October 24 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, April 26, 2014
The radar museum at RAF Neatishead provides a look back through the 20th century’s military radar and intelligence. Here’s our pick of the best things to see.
Walk into the Cold War Room and on the wall a “Survival 25” sign still hangs on the wall at the front of the room.
If the sign lit up, nuclear bombers and fighters would launch to try and stop the threat.
Museum curator Chris Morshead said: “If within 25 minutes you had not received a recall signal then Britain was lost. The only people saved would be the government.”
Further into the room is a communications panel which connected each of the controllers’ phone lines.
As all communication hinged on this one panel, it was discovered to be a weakness in the system, and so whenever there was an exercise, an airman was positioned next to the sign armed with a pick axe.
He would be under strict instructions to allow only the authorised commander near the communications panel.
The Bristol Bloodhound is a British surface-to-air missile developed during the 1950s as the UK’s main air defence weapon, and was in large-scale service with the RAF.
Bloodhound’s long range kept it in service until the threat of bomber attack by the Soviet Union disappeared with their dissolution in 1991.
Rather than a single explosion, the missile let out an expanding rod which curled out to 60 to 100 feet and sliced through the bomber like a Catherine wheel firework.
Also lying outside the museum is a Second World War vintage Type 14 MKII Mobile Radar, which travelled into Europe and north Africa. The front cabin collapsed down to allow a 360 degree radar signal.
The museum will apply for lottery funding to house the mobile radar indoors, protecting it from rust.
This 1974 Jaguar would have been used up until Coltishall was closed and its last squadron disbanded in 2006. The display at the museum shows the cockpit of the aircraft loaned to RAF Neatishead.
Perhaps the most mysterious item in the museum is a German dossier of Britain. It highlights strategic points across the country, including an in-depth plan of Norwich Airport.
No body knows where the dossier came from, it was discovered in a bookshop in Toronto and sent to radar pioneer Sir Edward Fennessey CBE who donated it to the museum in July 2003.
One of the most valuable exhibits in the museum is not an expensive piece of radar, it is a small toy rabbit owned by renowned Second World War pilot Douglas Bader.
He had joined the RAF in 1928 but lost both his legs in an aerobatics accident.
He recovered and rejoined the RAF with the outbreak of war and scored victories over Dunkirk during the Battle of France in 1940.
He was made a prisoner of war and the German’s arranged for a pair of legs to be parachuted into the prison.
This ejection seat would be fitted into the cockpit of a plane to allow the pilot to escape in case of enemy attack.
Mr Morshead said: “When it went wrong the pilot would pull up the handle under the seat, and a second later he would be fired out through the canopy.
“The next thing he would be out underneath a parachute.”
The pressure from the ejection would make the pilot lose three quarters of an inch in height, but has saved many lives.
The most important piece of kit in the museum is a magnetron created buy John Randall and Harry Boot. It enabled small radar to be fitted into aircraft.
Winston Churchill made the decision to allow Henry Tizzard to take the magnetron in his hand luggage to America.
Mr Morshead said: “The deal was they would build us the radar and we would help them progress two years in their development.
“It was a risk because at the time America was neutral and no one knew what was going to happen.”
The Royal Observor Corps room shows what radar would have been used in the late 1930s right the way through to the 1950s.
This would have been used during the Second World War, during the Battle of Britain.