TRE History

TRE History 

by Bill Penley
How the Radar (RDF) team was set up is dealt with in many books and is covered in outline in my note on "The Early Days of Radar". The original team led by Robert Watson Watt was set up at Orfordness and consisted of Bainbridge-Bell, Arnold Wilkins, Eddie Bowen, Joe Airey, Savage and Muir. Staff numbers increased a little and on 16th September 1935 the Air Defence Committee sanctioned the purchase of Bawdsey Manor. It was named the Bawdsey Research Station (BRS) and numbers grew gradually as the threat of war increased. Just before war was declared the Army section moved to Christchurch and the main Royal Air Force team moved to Dundee. The section dealing with the development of airborne RDF moved to Scone, a grass airfield in Scotland.

In May 1940 the Royal Air Force team of about 200 people was moved to Worth Matravers in Dorset. The detailed information recorded here was intended to cover our time in Dorset but I will add additions when I can.

There are several "Nominal Rolls" which purported to list the total membership of the Establishment on 5th August 1940, early 1942 and August 1942 after our move to Malvern. There is also a series of photographs of the organisation board Mr A.P. Rowe the Superintendent used to have on the wall in his office. This consisted of magnetic nameplates on a steel panel that his office staff were supposed to keep up to date. It mainly showed scientific and technical staff and as numbers increased junior members were omitted.

I mainly used the March 1942 photograph to extract the names of people I tried to persuade to write their memories of that time. Sidney Jefferson supplied the information on the functions of the various groups.

Staff numbers had increased to about 2000 when we moved to Malvern and to about 3,500 plus many Service personnel by the end of the war. 

A significant and increasing team was then working on atomics in a separate enclave and as peace arrived the Establishment was effectively divided into three parts. Those going to Atomic work; those remaining on Defence work; and the rest who would be returning to Universities, firms and other organisations such as the Post Office they had left, or would have to seek other employment.

I think between 1,500 and 2,000 remained on Defence work. We had to move out of Malvern College and took over the Naval Training Establishment nearby - HMS Duke.

TRE was combined with the Army Radar Establishment in 1953 to become the Radar Research Establishment - and was soon renamed the Royal Radar Establishment. It became the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment when the Army Signals Research and Development Establishment (SRDE) moved to Malvern in about 1980. 

Bill Penley 2002  -  Latest info:  - Created: Bill & Jonathan Penley
Page last updated: 12 March 2011     Version:   02d   (12th March 2011)