‘The bomber will always get through’ was the oft-repeated mantra, first coined by Stanley Baldwin in 1932, which emphasised that the only realistic form of defence was offence. 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. Essex Class Aircraft Carriers, 1943–1991 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 defence at the most crucial time in its history, for which he will always be remembered.
Helping Stop Hitler’s Luftwaffe The Memoirs of a Pilot Involved in the Development of Radar Interception, Vital in the Battle of Britain
RAF pilot, and later engineer, Arthur McDonald played an important role in the initial experiments with the primitive radar systems that culminated in the Biggin Hill Experiment. Flying Gloster Gauntlets from A Flight of 32 Squadron, commanded by McDonald, this unit would prove that radar could detect hostile aircraft and be used to vector friendly aircraft on to these targets.