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Battle of Britain

-The Dowding System-
-The London Blitz-
-Tactics on Both Sides-
-Key Ingredients to Battle-
-The Dowding System-
-The Battle of the Beams-
-Phases of Battle-
-Canada Contributes-
-End Results-

System used by the British to deal with their shortage of numbers.

Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding

The Battle of Britain campaign made the eight-gun monoplane fighters of the RAF, the Spitfire and Hurricane, into legends. The bakbone of the British defence was the complex foundation of detection, command, and control that ran the battle. This was known as the 'Dowding System' after its chief architect, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the leader of RAF Fighter Command.



The UK's airspace was divided up into four Groups.

    10 Group defended Wales and the West Country. It was commanded by Air Vice-Marshal Sir Christopher Quintin-Brand.

    11 Group covered the southeast of England, and the significant advances to London.  Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park was the commander .

    12 Group defended the Midlands and East Anglia, led by Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory.

    13 Group covered the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland being commanded by Air Vice-Marshal Richard Saul.

At the head quaters of each Group (e.g. for 11 Group RAF Uxbridge) information from Fighter Command headquarters would be marked on plotting tables, large maps on which counters marking the incoming raids would be moved, and RAF officers, Fighter Controllers, could then set out orders.



The Group areas were subdivided into Sectors; each commanding officer was assigned between two and four squadrons. Sector stations, containing an airfield with a command post, were the heart of this organization, but they also had satellite airfields to distribute squadrons to. When the group head quarters made orders, the sector stations would 'scramble' (to take off very fast). When in the air, the squadrons would be directed by radio-telephone (R/T) from their sector station. Squadrons could be ordered to patrol airfields, vital targets, or told to intercept incoming raids.



The Dowding System was the most sophisticated air defence system in the world at the time ithad many limitations.This included, its absolute need for suitably qualified ground maintenance personnel. The RDF radar was prone to serious errors and the Observer Corps had trouble tracking raids at night and in bad weather. R/T communications with airborne fighters were limited due to the RAF's use of High-Frequency (HF) radio sets. HF radio was limited in range and even with a network of relay stations the squadrons could not travel more than one or two sectors from their airfield. It was also restricted to a single frequency per squadron, making it impossible to communicate between squadrons. Finally, the system for tracking RAF fighters, known as HF/DF or "Huff-Duff", limited sectors to a maximum of four squadrons in the air.



Besides the limitations the RAF Fighter Command was able to achieve high levels of effectivness, at times achieving interception rates greater than 80%. The R/T difficulties were resolved late in the battle with the use of Very High-Frequency (VHF) radio sets which gave clearer voice communications, had longer range, and provided multiple channels. Even with the faults the RAF had a system of ground control that allowed its fighters to be where they were needed. The Luftwaffe, with no such system, was always at a disadvantage.

Maggie Smith (June 2006)
History Summative