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Battle of Britain

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The Dowding System—How Britain Kept the Nazis at Bay

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The air defense strategy used by the Royal Air Force came from Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding. The Dowding System contained the elements of detection, command, and control, and through these principles, Dowding ran every battle. Dowding divided British airspace into four groups: Wales and the West Country; Southeast England; the Midlands and East Anglia; and North England, Scotland, and Ireland. The first warning of an attack came to these groups through the newly created radar system, Radio Direction Finding, RDF. These facilities were located up and down the British coast. Once they located a grouping of planes, the information was sent to Fighter Command Headquarters at Bentley Priory where Dowding and his team assessed the threat. Along with the radar, radio transmissions were monitored and messages decoded with the German Enigma machine that the British had previously captured. All this information allowed Dowding and other advisors to see exactly where the fighting squadrons were going, predict possible targets, and make quick decisions. The information and orders were then passed to each group and the intelligence would again go through a filtering and reviewing process. This allowed each group to determine its role in the coming fight and perform its actions correctly. The Dowding System turned the Royal Air Force into successful foe of the Nazi Luftwaffe, and is the main reason the British stood with strength against their Nazi enemy.

  • Bently Priory, England


Contributor: Clio
Created: November 26, 2008 · Modified: December 2, 2008


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