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Brechin Radar

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Sir Robert Watson-Watt was born on April 13, 1892, in Brechin, Angus, and was to become best known for creating the first workable RADAR (RAdio Detection And Ranging) system.

Another Scot, James Clerk Maxwell (1831 - 1879), had previously established the basic principles of electromagnetic waves and radio reflection which Watson-Watt was to utilise in his later work.

His initial interest began in 1915, when he began work at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough as a meteorologist. His aim being to use radio to identify the location of thunderstorms, and provide weather warnings to flyers. By 1924, he had moved to Slough to be part of the new Radio Research station that had opened there, and in 1927 he became Superintendent when the station merged with the NPL (National Physical Laboratory). He went on to become Superintendent of the NPL's new radio department in Teddington, following another re-organisation in 1933.

In 1935, Watson-Watt refuted reports of a German death ray, able to destroy towns and cities, and went on to produce a report entitled The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods the same year. This was followed by a test using the BBC's short wave (~50 m) Daventry transmitter and a Heyford bomber. The success of this trial resulted in his appointment, in 1936, as Superintendent of the Air Ministry's new Bawdsey Research Station at Bawdsey Manor. His work there led to the design and installation of a chain of radar station along the southern and eastern coasts of England, known as Chain Home and Chain Home Low, just before the outbreak of war in 1939. This network of radar station provided an early warning of approaching enemy aircraft, allowing the RAF to deploy its limited resources where they were needed, when they were needed, rather than wasting time and fuel flying endless patrols. This ability gave them the advantage needed to win the Battle of Britain between August and October 1940, and left the Luftwaffe wondering how the defenders were nearly always in position to meet its attacks.

The only recognition of Watson-Watt's memory is a small plaque on the Brechin house where he was born. The Watson-Watt Society was formed in 2006, and plans to build a statue to the "father of radar" in his home town.

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