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The Signals Museum RAF Henlow


The collection in the Museum has a few items from the early years of radio, including hard to get items from World War One. The most important piece from that era is the Stirling Spark Transmitter fitted in some aircraft towards the end of the war. This allowed the Observer to send enemy information to the ground crews, using Morse Code. Previously a streamer with a message pouch would have been dropped.

World War II equipment is well represented although difficulty in finding suitable items means there are many gaps in what is shown. There are examples of transmitters and receivers and early airborne radar equipment and several examples of telegraphic equipment such as teleprinters.

Post war radar is also well represented with various consoles and many models of radar installations. Also included in the collection is early test equipment and smaller items such as radio valves.

As RAF Locking and it’s predecessors played an important rôle in the training of signals personnel, including thousands of apprentices, a small section of the display depicts aspects of this training.

The National HRO Receiver was extensively used by the "Y" Service. The function of the "Y" Service was  to monitor German radio messages and these were passed on to Bletchley Park for decoding.

The Creed 7B series of Teleprinters and ancillary equipments were widely used by the RAF from before WW II and into the 1970's. Shown here is a Printing Reperforator, but there are many other types in the Museum. One of the WWII 7B's was recently featured in a BBC programme presented by Andrew Marr on the build up to the Korean War. From over 2 hours of filming the teleprinter was on screen for about 3 seconds!

Early in the War, Fighter aircraft could only operate during daylight hours and could offer no protection against the German Bombers which mostly came at night. It was essential that the new Radar system that was giving early warning of the approach of enemy aircraft to anti-aircraft forces on the ground, was developed in a different form to allow our Fighter aircraft to operate at night and provide the protection that was badly needed. This led to a series of Night-fighters, especially developed with Radar to provide this defence.

Two types of Radar Console and a Radio Direction Finding Console are shown here, all dating from the 1950's when Radar was starting to become much more sophisticated.

Although Radar was developed at the beginning of WW II, it wasn't until later in the war and into the 1950's that it began to take on the form that we know today

Today's circular radar screen with it's rotating sweep showing the positions of aircraft would not have been familiar to wartime operators, until perhaps very late in the war. In those days, radar used a much lower frequency and the antenna did not rotate as it does these days. Aircraft coming from a certain direction would be displayed on a linear screen which would give an indication of height, distance and possible numbers of aircraft in the attack.

Close range communication between our aircraft and ground controllers was mostly carried out on VHF frequencies, certainly in the latter stages of the war. As the range was short, it made it difficult for the Germans to monitor our transmissions so they would not know how many of our Fighter Squadrons were coming to meet them.

Pictured here is some of the VHF Airborne equpment introduced during WW II. Below are two ground VHF Receivers, the R1392 on the left - still in use into the ‘60s and the R1481 on the right