Early forms of radar were being pioneered and operated in the UK by 1940. This assisted the Spitfire squadrons in identifying incoming attack aircraft. Nevertheless it’s still early days for radar. But it was just in time to provide that crucial assistance.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the RAF – relevant to this website – particularly in regard to the Battle of Britain which took place from 10 July to 31 October 1940 – more than 3000 young pilots went up to engage the invasion in the air. Basically – it could be seen – the first type of major air battle of its kind – where everything depended on the outcome of the air battle itself. Below as you can see I’ve given the link to the film about RJ Mitchell whose genius and dedication developed the Spitfire – which was motivated by what he could see was coming. Some say he worked himself to death – passing away at the age of 42. Leaving behind his wife Florence – who had supported him all away – and with whom he had had a good life. But to think – RJ Mitchell passed away on 11 June 1937 – just-in-time to hear that his creation for our defence – had been fully accepted and taken on board – and which heralded the planned production of 22,000 of these machines – to think that this was more than two years before the war actually started. So it was a combination – of the RAF in general – with more than 3000 dedicated and courageous pilots – and their team supports – and of course the Spitfire – that turned the tide. We must also include the sophisticated development of radar that aided our pilots very considerably. As it was – there was unexpectedly and surprisingly huge losses of aircraft from the vastly larger invading side – and then it was soon realised – that they would not be able to launch the planned for invasion across the English Channel – that they had so carefully prepared – not now without any adequate air cover. This left the coasts of the UK littered with defensive pieces and apparatus of various sorts – some of which can still be seen today – all along the South Coast and in Dorset. Two very large steel constructed piers in Bournemouth, Dorset – had been blown up in the centres (at that time Bournemouth was located just inside of the county of Hampshire till the border was moved in later years) – but these piers had been left with huge gaps in the middles of them – so as they would not act as landing stages for what was the deeply ominous gathering sense of an imminent and overwhelming invasion expected on our shores. This strategic battle – The Battle of Britain – paved the way for the preparations that took place in the UK – and in a very significant way in Dorset itself. This was the long arduous dedicated enormous and magnificent preparation for the D-Day landings that eventually took place on June 6, 1944 – with more than 2 million troops from the US alone arriving in the UK – first registering in Bournemouth – and remaining in the South of England and spreading out over the South-West of England. Troops of many other countries as well – and very notably Canada – which was a major force along with the British and the US troops in the D-Day landings. In the South and South-West there was this absolutely vast build-up of military equipment. All concealed and hidden and conducted in secret – so as not to alert the continent. It might be added that many more millions of American troops that joined the battle (after the D-Day landings had been successful) – came directly from the US to Europe. And it is of note – that in Dorset there were a vast number of US troops – of which I have very many stories. There are now not many people who remember the stories first-hand because of the time that has passed by – but nevertheless in May of this year I will be meeting someone – who was a young boy at the time – to hear some more incredible details about US troops in Weymouth, along also with some sad and traumatic stories related to the very many bombing and strafing raids on the South Coast. I will also be meeting another person – a young girl the time – who was witness to a number ‘dogfights’ seen first-hand in the Dorset skies.
D-Day itself – which I have now registered the domain name D-Day-Dorset (not online yet) – was the greatest invasion in the history of the Earth. Involving millions of troops, 7000 ships of all kinds and sorts, and more than 14,000 aircraft – with 156,000 troops landing on the first day – though of course – this did not take place without considerable and dreadful losses!
The impregnable ‘Atlantic Wall’ had been breached.
THIS WAS WHAT MADE IT ALL POSSIBLE… this was the title that I had posted with a video link to YouTube – ‘The First of the Few’ – but the link has for some reason been deleted. But one can watch this directly on you tube – it was the inventor of the Spitfire – a most amazing and emotional story – can also be seen by typing the following into YouTube search – the film is around two hours long – well worth watching – try this (although the quality doesn’t seem so good): ‘Spitfire – the first of the few – by British Aviation Pictures – Leslie Howard, David Niven’.
a second attempt at posting the link is as follows:
In May 1940, the RAF were operating and further developing radar at their newly established base in Worth Matravers. It was known as the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) in November 1940 – and was situated 4 miles west of Swanage.
*This was part of the technical infrastructure which led up to the preparations for D-Day
The American 1st Infantry Division (Dorset WWII section)
The American 1st Infantry Division were based in Swanage and many of the surrounding areas – including Canford Heath and Weymouth. After having arrived from prolonged tough fighting in Italy. Their destination was kept a secret – even from the troops – until the very last moments. The relationship between the people of Swanage (which is the most beautiful idyllic coastal town that you could find anywhere – with tall rolling hills – high chalk cliffs – very rugged coastline to the West of the town – and idyllic calm crystal clear waters in the bay of Swanage itself) – was a good and very memorable one. This bay – was to be used for the rehearsals by the UK forces in preparation for D-Day. Far back inland– are the old ruins of Corfe Castle – itself the scene of great battles – going back nearly a 1000 years. But far later – at Studland – just on the clifftop in an area of the bay that sweeps past Swanage – Canadian engineers built Fort Henry – in concrete and reinforced steel. It was from here – Eisenhower, Churchill, Montgomery and King George VI viewed the rehearsals for D-Day. This rehearsal itself had its own casualties. Live ammunition and bombs were also used for the rehearsal.
Nevertheless – Swanage, Canford Heath and Weymouth were the main places of residence for the American 1st Infantry Division – from November 1943 – where they were continuing with yet further training in South Dorset for the specific purpose – of preparing for the greatest invasion in the history of the world – that was to be the beginning of what was called ‘ The Second Front ‘ – which – if the invasion was successful – was expected to bring about end of World War II in Europe.
On that day – the first day of the invasion – D-Day – Tuesday, June 6, 1944 – over 156,000 troops – mainly comprised of US, UK and Canadian troops – successfully landed along a very wide area of the beaches of Normandy – Northern France. They were accompanied as it were – by approximately 7000 ships of all types – and proceeded by 14,000 aircraft flights (those numbers arrived at from some aircraft making two runs at the Normandy coast). Some of these figures are debated but these figures are arrived at by some historians – and generally within relatively similar parameters agreed by all.
Huge numbers of troops in various assault and assorted landing craft and other ships left from Poole Harbour (reportedly watched with very great shocked surprise – at this sudden and unexpected vast and continuous movement of craft) – by the very early morning farmers working the fields in the Purbeck Hills nearby (5/600 feet hills overlooking Poole Harbour), and by other early risers about their business.
Weymouth, further West on the South Coast of Dorset also featured prominently in the participation of D-Day landings in Normandy with many British and American soldiers having left the shores of England from from here and the adjacent port at Portland. A memorial was erected on the esplanade, opposite the Royal Hotel, recording that 517,816 troops and 144,093 vehicles embarked at Weymouth between June 6, 1944 and May 7, 1945. (Reference: www.roll-of-honour.com/Dorset/WeymouthCitizensMemorial.html).
The details – are too many and complex to be explained in this introduction.
*In terms of its objectives – D-Day proved to be a success, but not without very great loss*