10 September 2002

The unveiling of the

RAF Defford Memorial


On Tuesday, 10 September 2002, Sir Bernard Lovell officially unveiled the RAF Defford Memorial
on the Village Green, Defford, Worcestershire just over a mile from RAF Defford,
which for many years was the home base of the Telecommunications Flying Unit (TFU),
later the Radar Research Flying Unit (RRFU).

This memorial dedication reads:

"Dedicated to the memory of those Royal Air Force Air Crew, Scientists, Engineers and Civilian Personnel
who lost their lives in the furtherance of Radar Research while flying with
The Telecommunications Flying Unit (TFU) later the Radar Research Flying Unit (RRFU)
from RAF Defford 1941-1957 REQUIESCANT IN PACE"

Below are several images associated with the RAF Defford Memorial and its unveiling.

There were large crowds, far more than expected for the unveiling - and the weather held out also which was certainly appreciated Members of the RAF Defford Reunion Association

A big crowd, far more than expected was there for the unveiling, including large numbers of the RAF Defford Reunion Association

The wreath from the RAF TFU - Telecommunications Flying Unit, from which so many who died in Radar research had come The Memorial Dedication in close-up

The wreath from RAF Defford TFU (Telecommunication Flying Unit), and the memorial dedication in close-up

Sir Bernard Lovell, now 89 years of age, seen here immediately after he has unveiled the Defford Memorial Ruth Edge & Reg Willard from CRL (Central Reserach Laboratories), Hayes - the modern equivolent of the EMI Research & Development Department from where, of course, Alan Blumlein, Cecil Brown and Frank Blythen all came

Sir Bernard Lovell (centre), now 89 years of age who unveiled the memorial, and Ruth Edge and Reg Willard from CRL (EMI)

Children from the local school also took part in the ceremony accompanied by their teachers The members of the Royal Air Force & Royal British Legion in association with the members of the RAF Defford Reunion Association. On the far right is Cadet Flight Sergeant Caroline Tromas, 1017 (Malvern) Squadron, ATC who played the Last Post

Children from the local school also took part, as did the uniformed members of the RAF Defford Reunion Association

Below are several images associated with the RAF Defford Memorial during its planning stage.

Defford Airfield RAF Defford Memorial Memorial Detail RAF Defford Reunion Association Short History of RAF Defford

click on any of the images to see enlargements

The announcement of the unveiling of the RAF Defford Memorial was made in the following Press Release:

RAF DEFFORD MEMORIAL

After suffering months of delays due to opposition to the original design DEFFORD looks set to finally get
a memorial for its Village Green.

The revised design replaces the original proposed and controversial stainless steel tall cross with a shorter granite plinth, although the base remains the same.

RAF DEFFORD REUNION ASSOCIATION has been working towards this goal for a number of years,
as it was long felt that the tragic loss of life suffered by the little known Telecommunications Flying Unit
(TFU) was 'hushed up' during the war due to the highly secret nature of the work carried out at DEFFORD.
Closely tied to the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) based at Malvern, the TFU moved with
TRE from the South Coast during March 1942. With TRE at Worth Matravers, and TFU at Christchurch,
they were too vulnerable to enemy attack especially after the Bruneval Raid where the newly formed Commando
unit mounted a spectacularly successful raid on a German RADAR installation on the French coast
and secured the vital parts for investigation.

RADAR was the secret weapon where Britain led the World, and the whole operation was
so closely guarded that although by 1945, there were over 2000 personnel daily entering the airfield,
very few actually knew anything about the equipment they were working on.
'Boffins' would arrive, equipment would be installed, tests carried out, pilots requested to 'do this'
and 'do that', and afterwards the 'Boffins' would disappear with their results.

Inevitably there were accidents, and one involved a Wellington which crash landed in front of
Croome Court having failed shortly after take-off. With an aircraft full of fuel the crew made
a hasty retreat only to watch horrified as the 'Boffin' remained inside trying to retrieve
his equipment. He was dragged clear moments before the whole lot was engulfed in flames.

The worst accident in the history of the unit happened on 7 June 1942, and it was planned that
the memorial should be unveiled this year on that date to commemorate the 60th anniversary
of the loss of Halifax V9977 with all eleven on board. The aircraft crashed at Welsh Bicknor quite near
the famous beauty spot of YAT rock in the Forest of Dean.

Halifax V9977 which crashed on 7 June 1942

Halifax V9977 in which Alan Blumlein was killed 7 June 1942

(photograph courtesy of Sir Bernard Lovell)

V9977 was virtually a new aircraft, one of the first of the four engined heavy bombers
entering service which allowed Britain to go on the offensive deep inside Germany with such devastating effect.
It was testing a revolutionary type of RADAR at the heart of which was a MAGNETRON valve,
so secret that at first aircraft were not allowed to fly over enemy territory for fear
that it could be recovered from a totally destroyed aircraft and its details revealed to the enemy.
Tragically, one of the Rolls Royce Merlin engines generally so revered and reliable,
caught fire and destroyed a wing just as the pilot was attempting
an emergency landing on the flat fields beside the beautiful River Wye.

One of those on board was a genius who would undoubtedly be a household name even today,
but for this dreadful tragedy. Sadly, he has been consigned to oblivion because of an accident
in the wrong place at the wrong time. Churchill himself was so appalled to receive the news,
that he described it as one of the greatest setbacks of the war effort occurring at a time when
Britain was in dire straights. He decreed that the news of the tragedy be suppressed,
thereby denying Blumlein the fame he would otherwise have achieved.

Fortunately, by 1942, TRE had enlisted the help of the Electrical Industry, and several companies were
involved in making production assemblies in order to cope wit the increasing demand for RADAR equipment.
Alan Blumlein worked for EMI and had led the team which resulted in the BBC choosing electronic
television is favour of the mechanical system pioneered by John Logie Baird. It could be said that almost
everyone has heard of Baird, whereas no-one has heard of Blumlein and yet EMI with a team led by him
developed television in an incredibly short time and it has remained virtually unchanged until today.
Blumlein also invented stereo twenty years before anyone else had heard of it.

The flight on which he lost his life was made to study the comparison between two different systems
installed in sister Halifax aircraft. The trials using the MAGNETRON were much superior to those
in the other Halifax based on the Klystron valve. Again, fortunately despite the huge setback
Bernard Lovell (later Sir Bernard Lovel of Jodrel Bank fame) was able to take this RADAR forward and
H2S RADAR went on to turn the fortunes in favour of the allies. It allowed Bomber Command to locate its targets
as far away as Berlin with devastating accuracy whatever the weather conditions. As ASV it also allowed
Coastal Command and the Royal Navy to locate and destroy U-boats thus releasing Britain from the
stranglehold which these submarines held the nation and thus win the Battle of the Atlantic.

It is to permanently mark the importance and debt the nation owes to such brilliant men that this
memorial is being built. Sixty years after the event the details of how significant and vital RADAR
was to the nation is still not widely recognised.

Hopefully when the memorial is unveiled it will go some small way to record the momentous achievements
which took place in this remote corner of rural Worcestershire.

Alan Blumlein together with his colleagues were civilians and again this memorial records the fact
that so many different people were involved in this highly secret location. All played a part be they RAF aircrew,
ground crew, WAAFS, WRENS, Royal Navy, Government Scientists or whoever.

Sadly, due to circumstances beyond our control the unveiling has had to be postponed until the
Annual Reunion on 10 September 2002 at 12 noon when it is hoped that Sir Bernard Lovell will do the honours
to record the sacrifice paid by his former colleagues during those dark days.

In order to raise funds for the memorial, and exhibition will again be held at the National Trust
Croome Landscape Park, on 28 July 2002, where the model of the airfield will again be on display
as will the model of the memorial itself.

Thanks are due to Wychavon District Council for a grant of £500 towards the project, Defford and
Besford Parish Council for agreeing the site on the Village Green, Craven Associates for donating the large slabs
which will form the base and all those who have made individual donations. Details of the RAF Defford
Reunion Association can be obtained from Albert Shorrock at 68 Charles Road, Halesowen, B63 4DD
or Graham Evans at 01684 295327.

Very few people will know that at the heart of every humble microwave oven sitting on millions of
kitchen tops throughout the world lies a MAGNETRON valve.
Food for thought (if you will pardon the pun).

 

Previous Ceremonies

Ten years ago, in June 1992, the 50th anniversary of Blumlein's death was marked by an unveiling ceremony of
The Memorial Window at Goodrich Castle.
This exquisite work of stained glass remembers all those who gave their lives for Radar Research
between 1936 and 1976, Alan Blumlein among them.

The Memorial Window at Goodrich Castle unveiled on 7 June 1992

The Memorial Window at Goodrich Castle unveiled in June 1992

Ten years prior to that in 1982, it had been widely expected that the publication of the biography of Alan Blumlein
by Francis Thomson would appear. Thomson himself did nothing in the months leading up to the 40th anniversary
to dispel the idea that his long-awaited book would appear.
Of course, the book was not published in 1982, nor was it ever destined to appear,
and subsequently Thomson was revealed for the fraud and charlatan that he was.

It was ten years prior to that in 1972, during the 30th anniversary of Blumlein's death, that articles and requests from
Francis Thomson first appeared in periodicals requesting information and documentation about Blumlein.
These, he said, he required for the book he 'intended' to write!

Chapter Nine and Chapter Ten

It would have been fitting if, for the 60th anniversary in June 2002, the television documentary tribute to
the life and works of Alan Blumlein which I have been working on for over two and a half years now,
could have been broadcast. But this has proved an impossible deadline to meet and so must wait.

Instead, as a private tribute to those who lost their lives, I have published here for the first time extracts
from Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 of my book in which the specific details of the crash
and the subsequent investigation are outlined. I hope that you find this of interest.

V9977 Wreckage

In addition, I have also published here as an exclusive to the Official Alan Dower Blumlein website,
photographs of actual wreckage of Halifax V9977.
This wreckage was recovered by myself during excavations at the crash site in 1998.

June 2002 - 60th anniversary of Blumlein's death

June 2003 - 100th anniversary of Blumlein's birth

Significant Anniversaries in
2003, 2004 & 2005

November 2006 - 70th anniversary of Television at Alexandra Palace

Return To Main Menu