system. It was suggested that a coordinated development should be under taken to avoid duplication of work and waste of resources.

    This helped to confirm in Sir Phillips mind that there needed to be a major overhaul of the control of RDF research and development. Currently it was simply run as just another program under the control of Sir Wilfred Freeman as AMR&D and as of this juncture the stewardship of Watson Watt. Sir Phillips propose to set up a new Directorate to be known as the Directorate of Communications Development at the Air Ministry. The new directorate would take responsibility for all RDF research, Design and construction of the RDF apparatus, design and construction of all RDF sites and communications systems. This administration function was currently being done directly from Bawdsey Manor and was interfering with the research and development work. Sir Phillip sought to being it into the AM where there was more existing infrastructure for administration.

    Of course the Treasury object at the cost, even complaining that the only viable candidate to lead this new directorate would have to be promoted above other more senior to him and given a higher salary. With the backing of the Minister for Coordination of defence the objections of the treasury were overruled. In early 1938 Watson Watt handed over the daily control of Bawdsey to his assistant Rowe and departed for Whitehall. One of the objections to the promotion of Watson Watt to Director was his apparent management deficiencies and his lack of seniority in the civil service, the intervention of Sir Maurice Hankey as Cabinet and IDC sectary was used to over rule such impediments. At Sir Inskip’s suggestion, welcomed by Sir Phillip and Particularly Sir Arthur Dowding, who had been battling the insularity and prejudice of his own service to instigate a collaborative effort, the RN and WD were instructed to send suitable senior representatives to work at the new directorate on the coordination of the combined efforts of development require with RDF research. The Army had had a research section working at Bawdsey Manor since the middle of 1937 but the Admiralty Signal School at Portsmouth had resolutely ploughed their own furrow. That was to end immediately and all RDF and associated development was to shared openly by all three services or Sir Inskip would want to know why and heads would roll.
     
    5.03 The Butterflies Falter Slightly
  • Part 5.03 The Butterflies falter slightly.


    As to progress at Power Jets, Sir Phillip had already done battle with the Treasury over adequate funding and the purse strings had been eased at least to match the funding given to Metropolitan-Vickers. Power Jets had made steady progress and after the burn out of their first concept engine Whittle had moved on to build a full scale engine test engine with multiple burner cans. This was due to start testing soon but Whittle was realistic in how long it would take to develop the design to the point where a flight worthy example could be produce. He stated however that what he was aiming to achieve with this ground test engine was sufficient thrust for a powered aircraft and sufficient reliability to prove the viability of a flight worthy engine.

    Engines were, it seemed taking up an inordinate amount of Sir Phillip’s and the AM time. His latest meeting with Earnest Hives from RR had been encouraging regarding the Merlin but the lack of progress with the Peregrine and the Vulture was a worry as there were a number of projects relying on those engines. Currently RR were working on the, Peregrine, Vulture, Exe and Griffin, as well as continued development of the Merlin. Combine this with the efforts to get the new plant at Crewe on line and plan for the Glasgow factory Sir Phillip was convinced that RR was especially, on the engineering front overextended. In his opinion some hard discussions over what to cut would have to take place and decisions made soon.

    The News from Bristol’s was no better the Taurus was showing an alarming propensity to turn itself into molten scrap and the Hercules was faring little better. The problems with both the Peregrine had implications for the Whirlwind, whilst the Taurus would effect, The Beufort, The Gloster F5/34 now christened the Guardian, The Gloster F9/37 and the Navy’s Albacore. Further they had planned to re-engine the Bristol 148 with a Taurus engine for comparative trials which were apparently of great interest to Sir Arthur Dowding and Naval Aviation team.

    With Armstrong Siddley Motors (ASM) still having serious problems with all their dog series of inline radial engines (dog by name dog by nature) ASM’s Dearhound motor had been in design and development since 1935 and as of early 1938 had failed to pass a single test. Lt. Col. F. L. R. Fell, the head designer admitted that the engine would need a complete redesign if it was to ever produce its forecasted output of 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) the engine displaced 2,330 cu in (38.18 L). The Col wanted to produce a liquid cooled engine but the board of ASM insisted on air cooling only. Alvis had the Pelides in limited production as they prepared to ramp up production and further the first hand built Alcides were doing well on the test stand and a pair were due to be test flown before Easter.
    The development of this large capacity engine 54.24 litres had been remarkably quick. This had been much facilitated by the simple fact that it’s 18 cylinders not only shared the same 146mm bore as the 14 cylnder Pelides but also the entire cylinder head, valves, OH. camshaft, camshaft drive and cylinder. The difference in stroke between the two engines was 180mm for the Alcides and 165mm for the Pelides, this difference being accommodated by the longer steel cylinder liners used on the Alcides. On the test stand the un-super charged Alcides was getting close to it’s calculated rated horse power of 1300 and had attained a maximum of 1500Hp. These power figures were based on rated altitude of 5,000 and would need to be verified by flight testing. The supercharged version known as the Alcides Major should be able to achieve a rated power of 1225 Hp at 13,000 ft with a maximum pawer of 1,375Hp. Weighing 1,645 pounds and with a diameter of 55.5 inches the Alcides was a big engine but comparable with the Bristol Hercules on all important parameters. So as to not interrupt Alvis in getting the Pelides into series production in their factory the Alcides production would be undertaken by Armstong Siddley. All AM funding for the dog series of engines would be transferred to the Alcides development.

    RR’s problems with the Vulture would effect both the Hawker Tornado, Martin Baker MB3 and the Manchester. With the Sabre engine doing well on the test stand Sir Phillip could only hope that it could be got into production sooner rather than later. As an alternative he would request that both Avro and Hawker take a look at substituting the Fairey Monarch for the RR Vulture. Now the trick was to find substitute for the other engine type causing problems. The Beufort could take the Alvis Pelides (the Bristol Cousins not withstanding) and the Albacore could as well if needed. The Gloster Guardian and the Bristol 148 like wise could take the Alvis engine. Being just a bit lighter than the Follond NF1 the Guardian had the margin on performance. The test pilots at Martlesham were comparing the difference between the two aircraft performance as on par with that between the Spitfire and the Hurricane. The Gloster F9/37 could also be adapted to take the Alvis Pelides. The problem would be ensuring sufficient production at both Alvis and Fairey’s to supply this increased demand if and when these aircraft entered service. So early in 1938 the staff at the AM were burning the midnight oil seeking solutions to the engine production back log.
     
    5.04 The Travails Continue
  • Part 5.04 The Travails continue.

    The big summer exercise in 1938 was scheduled to be the first true large scale test of the new RDF interception system and Fighter Command. Also being put through their paces would be the first few. squadrons of the new RAF bombers. The Tactical air component would exercise with the army on manoeuvres on Salisbury plain to a plan devised by Group Captain Slessor. Whilst the strategic bombing component under the command Sir Edger Ludlow-Hewitt, Head of Bomber Command carry out a series of long range bombing attacks by both day and night. The day raids would be routed so as to exercise the new RDF chain Home stations and Fighter Command operations room. At Martlesham Heath the testing of aircraft was proceeding at an unrelenting pace. The FAA pilots were conduction take off trials whereby they marked out with flags a dummy flight deck and then took off with various all up weights and measured the take-off length. To simulate various apparent wind speeds along a flight deck the aircraft was taxied to the first set of flags at a set speed (to simulate the wind over the deck) and the throttles then opened up. Whilst not a hundred percent accurate analogy for the apparent wind over deck it was close enough for comparative tests to take place. The FAA even manage to co-opt the RAF pilots doing load trials on aircraft such as the Henley and Battle to do their take offs from the dummy deck to add to the data. The data collected was used to compile a comparative table of engine power, wing area, all up weight and take off run.

    The Trialling of RDF 1.5 was also scheduled as part of the planned summer exercises where a pair of Blenheims fitted with 1.5m wavelength RDF receivers would be directed onto the RAF bombers taking part in the bombing exercises. Squadron Leader Hart thought that the two available ground stations using 1.5m RDF transmitters might be sufficient for these trials but the inability to differentiate between enemy and friendly aircraft would making guiding interceptions at night very difficult. Squadron leader Hart and his team were working on calculating the number of ground station needed to give adequate cover for both RDF 1.5 very experimental RDF2 also known as AI (air interception) currently being constructed and fitted into another Blenhiem MkI. Each of the Blenheims assigned to the RDF flight at Martlesham had to first go to the AEE at Farnborough to have heir wiring harness upgrade to suppress the inherent radio noise the standard system produced which created electrical interference with the RDF sets, all this took valuable time.



    Having comprehensively wrecked the work of the CSSOAO Professor Lindeman had managed with the help of Churchill via the Air Defence sub-committee of the IDC gain backing and finance (funding of course being diverted from the AM) for his pet scheme of the aerial mine barrage. Proffessor Lindeman was conducting the development work himself and had confidently predicted that he could carry out the first trials before the end of April. The original aerial mine known as the ‘short’ mine had weighed only three pounds and was suspended from a three foot diameter parachute on 100ft of steel wire, the mine itself contained only four ounces of explosive. After no less than 64 test flights this design had been abandoned when it was shown that it was unlikely to cause sufficient damage to a modern bomber to bring it down. The new mine weighed 15 pounds and contained two charges attached by wire, each charge weighing one pound. Churchill kept using the threat of using Parliamentary privilege to expose the development of RDF in an attack on the government over the speed of rearming as a means of gaining both influence and concessions. To help contain Churchill, Sir Maurice Hankey had complied a dossier of some 24 pages documenting from as far back as before the Great War how poor Churchill’s record as Government Minister had been at running military research programmes. This file was held by the Cabinet sectary in case it was needed.

    On the 11th of March German forces entered Austria and the annexation of that nation into a greater Nazi state became inevitable. Again on the 14th of March Winston Churchill rose and addressed the House of Commons. In a forthright Speech Churchill warns again of the unpreparedness of the nation in the face of a slow and inevitable descent into another European conflict. He specifically drew attention to the perilous position in which the state of Czechoslovakia now found itself. Calling once more fo the Government and the Nation to hasten the pace of rearmament and to seek allies bound by treaty to oppose the aggression of a resurgent Germany.


    With the first Defiant prototype flying in mid 1937 and the second one being built with the turret fitted one was ready in early 1938 to undergo initial flight trials. Trials had been completed on the first prototype including ballasting for the alternative four cannon armament it was found that the new armament would actually lighten the air craft by between 750 and 1000 pounds compared with the turreted version, depending on the weight of the belt feed system. Subject to these findings the first prototype K8310 was sent back to Bolton and Paul to be rebuilt to the four cannon configuration with all service equipment. Both K8310 and the second prototype K8620 were scheduled to be at Martlesham for trails by May.

    Down in Hampshire Follond’s factory on the Hamble had commenced subcontract work from Supermarine on Spitfire MkI fuselages, the complicated wing structure would be made at Supermarine’s Woolston factory and subbing out some of the fuselage work to Follond gave them both the workforce and space to make more wings. At the same time Folland aircraft benefitted by being able to gain experience and train their workforce in alloy monocoque construction whilst they awaited confirmation hopefully from the RN for the FN1 fighter. Once both Wolston and Hamble had adjusted to the new work patterns, teams from Castle Bromwich would be sent to gain experience in constructing the Spitfire. These workers would form a core for the production staff at Castle Bromwich to help get production running smoothly once the big factory complex was ready for occupation.
     
    5.05 The Wings of Change Beat Stronger
  • Part 5. 05 the wings of change beat stronger.

    Spitfire production was running over eight months late, despite Supermarine and Vickers promising to complete the entire initial order within fourteen months of the contract being placed. As of the start of 1938 not a single production Spitfire had rolled out of the factory at Woolston. There were very dark mutterings within the walls of the Air Ministry that no further orders for Spitfires should be place after the initial batch of 310 aircraft was completed. Dissenting voices within the AM, especially the still vibrant bomber lobby were advocating that other aircraft should be built instead of the unbuildable Spitfire. The big four engine Supermarine bomber for instance, that was only slowly being developed due to all the effort going into solving the production problems of the Spitfire. Not withstanding this, under pressure from Minister for Coordination of Defence and Sir Phillip's insistance a follow up order for a further two hundered Spitfires was place on the 24th of March 1938.

    The situation with Supermarines at Woolston was not unique within the aircraft industry. Not only was there a huge expansion of capacity taking place but also a sea change in the materials and construction techniques being used. Having so many designs ordered strait from the drawing board was only exacerbating the problems as the shop floors were struggling to build prototypes and production jigs at one and the same time.

    It was becoming more and more apparent to the AM and Sir Phillip in particular that the control of production especially such issues as procuring sufficient labour and relationships with that workforce would become an increasing burden upon the AM. It had been suggested that the remit of Sir Wilfred Freeman should be increase from Research and Development to include responsibility for Aircraft production. After much discussion of the situation with Sir Wilfred and the CAS, during which, such difficulties as having a serving officer taking responsibility for assessing the contractual and commercial performance of the industry in the completion of their contractual obligations was considered, the conclusion was that the workload would be sufficient for an entire new Directorates and that the best option would be to have a serving MP at it’s head. This MP would also become the Deputy Air Minister to Sir Phillip so the candidate for the post would have to be very carefully selected. Any deficiencies of knowledge of the aeronautical industry of the new Air Member for Aircraft Production could be mitigated by ensuring that his staff did have such knowledge in spadesful.

    Sir Arthur Dowding had been very busy, having cancelled the Blackburn Roc and put the Fairey Albacore on hold there had been a reshuffling of work to keep everything flowing. To this end General Aircraft who were to build the main components of the Roc for supply to Boulton and Paul for assembly into complete aircraft, instead they would supply main components of the Skua to Bolton and Paul until such time as construction of Defiant’s commenced when the balance of components would be sent to Blackburn aircraft for completion. The order for the full 190 aircraft from Blackburn aircraft was due to be completed by September 1939. Sir Arthur and the Admiralty hoped by these measures to get more Shua’s into service earlier probably by the end of May. As Blackburn were due to commence production of the twin engine Botha torpedo/reconnaissance bomber any time saving was of benefit. Meanwhile Blackburn awaited the final decision as to which version, not both, of the Defiant they would finally build.

    Contract no 625954/37 was amended from 100 aircraft to specification 41/36 to a new specification, 0.8/38 for an interim torpedo bomber based on Fairey’s P4/34 prototype which could be brought into service quickly whilst the Barracuda to SpecificationS25/37 was designed and tested. The new Albacore was to be fitted with an engine in the 1,300hp plus class. The Navy had a preference for a radial but availability was the most important factor. The specified engine for the Barracuda was change from the RR Vulture to the Fairey Monarch. Despite Sir Arthur’s assistant Captain Slattery being utterly convinced that high performance single seat fighters such as the Folland ‘Fulmar’ (as it now called) the Hurricane and the Spitfire could be operated from the RN carriers there were still those who did not. This group insisted that a two seat fighter was required, Fairey’s had sketched such an aircraft based upon the P4/34. Captain Slattery had been quick to point out that this was nearly as large as a torpedo bomber. From that point Fairey,s worked on the P4/34 as a torpedo bomber.

    First indications coming from China were that the Japanese had fielded a new monoplane torpedo bomber with an engine in the 1000hp class. The Two seat fighter advocates would have to look for a new candidate for their fleet fighter.

    Upon further discussions with Rolls Royce in late February instructions were given to halt development of the Vulture engine, with the success of the Fairey monarch and the preproduction Napier Sabre engine running well and available as substitutes for the Vulture. There was confidence that this decision would not hinder the development of any aircraft currently slated to take the Vulture. Because the success of the Whirlwind design basically depended upon the Perigrine engine. RR were instructed to concentrate on solving that engines problems in preference to work on the Exe.
     
    5.06 The Butterflies Appear On The Flight Line
  • Part 5 0.6 The Butterflys appear on the flight line

    Over at Fighter Command there had been changes as well, Air Commodore Arthur Harris was due to take up the post of Senior Air Staff Officer Fighter Command in July 1938. Group Captain Keith Park was scheduled to go to Palestine. Unfortunately, in April Park was hospitalised with a case of acute streptococcal pharyngitis which rendered him unfit for overseas service, coupled with Harris pestering the CAS about sending him to serve somewhere tropical with his new wife. Sir Cyril Newall simply had the appointments swapped and a happy Sir Harris and his new wife disappeared of to Palestine.
    After a month on sick leave the newly promoted Air Commodore Park would arrive as the second in command of Fighter Command with responsibility for fighting efficiency. Having earlier in 1938 been flying Hawker Fury fighters as commander of Tangmere air station Park set out whilst still on leave to qualify to fly all the latest fighter aircraft either in service or proposed for Fighter Command. In short order Park had carried out a familiarisation flight in a Miles Kestrel and when he had flown solo in it had progressed on to fly a Hurricane and a Henley (at Hawker’s Great western Airfield), a Spitfire (at Eastleigh), a Folland Fulmar (the 2nd Prototype at Hamble) and at Martlesham both Defiant types, The Gloster Guardian and the little Vickers Vemon. The two aircraft on the south coast had been flown as an interluded during a weeks sailing whilst on sick leave. Hawker’s had been visited on his way to Martlesham and then onto Fighter Command headquarters at Bentley Priory in Stanmore to take up his post.

    Upon commencing work at Fighter Command headquarters Park quickly struck up a rapport with Sir Hugh Dowding. Having been to Martlesham on his ‘Flying Tour’ Keith Park soon returned there as part of a visit to Bawdsey Manor to learn about RDF and how Fighter Command would utilize the CH system then being constructed and commissioned. Whilst at Bawdsey Manor Park was introduced to ‘Taffy’ Bowen who briefed him on the progress with AI RDF1.5 and 2. Then Keith Park was taken for a flight in an Anson for a practical demonstration of both system. Before returning to Bentley Priory Squadron Leader Hart and his team in operational research illustrated the limitations of the current hardware and operating procedure and the difficulties that would need to be surmounted to arrive at an operational system. Air Commodore Keith Park returned to Bentley Priory with much to ponder on. if the CH system was showing promise and could provide the answer to daytime Bombers then the AI system was struggling valiantly to catch up in the night.

    At a meeting of the Air Council to consider which aircraft were to proceed to construction status and to adoption by the RAF a final decision on the production for the Bolton and Paul Defiant. The discussion on whether to proceed with the original turret fighter as conceived or to build the revised four cannon armed single seat fighter was to all intents and purpose resolved by Air Commodore Keith Park, whom Sir Hugh Dowding had arranged to attend the meeting, when he made the following observations having flown both version of the aircraft. Firstly the turret version only carried half the armament currently considered necessary to score a quick kill against an enemy bomber having only four rifle calibre machine guns against the eight carried by the Spitfire and Hurricane. Secondly unlike the Bristol fighter the success of which the turret fighter is supposed to emulate the defiant has no forward firing guns. Finally having flown in and seen combat in the Bristol Fighter during the Great War Park reiterated that most kills achieved by the Bristol Fighter were with the forward firing guns.

    With the shadow factory scheme for the increase in production going ahead another means of increasing capacity was considered. This was the use of subcontractors to build aircraft sections for later assembly into complete aircraft. For this purpose a specifications 17/38 and B.18/38 were issued for a twin engine reconnaissance bomber designed for rapid construction from nonstrategic materials by labour formerly unskilled in aircraft production. Two designs were considered, the Bristol Type 155 originally designed to specification B9/38 and a design designated D.H.97 from De Haviland. The B.18/38 specification was issued to Armstrong Whitworth for the development of the design from the Bristol type 155 optimised for subcontract construction from non strategic materials. De Haviland proposed their Modified D.H.95 Flamingo design that was due to have it’s first flight in June. The AM decision was to order the Armstrong Whitworth Albermarle off the drawing board. This aircraft was to use either the Bristol Hercules or the Alvis Maeonides two row radial engines. The D.H.95 Flamingo was being built to the specification 10/36 and that had not required and was not therefore optimised for sub contract and non strategic material construction.

    As scheduled in June the first prototype of the D.H. 95 Flamingo to specification 10/36 flew from the De Haviland Factory field ,This aircraft was powered by a pair of Alvis Pelides engines. The Flamingo was a modification of the private venture D.H.95 passenger aircraft modified to conform as closely as the existing De Haviland deign permitted to specification G.24/35 re issued as part of specification 10/36. To cope with the increase in weight that the design modifications would incur the engine had been changed from the original twin Bristol Perseus engines of 930 Hp each to twin Alvis Pelides engines of 1050Hp each. Initial flight testing by De Haviland indicated that the Flamingo would fulfil all the expectations of the AM. The single engine performance was particularly noted as the aircraft had the ability to climb away on a single engine once airborne from take off. With the concerns being expressed about the performance of the Blackburn Botha design, which was considered severely underpowered. Both the Beaufort and the Flamingo had been redesigned to take more powerful engine than the original 10/36 specification requested. A review was undertaken by the AEE, and the AMR&D and it was recommended that the Blackburn Botha be cancelled and the Brough factory turned over to the production of the De Haviland flamingo as The De Haviland factories were already working at very nearly their capacity.

    Despite a debate which at times became quite heated regarding the waste and potential delay into service, of the aircraft to fulfil specification 10/36, which would result from this late change the advantages of the De Haviland design and it’s larger engines finally held sway. Blackburn, who were by now getting fatally familiar with having their own designs cancelled and promptly replaced with the construction of another company’s design, figuratively speaking rolled up their sleeves and simply got on with the job, reassuring the AM that they would do all possible to have the first Flamingo entering service as soon as possible and the entire Order of 240 machines completed as quickly as the original schedule for the Botha.
     
    5.07 The Butterflies Start to Soar
  • Part 5.07 The Butterfly start to soar.

    Glosters F9/37 twin engine two seat fighter design had been modified to take twin Alvis Pelides engines, work on the first prototype had been completed and the first flight had taken place in early April. Company flight testing was proceeding well and the second Prototype with Peregrine engines was due to fly three months later provided the engine arrive on time,

    Bristol had responded to specification E11/37 for a twin engine fighter with four cannons mounted in a turret, with a design using as many components as possible from the Beaufort torpedo bomber designed to specification 10/36 but using the more powerful Hercules engines. Bristol was issued a specification F6/38 for a twin engine four cannon fighter similar to the F9/37 but using a turretless version of Bristol’s design response to specification E11/37. An order for four prototype aircraft Bristol type 159 was placed on the day of issuing the contract these aircraft were numbered R2052-R2055. The Bristol type 159 was given the name Beaufighter to recognise it’s design inheritance from the Beaufort.

    After much thought and discussion with his engineers Hive recommended that RR drop the Perigine rather than the EXE. His reasoning was that the Exe developed more horse power than the Perigine, was air cooled and could substitute for the Bristol Taurus engine. Earnest Hives did put on the rider that he estimated that building the first 250, 24 cylinder Exe engines would take the same resources as 1200 Merlin engines, though he did not put the same codicil on the cost of continuing the Perigrine. It was up to the AM to decide. Cancelling the Perigine would deprive the Whirlwind of it’d engine without a viable substitute other than the slightly heavier and more powerful Exe. Cancelling the Exe would leave the Blackburn B-20 looking for a substitute engine. At least there was the possibility of using the Exe as a substitute for the Bristol Taurus on aircraft such as the Gloster F9/37 and the Beaufort.

    Over at Westland Aircraft their chief designer W.E.Petter had been overseeing the final design and construction of the first prototype Whirlwind due to the problems with getting air worthy Perigrines from RR the first aircraft was given a pair of the most powerful Kestrel engines then available. Having sorted out the delays with the under carriage legs the aircraft began manufactures flight trials in January 1938. These were done with the aircraft flying light but with the correct centre of gravity. The primary purpose was to check the basic aircraft handling characteristics especially when the large fowler flap was used for landing. It very quickly became apparent that turbulence from the flap when it was deployed was causing buffeting on the tail surface and this was resulting in handling issues. Petter set out to remedy this and the aircraft was rebuilt with the tail plane raised to sit on the tail fin in a T-tail configuration. Whilst this work was being done a pair of handed, hand build Perigrine pre-production engines arrived and were fitted for when the trials would recommence again shortly before Easter. With about a fifty percent increase in the available power the Whirlwind had suddenly become a thoroughbred and even when fully ballasted to mimic a full war load of cannons and ammunition her performance was breath-taking. Unfortunately for such a thoroughbred she was lame far more often than not as the Peregrines continued to require undue nursing and certainly could not attain or sustain the full power they were designed to achieve for any length of time. On the plus side however the major handing issues had been cured but the aircraft did have a higher landing speed than desired.


    Before the late summer RAF exercises the RN held their summer exercises in the North Sea. HMS Couragous was scheduled to steam of the Suffolk coast for two days whilst the Folland Fulmar completed it’s deck landing trials. These trials consisted of landing on a clear deck using the arrestor wires and then after the aircraft had been re spotted at the aft end of the flight deck completing a free take off. After the first successful landing and take off was completed subsequent series were done at increasing aircraft weights and ship speeds to establish the aircraft deck landing limits. As there was some time between each sequence in each teast as the Fulmar returned to Martlesham to be reballasted for the next trial there was a considerable time between each landing sequence. This down time was utilised by the FAA test pilots to get one over on their RAF counter parts by deck landing various other high performance aircraft from the Martlesham test flight. The first of these was a standard Hurricane landed on sans tail hook at a ship speed of nearly thirty knots, the take off was done at the same ship speed utilising the whole length of the flight deck. Prior to landing on a sand bag of ballast was added aft of the COG to help keep the tail down under heavy braking if it was needed. The ballast bag was removed prior to the take off from the deck so as not to impede the raising of the tail as the aircraft gathered speed on the take off run. By the end of the first day they had witnessed not only a Hurricane land safely but also a Henley, the Bristol 148. The Fairey P4/34, Alabacore prototype and the Fairey battle/Monarch engine testbed. The highlight of the second day was the Supermarine test pilot Geoffrey Quill landing a production Spitfire onto the carrier and then taking off again. Geoffrey Quills method of a left handed curving approach to keep the flight deck in sight for as long as possible was written up in his subsequent report and would form the basis of the FAA standard landing technique until the advent of naval jets. Though Quill’s demonstration of the Spitfires capability was remarkable and only really achievable due to the apparent wind over the deck being recorded at some fifty miles an hour, it was the sight of the Bristol 148 seemingly hovering over the same deck as it demonstrated it’s superb low speed handling characteristic’s which caused most discussion. This aircraft capable of achieving nearly 300 mph could land in most conditions aboard the RN slowest aircraft carrier HNS Eagle and more importantly take off from same deck with a full war load. No one was ever quite sure who had authorised these tests that had by the end of the first day proved successful though later on post war various people would lay claim to initiating the trials. During these fight trials HMS Courageous was Waltzing backwards and forwards around the North sea reasonably close to Martlesham so taking advantage of this scientists from Bawdsey flying in Anson serial Number K8758 and obtained some very good photographs of the RDF image of the ship. When shown to members of the FAA/naval research team there was much excitement and arrangements were made to fly the aircraft down to Lee on the Solent to carry out demonstration flights for various senior officers using the shipping in the channel as convenient test targets.
     
    5.08 Faltering Steps and Dead Ends
  • Part 5.08 Faltering steps and Dead ends!

    The RAF summer exercises July/August 1938. Generated mixed results, The first five Chain home sites managed to track raids but without yet any way of differentiating enemy and friendly aircraft, plotting results that could be used to obtain reliable interceptions, in what were annulus to operational conditions proved at least problematical. All these problems were well recognised by this time and technical or operational solutions were in hand the question was would they e ready in time. Sir Hugh Dowding in his report to the AM about the Air Exercise acknowledged the problems with the CH and command system but was very sure that the system could be made to work satisfactorily.

    The night interception exercise had been at times almost farcical. Mainly due to the patent inability of the current bomber command crews to navigate from point A to point D via points B and C at night. When a bomber did arrive within the range of the single 1.5m frequency air interception radar it proved vey difficult to direct a night fighter to the point where it could obtain its own RDF contact. With RDF 1.5 some success was achieved by using both experiments’ Blenheim’s working as a pair, their greater detection range of the passive RDF1. of up to 10 miles enable some interceptions to take place though at no time was a night fighter able to make visual contact with a target bomber. With the Active RDF2 system, no interceptions were obtain but very valuable lessons were learnt by all concerned. These lessons were far more applicable to operational reality than any earlier experiments had provided. With the deteriorating political situation and the sabre rattling of Nazi Germany over the status of the Sudetenland everybody was becoming aware that time was of the essence. At the conclusion of the Air exercise Squadron Leader Hart and the Scientists at Bawdsey Manor carried out a thorough post mortem. Based on this Squadron Leader Hart commenced to configure an RDF system capable of receiving notification of an intruder or raid from the CH stations and then tracking the Hostile aircraft and guiding a night fighter onto it.

    Lindemann and Churchill were starting to cause a stir again and Churchill was again making noises that he would use parliamentary privilege to raise what he considered to be the lethargic pace of anti aircraft defence research and development. This was despite both Churchill and Lindeman being personally given demonstrations of the advances being made in airborne interception and air to surface RDF. Just as this issue was coming to a head and before Churchill could deliver his speech, his son in-law Duncan Sandys revealed privileged confidential information gained as a Territorial army officer and covered by the Official Secrets Act. This breach of the Official Secrets act was contained in a written question to the Secretary of state for War, Hore-Belisha. Duncan Sandys was called before a Special Commons select Committee on the application of the Official Secrets Act when members of the house were discharging their parliamentary duties.

    Giving evidence to this select committee Sir Phillip, as a lawyer expressed the opinion, that to reveal confidential information privately to a minister or another member of parliament might be permissible under parliamentary privilege. However to reveal such information publicly within the House could not be sanctioned and could in fact verge on the edge of treasonable behaviour. This was definitely a shot across Winston’s bow and he again backed off, concentrating instead on the emerging crisis in Czechoslovakia.

    The Munich Crisis as it became known was a game changer for the RAF and the other two services in regards to the effect of the Treasury, for after years of fiscal restraint the financial hand cuffs were removed from defence spending in the face of a clear and present danger. For the AM it meant that all efforts had to be bent towards providing Great Britain with both the means of defence, ‘Protecting the Home Base’ as Sir Hugh Dowding put it and ‘Hitting the Hun where it Hurts’ which meant a Bomber force fit for purpose. With the spur of the Munich Crisis and Churchill’s voice momentarily muzzled, Professor Lindemann sort to stage a demonstration of his aerial mining system that could not be ignored. Using his influence via the CID the Professor arranged for the loan of a Harrow bomber which was flown to Martlesham Heath for the trials. Where a De Haviland Queen Bee remote control target drone would be flown at an aerial mine barrage sown by the Harrow bomber. This trial was to take place at dusk of the coast at the Orefordness test range. Professor Lindemann, who had personally designed and overseen every aspect of the one hundred test mines, was in attendance at the trial and intended to be aboard the Harrow to observe the laying of the aerial mine barrier himself. The Board of enquiry convened after the tragic events that unfolded could never find a satisfactory explanation as to why Professor Lindemann choose to board the Harrow bomber as soon as the bombs were loaded aboard. All the principle witnesses stated that shortly after Professor Lindemann boarded the plane there was a distinct concussive noise followed immediately by a fire cracker like multiple explosion, which resulted in the complete destruction of the aircraft and a number of injuries among the ground crew around the aircraft. Of Professor Lindemann no recognisable remains were found.

    Whilst Churchill mourned the loss of his friend and advisor, other less sympathetic observers claimed to hear and audible sigh of relief from the AM. As a conciliatory gesture Sir Henry Tizard volunteered to provide scientific analysis for Churchill as Lindemann had done previously via Lindemann’s young protégé the scientist R.V. Jones, whom Churchill seemed to trust.
     
    5.09 A Close Shave and Inventiveness
  • Part 5.09, A close shave and Inventiveness

    While Lindimanns death might have been seen as unfortunate the survival of ‘Taffy’ Bowen in another trials mishap was stroke of good fortune with real long term benefits. Towards the end of September 1938 whilst on an ASV trials flight late one evening an Anson’s from Martlesham Heath failed to return. At first no one was particularly worried but as darkness descended the level of concern rose. Phone calls to Bawdsey Manor and the other RDF stations could illicit no information. By the time a general alert was raised it was to dark to fly search missions. With the aircraft possibly being anywhere between the Suffolk shore and the North Hinder lightvessel the search area was large. All that could be done that night was to put out an alert to all coastguard stations and Harbour Masters as well as arrange for every available aircraft from Martlesham and Felixstowe to commence searching at first light. Before dawn the flight line at Martlesham was a hive of activity as the assorted collection of Battles, Blenheim’s, and Ansons were prepared for their search flights. At Felexstow there was a comparable scene of activity within the flying boat moorings. Just after the first aircraft had got airborne a call was received from the Harbourmaster a Lowestoft informing them that three wet, cold but otherwise safe men had been landed from the Lowestoft drifter ‘Silver Darlings’ shortly after sunrise. Having carried out a series of target acquisition trials using the ‘Hook Off Holland Ferry’ as their target. The Pilot of the Anson had found that the visibly had deteriorated dramatically and he could no longer see the sea or navigational land marks. Having had the ferry on their RDF screen the Crew had a reasonable idea of their approximate location and set course accordingly. As was their standard procedure in poor visibility the pilot slowly descended to about twenty feet above the glass smooth sea and flew in the ground effect hoping to pick up a navigation mark or the coast. This methodology had worked for them before. However, this time they were flying in Anson K8758 which had a history of wiring problems resulting in excessive electrical noise which would negate the reception on the RDF set, on this occasion the fault was more severe resulting in a sudden total loss of all electrical power. Flying at only twenty feet the pilot only had time to shout a warning to his two comrades before the plane force landed on the water. Luckily no one suffered more than cuts and bruises. As the Anson filled with water the liferaft was launched and the three men clambered aboard. Unbeknown to them, the crew of the Lowestoft based drifter ‘Silver Darlings” had not only heard the aircraft but had caught sight of it just before the engines cut, in the sudden silence the impact of the aircraft on the water was clearly heard. The Skipper promptly hauled his net and headed for the area of the crash finding the life raft just as darkness closed in. Without a radio onboard the fishing boat, all the Skipper could do was to head for his home port as quickly as possible, arriving just before dawn.

    This incident caused much concern both at Bawdsey Manor and at the AM. M.V. Rowe as Superintendent at Bawdsey Manor wanted to permanently ground ‘Taffy’ Bowen but this was over ruled as it would seriously hamper the RDF development program. The other result was that the RAF and the AM completely reviewed their arrangements for locating and rescuing downed airmen. The conclusion was that relying on civilian vessels, the RNLI. And the Coast Guard was not sufficient in regards to saving valuable highly trained personnel. In conjunction with Air Marshal Sir Fredrick Bowhill, who had taken over Coastal Command in August it was agreed that a dedicated RAF rescue service would be set up. To this end British Power Boats Limited who already supplied high speed tenders for the Flying boat stations were commissioned to build additional examples of their HSL-102 – 64 ft High speed launch which had entered service in 1937 but reconfigured it as a dedicated search and rescue launch. These boats would be powered by three refurbished and marinized Napier Lion engines that were now surplus to RAF requirements. Upon the suggestion of Sir Arthur Dowding an order was placed for enough Supermarine Walrus amphibian aircraft to supply an enlarged squadron which would fly, on dispersed attachment, from various RAF stations on or near the coast. It was hoped that this separate organization would be operational by the summer of 1939, initially the launches would be based on the various flying boat basses but again many would be on detached service at various harbours and Naval Bases.

    With the sudden and Tragic Demise of Professor Lindemann, Sir Phillip arranged for Churchill to be briefed on all the various schemes that the CSSAD had appraised since it was set up. Most were completely hair brained but some had had sufficient merit to deserve at least some scientific investigation before being cast aside as impractical. This had two purposes one was to show that the same rigorous scientific scrutiny had been applied to both RDF and the Ariel mines as to all other proposals and to also show the sheer amount of diverse investigatory work the committee had carried out since its formation in early 1935.

    This report from the Tizard committee dating from June 1938 actually listed some fifty-eight separate investigations of proposals and technical questions, this included RDF. These investigations were separate from the hundreds of hairbrained schemes that were submitted and had to be at least vetted for practicality. Also amongst the technical investigations was the infrared detector worked on by R.V. Jones at Lindemann’s behest. By mid 1937 Jones had built and trialled an infrared detector that could locate an aircraft via the heat of it’s engines at a range of around 500ft on a clear night. Any cloud or if the exhaust were screened rendered the system useless. So until the technology improved infrared was not a viable proposition. The Proposal of using infrared illumination was considered but was thought to be liable to make the detection of the attacking fighter too likely for successes in combat. With the closing down of the infrared detection project and the demise of Lindemann R.V. Jones was free to concentrate on radio navigation aids at AAE in Farnborough.

    Amongst the many proposals investigated was air to air bombing using bombs with a photoelectric proximity fuse. This actual got as far as practical trials but was deemed unworkable, principally for the lack of a stabilised bomb sight. The acoustical fuse under development at the same time had a worrying propensity to detonate early and so was also discarded. These problems did lead to a radar proximity fuse development program being commenced at Bawdsey Manor under the direction of W.A.S. Butement one of the scientists. It was thought that it might be viable for air to air rockets as a way of attacking large formations of bombers. Various air to ground rockets were being developed for A.A. Command by the War Office and were known as Un-rotating Projectiles (UP). Dowding had recommend development of Air to Ground rockets when still Air Member for Development and Supply in 1935 after receiving confidential information about such projects underway in Germany. At that time the CAS said rockets were the Artilleries remit and basically left it at that. Now however things were changing and the concept of a ground attack rocket would receive a measure of investigation, eventualy resulting in a full scale trial. Using the now superseded two inch diameter UP rocket with a larger diameter warhead.
     
    5.10 The Storm Clouds Gather
  • Part 5,10 The storm Clouds Gather

    At the time of the Munich Crisis in September ten of the CH RDF sites had been completed and despite the difficulties made evident in August, at the time of the Crisis the PM’s aircraft had been tracked both outbound and returning to the limit of the CH Range. On the sixth of October Watson Watt received instruction for a crash program for the completion of the remaining ten CH stations. Completion was originally schedule for September 1939 and would now be completed by April 1939. Though all these ten stations would later require modifications and additional works to bring them up to the full operational standard.


    For Chain Home low and the AI systems known as RDF1.5 and 2 operating on 1.5 meters wave length Squadron Leader Hart Had submitted his recommendations to the AM. CHL and AI Had different operating requirements and different operational ranges despite utilising the same receiver and transmitter system. When used by CHL the RDF sets had a range of 25 miles for an aircraft flying at 500ft.and therefore to give complete coverage out to 20 miles offshore, CHL RDF units would need to be sight every 30 to 40 miles along the coast and to cover from Landsend to the north of Scotland would require almost 100 new RDF stations. To give RDF coverage to the vulnerable south east and east of the country would require some seven or eight RDF AI stations. CHL stations only had to look out to sea and therefore did not need 360 degree rotation but could sweep back wards and forwards through a set arch. AI however needed inland coverage and a 360 degree sweep.
    Not all the proposed CHL sights were suitable for inland search/illumination used in RDF1.5 and 2. Initially CHL installations would first be installed at the CH stations as these stations would already have power supplies, Back up generators and communications systems. Additional inland RDF Stations would be added as rapidly as possible. The first CHL stations would be built at the Ten CH stations between Rye and Danby Beacon. Those to the West and North being added later. Dedicated AI RDF stations would be first set up inland at suitable sites near, Ashford, Stansted, Cambridge, Bawdsey Manor, Norwich and Orby. These initial sites would be added to in order to provide full coverage from Southern Scotland down the West country. The Initial twenty CHL locations based at the CH sites were to commence installation by the beginning of April and be complete by end of August. The first seven inland sights were to be completed within the same times scale. Additional Chain Home and Inland AI RDF sites were to be added at one per week for each type until the coverage was complete.
    By August 1939 it was planned to have six operational NF squadrons and two OTU’s. The squadrons would be based at, Martlesham Heath, Middle Wallop, Wittering, Wellingore, Catterick and Hornchurch. Additional squadrons and Bases would be added as the AI RDF network expanded. The CH sites were currently being installed by a specialised team formed at Bawdsey Manor in June 1938 and known as No2 installation unit. Watsons Watts promise to complete the CH line by April would mean denuding Bawdsey Manor of both scientists and technicians which would adversely effect ongoing research and development of other important RDF projects. Both Sir Phillip Swinton and Sir Henry Tizard considered this an intolerable imposition on Bawdsey Manor’s resource and set Out to recruit academics and technicians to set up a second installation and commissioning team for CH stations and another team for the CHL and AI stations which were smaller and by design relatively mobile and quick to install.

    Strait after the Munich crisis Watson Watt advised Sir Phillip and Sir Henry that if and when there was a declaration of war the entire Bawdsey Manor research team would be evacuated to Dundee University for safety. Once again this decision appalled Sir Phillip and Sir Henry who after a short discussion informed both Watson Watt and Rowe that Dundee was far to remote from London and the production centres to be a suitable site for the evacuation of Bawdsey and Watson Watt should find an alternative place West of a line running North/South from Manchester to Southampton via Birmingham and Oxford. The chosen location should have good rail communications both to London and to the industrial centres where the manufacture of the RDF components took place. The close proximity of a suitable airfield for the trials flight would also be a necessity.

    Earlier in 1937 a committee of three senior officers, one from the Navy, one from the Army and one from the RAF were given the task by the CID of proposing the ideal size of the fighter defence force for Great Britain. Their report recommended that Fighter Command should have 52 sqadrons for home defence. The Army and Navy representatives noted that they thought a larger force was required. Whilst the RAF Office (Sir Hugh Dowding, C in C Fighter Command) had stated in the report that making Fighter command any larger would have to greater effect on the expansion and modernisation of the Bomber force.

    At the time of the Munich crisis Fighter Command could only muster twenty five squadrons. Of these one was flying turreted Demons, one a mixture of turreted and unturreted Demons, three were flying Furies, seven were flying Gauntlets, one squadron was transiting from Gauntlets to Hurricanes, one squadron was transiting from Gauntlets to Spitfires, five squadrons were flying Gladiators and finally five squadrons had completed their conversion onto Hurricanes. Aircraft were coming off the production lines in ever increasing numbers but Sir Phillip was not happy with how ill prepared the RAF was for War. However galling and demeaning the debacle of the “Peace in Our Time” capitulation of Chamberlain to the political land grab by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, Sir Phillip thanked the lord for the time gained for the modernisation of the RAF, he just prayed that Chamberlain had bought then enough of it.
     
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