Social Outing 2014 - The Operations Room, RAF Uxbridge
On 18 September a party of 18 members and guests toured the Battle of Britain Operations Room in the bunker at the former Royal Air Force Base at Uxbridge
The bunker is part of a complex of buildings of Hillingdon House which was built in the 18th Century. It was purchased by the government in 1915 and became the home of the Flying Corps in 1917. Continuing its close association with the flying services it became the Battle of Britain Operations Room in 1940.
The RAF was formed on April 1918 and centre became the operational headquarters of No 11 Group RAF before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. It was responsible for the defence of London and the South East of England.
It was divided into seven sectors containing the major airfields around London and controlled numerous satellite stations which amounted to a total of 21 airfields all controlled at the centre.
It is 60 feet underground. Constructed was begun in 1939 and the complex on two floors completed in seven months. The large map of the operational area is displayed on the lower floor with counters showing the position, direction and estimated numbers of attacking enemy aircraft. The controllers sitting upstairs received a constant flow of information about attacking aircraft and were able to direct the response from local airfields.
The bunker was in operation ten days before war broke out and on 15th September 1940 Winston Churchill who realised the importance of the Centre to the fate of the U.K. was present watching developments as they unfolded. “What have we in reserve” he asked “nothing” he was told.
It was here that he made his famous speech ‘Never in the Field of Human Conflict …’ and which he repeated in Parliament four days later.
Of the estimated 1733 enemy aircraft which were shot down 1300 of them were destroyed by the direct activities of those in the command and control Bunker.
The defending RAF squadrons included 35 squadrons of Hurricanes, 19 squadrons of Spitfires, 9 squadrons of Blenheims and 2 squadrons of Defiants. These, together with 2 squadrons of naval aircraft and a number of American aircraft made the formidable force which successfully defended the country.
The tour concluded with a visit to the museum which has an extensive collection of important memorabilia including an early air-sea rescue launch.
The tour leader David Mayne thanked David Williams, our guide, for a fascinating account of the way the Operations Room had functioned and the pivotal position it had held during the Battle of Britain. A pleasant lunch followed at a nearby pub.
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