During the Second World War Radlett was the home to a highly secretive and specialist Royal Air Force unit the 80 (Signals) Wing with the motto – ‘Confusion to our Enemies’. Their job was to detect and then jam the enemy’s radio Navigational systems, which guided the Luftwaffe bombers onto their targets across the UK
As the Battle of Britain, the Blitz and the Bombing campaigns raged across the skies and cities of Europe a lesser-known Battle of the Beams was fought in the laboratories and workshops of a handful of engineers and strcientists in Radlett. This was a scientific armsrace that took place throughout the war as 80 Wing sought to firstly detect and then secondly defeat each new technology the Luftwaffe put forward.
The peak of the battle took place during the night of the 23/24th April 1942 when the Luftwaffe launched a new guiding system called X-Gerät during the Baedeker Blitz.This new system utilised supersonic modulation frequencies
and was a completely new capability. Fortunately, the allies had received prior warning of this development and the upcoming attacks about six weeks before, through the Air Intelligence arm and agents inside the Third Reich.
This gave the unit at Radlett enough time to add a new supersonic capability to their jammers by the night of the 1st raid on Exeter but they were not allowed to switch them on until the attacks had begun to ensure secrecy.
However, once activated there was a problem and the initial jamming capability did not work but this was quickly rectified and the Baedeker Blitz was significantly disrupted with their accuracy dropping from 50% of their bombs being on target to only 13%.
The delay in defeating the X-Gerät system wasestimated by the Air Ministry, to have cost about 400 lives and a further 600 serious injuries, which underlines the importance of the work conducted at Radlett.
The work of this Radlett based unit was of the highest importance and played a pivotal role in defeating the Luftwaffe’s attempts to secure air supremacy and break the civilian populations moral.
You can find out more about the work of 80 (Signals) Wing and the Battle of the Beams in the book The Beam Benders by Laurie Brettingham.