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Helping Stop Hitler's Luftwaffe: The Memoirs of a Pilot Involved in the Development of Radar Interception, Vital in the Battle of Britain

Helping Stop Hitler's Luftwaffe: The Memoirs of a Pilot Involved in the Development of Radar Interception, Vital in the Battle of Britain

by Arthur McDonald KCB AFC FRAeS DL


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‘The bomber will always get through’ was the oft-repeated mantra, first coined by Stanley Baldwin in 1932, which emphasized that the only realistic form of defense was offense. This belief determined the UK’s military strategy, with more attention, and resources, being devoted to bomber production rather than fighters. With bombers able to fly at hundreds of miles an hour, by the time the incoming aircraft had been detected, it would be too late to scramble fighters to intercept them. That was until Sir Henry Tizard and his colleagues first demonstrated that radar (or Radio Direction Finding as it was then called), could detect an aircraft approaching Britain at a considerable distance, allowing fighters to take to the air before the intruders reached British soil.

This was shown in the ‘Biggin Hill Experiment’ when a young Arthur McDonald led three biplanes from RAF Biggin Hill, and which were directed by radar sets on the ground to intercept incoming aircraft. At the time McDonald was told, ‘that the whole future of this country depends on the results which you obtain’. McDonald succeeded and, having demonstrated that bombers could be stopped, Britain turned its attention to building fast, modern fighters, and to developing a radar network – just in time for the Battle of Britain. For this work McDonald received the Air Force Cross.

In this enlightening, and lighthearted autobiography, Air Marshal Sir Arthur McDonald, as he was to become describes those early radar experiments – the first non-cooperative interception was an unsuspecting Dutch airliner! – and of another of his achievements, the Duxford flare path. This lighting system was so cleverly designed as to be visible to landing aircraft but not to enemy attackers.

In his subsequent career, McDonald became Air Defence Commander in Ceylon in 1942, Air Officer Training at Headquarters Air Command of South East Asia Command in 1943 and Air Officer Commanding No.106 Group in April 1945. He was the last commanding officer of the Royal Pakistan Air Force and held many senior posts in the RAF until his retirement in 1962. But it his part in the development of Britain’s air defense at the most crucial time in its history, for which he will always be remembered.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781526764782
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 12/28/2020
Pages: 286
Product dimensions: 7.60(w) x 9.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Born in June 1903, Air Marshal Sir Arthur McDonald KCB, AFC, FRAeS, DL grew up in Antigua, his engineering career beginning in the Antigua Sugar Factory, earning him wages of just £1 a week. He joined the RAF in 1924, remaining in the service until his retirement in 1961. Besides a distinguished RAF career, Sir Arthur was a keen sailor and there are informative accounts of his sailing exploits; including yacht racing in Singapore in the 1930s, winning the Burton Cup in 1937 and being the oldest competitor in single handed sailing in the 1948 Olympic Games in Torbay.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 Growing up in the West Indies, 1903-1912 1

Chapter 2 Antigua School Days, 1913-1916 11

Chapter 3 Relocation to England, 1916-1920 20

Chapter 4 The Antigua Sugar Factory and the Motor Boat Isa 26

Chapter 5 Return to England and Entry into the RAF. Flying the Mono Avro 504K, 1923-1925 35

Chapter 6 The Dangers of Anoxia, 1924 52

Chapter 7 Problems with Navigation, 1925 60

Chapter 8 23 Squadron, Henlow: Night Exercises, 1925 65

Chapter 9 Engineering at Henlow: a Smashed Propeller, 1927-1928 75

Chapter 10 Cambridge University and Imperial College London, 1929-1932 82

Chapter 11 The Singapore Experience, 1933-1935 88

Chapter 12 Water Sports at RAF Base Seletar and Return to England 111

Chapter 13 Return to Competitive Sailing, 1936 118

Chapter 14 Biggin Hill, 1936-1937 133

Chapter 15 Andover Staff College and The Dowding Experiment, 1938 148

Chapter 16 Outbreak of War, 1939 158

Chapter 17 The Duxford Invisible Flight Path, 1941 163

Chapter 18 Across Africa to Ceylon: The War in the Far East Against Japan, 1942-1943 179

Chapter 19 The War in the Far East Against Japan, 1943-1945. Air Officer for Training, India 184

Chapter 20 Photo Reconnaissance, 1945-1946 188

Chapter 21 The 1948 Olympic Games, Torquay 191

Chapter 22 Later Career, 1948-1962 196

Appendix I The Battle of the Saintes, 1782 200

Appendix II Ian Donald Roy McDonald Mc DFC, Arthur's First Cousin and First World War Air Ace 203

Appendix III The Prelude to the Biggin Hill Experiment, the men who made it possible: H.E. Wimperis, Tizard, Watson-Watt and Dowding 207

Appendix IV The Biggin Hill Experiment: Further background information written by Arthur 209

Appendix V The Battle Re-Thought: A Critique on the Symposium on the Battle of Britam in 1990, by Arthur 214

Appendix VI Background Information on Ceylon During the War and Documents Relating to Arthur's Time in Ceylon and India 220

Appendix VII Table of Aircraft, compiled by Arthur's Great Grandchild Joe Jameson 227

Appendix VIII Commander-in-Chief Pakistan Air Force, 1955-1957 230

Appendix IX RAF Service History 270

Appendix X Address Made at the Celebration of Sir Arthur's 90th Birthday, 16 June 1993 272

Appendix XI Sailing Highlights in Retirement, Royal Lymington Yacht Club 276

Bibliography 278

Index 279

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