The development of radar was key to the success of the UK in the Battle of
Britain and continued to swing the balance in World War II until the allies
were ultimately successful. Talented scientists were recruited from top
universities to work on radar, and many ideas were developed which went on to form the basis of
the electronics industry we take for granted today.
Radar defended Britain by giving early warning of approaching hostile
aircraft. Fighter aircraft could then be scrambled and guided to intercept
Radars were also installed in aircraft. These helped to intercept hostile
aircraft at night, and to detect ships and partially exposed submarines. This
proved a trump card in the Battle of the Atlantic, combatting the threat from
German U-boats to convoys from the United States.
Later in the war, airborne radar and radio navigation aids helped bombers
locate their targets more accurately. Developments in jamming and fooling
German radars played an important rôle in D-Day. Linked to a supply of false
intelligence, this helped mislead the Germans about our invasion strategy and
saved many British and US lives.
In the early 1930s it was widely known that radio waves were reflected by
aircraft and ships and could be detected. However, it was in the UK that
concerns about air defence were acted on by making a major investment to
develop a radar warning system. This, together with breaking the code of the
German Enigma machine at Bletchley Park, undoubtedly tipped the balance of
World War II in favour of the UK and its allies.