Radar coverage in Scotland
Radar is a word combined of “radio detecting and ranging” and it was developed in England in the late 1930’s. An early warning detection system was installed, covering the whole south- and east coast of England. The code name for this chain of totally 18 radar installations was “Chain Home”. It covered the coast from Portsmouth to Aberdeen. It was possible to detect an aeroplane at 160 km distance. There were radar installation all along the east coast of Scottland, roughly 6 installations.
Divison headquarters for the RAF were located in Sunderland and close to Glasgow. The main headquarter was in Newcastle. The radar coverage was splitted on two different types of radars: High altitude radar (up to 5000m) and low altitude radar (up to 170m). The radar coverage looks to me as to have been fairly complete. The low altitude radar had a coverage of average 30-50km along the complete coastline, and the high altitude radar about 200km. I have no idea on how good the coverage was very up north of Scotland, but it seems that the coverage got poorer. Some references mentions that sites located at sea level could detect aircraft flying at an altitude of 1000m from a distance of 75km.
The drawing of the July 1940 Fighter Command layout in Kaplan’s “Their Finest Hour” shows Chain Home radar from Gaitnip on the Orkney Islands all the way down to Hawkstor in the SW. Mason says in “Battle Over Britain” that by early summer 1940 “all approaches to the island between the Bristol Channel and Land’s End, and the Orkneys, were now covered out to about 150 miles range at 18,000 feet. Almost the entire South and East Coasts were covered down to about 600 feet at forty miles range.” Of course, the Ground Observer Corps covered the entire coast to spot low level aircraft. The wooden masts at Gaitnip were only very recently demolished and many of the associated buildings still remain.
When elements of the Luftwaffe’s “3. Luftflotte” launched a 100+ plane attack from Norway against Scotland and the North of England on 15 Aug 1940, they were met by 72 and 79 Sqds at Acklington, 605 Sqd at Drem, and 41 Sqd from Catterick. Fifty Ju88s of Kampfgeschwader 30 from Aalborg (Denmark) were intercepted by 616 and 73 Sqds from Leconfield. German intel had no idea that so much Fighter Command strength remained in the North; the Luftwaffe had 90 aircrafts lost or damaged that day, while Fighter Command had 42 aircrafts lost or damaged.
Thanks to Keith Bryers for additional info on radar coverage and the Gaitnip installation.
This is an archived page and no updates have been made to it in many years, never the less, it is copyright (C) 1999, 2019 by Bo Stahlbrandt