Oral History

Reg Mann

Radar fitter at Bawdsey 1946-1947 remembers dangerous operations.

Olivia Davies

Radar operator 1943 to 1945 recalls Bawdsey’s ‘luxury’ accommodation.

Joyce Curtis

WW2 Radar operator bombed by an aircraft categorised as ‘friendly’.

John Dugmore

WW2 Radar operator remembers a mass raid of Heinkels from first radar detection to viewing to going out to ‘guard’ a shot-down Heinkel.

Jean Williams

Radar instructor during WW2 recalls gun laying radar and comments on ‘man’s work’ and girls as radar operators.

Hilda Pearson nee Wilkinson

Radar operator in 1943 recalls Bawdsey being bombed.

James Atkinson

Helped develop the Chain Home receiver (under Cyril Fogg) remembers travelling between Chain Home stations in an Austin 12 driven by his wife.

Bawdsey Stories

These A4 PDF sheets provide an unparalleled insight into the world of Bawdsey in the words of those that worked there.


Bawdsey Stories

Bawdsey Radar - Resources and Stories

Who wore the trousers?

In April 1939, there were 1734 women in the WAAF. By 1945, the number had risen to 175,000, many of whom had trained or worked at Bawdsey.

Despite millions of women volunteering to carry out essential roles in the first world war, when that war ended they were dismissed from their jobs and barred from claiming unemployment benefit.

By the start of the second world war, it was clear that their skills were needed again.

By the end of 1941, women were being conscripted into work in factories, nursing, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENs).

Tributes to the female war-time workforce were many.

‘…the ready acceptance by the RAF of the WAAF in a large variety of skilled trades and the extensions of responsibility to the WAAF officers and NCOs has given women in the WAAF greater opportunities than in other spheres of war work… Parents of this country [should be reassured] that the duties that their daughters are doing towards the war effort are as important as the duties their sons are doing.’

Director of the WAAF, Air Commandant Jane Trefusis Forbes DBE, 1941

Jane Trefusis DBE

In 1916, aged just 17, Katherine Jane Trefusis Forbes left school and volunteered for the Women’s Volunteer Reserve. She was disappointed to be too young to be sent to France. By 1939, she had become…
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Hilda Pearson

‘I was living in Newcastle, working as a secretary when I decided to join up. Incendiary bombs were landing on the city and there was a smell of burning sugar. The warehouse that contained our…
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Jean (Sally) Semple

Jean Semple joined the WAAF in March 1940 and trained on the RF5 radar receiver at Bawdsey Manor. After training, she returned to operate the Gonio. ‘On the screen there’d be a whole lot of…
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Peggy Haynes

‘I volunteered in 1942, when I was 18. I thought I’d like to join the motor division and learn to drive but I was put up for ‘Clerk, Special Duties’. Neither I nor the recruiting…
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Dr Mary Taylor

Dr Mary Taylor 1898 - 1984 was a mathematician and theoretical physicist whose research informed the development of radar. Born in Sheffield in 1898, she won a scholarship to Girton College Cambridge where she was…
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Your Story

We’d love to hear about your experiences at Bawdsey. Please complete the following brief details so that we can get in touch to find out more.

    A world first – the story of Bawdsey Radar

    On 24th September 1937, RAF Bawdsey became the first fully operational Radar station in the world.

    Remarkably, this was only a short eighteen months after the first experiment, conducted by Robert Watson Watt and Arnold Wilkins, which established that by using transmitted radio waves it was possible to detect an approaching aircraft.

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