"This unit must have smartened up after I was posted away as the prowess of the Dover AA gunners is mentioned approvingly in an account of the Battle of Britain. They really were in the front line as the neighbouring RAF Chain Homing radar was pasted when the Luftwaffe tried to smash the 'eyes' of the RAF along with its airfields. There was also a Coastal Defence/Chain Homing Low radar perched on the cliff edge. Some of the high masts for the aerials of the CH station are in place still (2003) and are a convenient support for microwave dishes for Anglo-French radio links.
"This was a miserable posting, the site was on the top of the 'White Cliffs of Dover', and in the month of March sea mists swirled over the place accompanied by the mournful bellowing of sundry lighthouses on land and lightships in the Channel; this did nothing to cheer me up. The bleating of flocks of sheep accompanied by the melancholy clanking of a nearby cable railway carrying coal to the Port of Dover added to the atmosphere of general doom and despondency. Evidence of the cable railway can still be seen at the east end of the port as a sloping shelf cut in the cliff face where the pylons and cables ran. It linked Betteshanger colliery with the coaling facility on the Admiralty quay.
"An unusual event was the visit to the site by King George VI who inspected the radar set with my operators and me in it. He was most smartly turned out as a Field Marshal and was delicately perfumed, I noted. He said that Mr. Watson-Watt had explained the system to him, but regrettably before he could really get into his stride an air raid alarm was given and he was hustled off the site. It was a false one, of course, but I might have spoken to the sovereign, who knows?
"This was in early 1940, before the war had really started, and I was sent to the 'Chinese' village of Hoo near Rochester to join a school where radar operators were trained. Again I was amongst a team of instructors who had been gathered together since before the war and resented the intruder, I don't know what they had to hide, but they were a cagey bunch, again with a dud officer in charge. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my instructing duties.
"It was an odd time, the war raged in earnest now and I could see the smoke from the fires in Dunkirk. Fighters came over doing victory rolls and the radio was full of bad news, but I went cherry picking in the evenings and mooched around Chatham now and again. I was allowed 12 hour leaves and occasionally a 24 hour pass, thus was able to go home occasionally.
"Before the Blitz started I was posted to Scottish Command and I didn't see Dover again until 1945 when I was astonished at what had been constructed in the vicinity of Swingate Camp, but that is not my story."
Author: John Vaughan
Submitted on: 04/03/2006