Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation


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Organisation of No 60 Group


The following is extracted from Chapter 3, AP3237 'Signals, Volume 1' (AHB - 1958)

Formation

In September 1939 the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Fighter Command, informed the Air Ministry that he feared the inefficiency of the chain of radar stations placed the air defences of Great Britain in jeopardy.  He therefore requested that a small committee under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Tizard should be formed to investigate the working of the radar chain and to make recommendations for its improvement.  The Air Ministry acceded to this request and appointed a committee consisting of Sir Henry Tizard, Air Marshal Sir Philip Joubert, the Director of Communications Development (DCD), the Director of Signals, a representative of the Director General of Operations and a representative from Fighter Command.

The organisation of the chain had grown up under improvised and imperfect conditions.  Air Ministry Experimental Stations (AMES) were attached to neighbouring RAF stations for administration.  This system was satisfactory while the number of AMESs was small, but the rapid increase in 1939 made the cumbersome system of administration through parent stations in four different commands (Fighter, Bomber, Coastal and Training) unwieldy.  There was no organised channel of administration.  As a result of the Air Council decision to make the fullest operational use of radar while the technique of its employment was still in the research and development stage the expansion of the chain was hurried and became overloaded.

By the autumn of 1939 the radar programme had grown to such an extent that its administration was proving too great a burden for the Air Ministry Signals staff.  In the United Kingdom the chain included 23 Chain Home (CH) stations in being, 9 Chain Home Low (CHL) stations in being, the Bawdsey Training Centre, the Yatesbury RDF training centre and the Base Maintenance Headquarters (BMHQ) at Carlton Lodge, Leighton Buzzard.  This involved all policy, personnel and training questions, and control of 40 officers, 300 wireless electrical mechanics and 300 wireless operators.  These figures were increasing and by April l940 it was estimated that there would be 70 officers, 1,500 wireless electrical mechanics, and 1,500 wireless operators or WAAF substitutes.  The number of radar stations was expected to increase to 38 CH, 23 similar to CH overseas, and 40 home CHL.  The problem of administering radar chains extended overseas.  There were 12 radar stations in France, with 22 officers and 200 men controlling the radar organisation there.  Questions concerning the development of extensive radar organisations oversees including Malta, Egypt, India, Aden, Singapore and Burma, also had to be considered.  Another weak feature in the organisation of the home radar chain was the method by which the component stations were serviced.  The problem which seriously concerned the AOC-in-C, Fighter Command was the fact that he was responsible for operating the chain of AMESs, but the organization for servicing them was not under his control.  The existing organisation had been set up at a time when it was extremely difficult to divorce the servicing of radar stations from the research branch which was responsible for designing and erecting them.  Technical control, and personnel and equipment for major servicing, were centralised at BMHQ; this made for slowness in vital servicing work.  The radar chain was basically badly organised in important aspects of personnel and technical administration, the work being shared by various authorities, such as BMHQ, commands and the Air Ministry.

The Committee met during October 1939 and decided that reorganisation was urgently needed, as was a change in the existing system of responsibility from the point of view of technical, operational and administrative requirements. The recommendations of the Committee were submitted to the Chief of the Air Staff and he approved the formation of a group for the purpose of putting the radar chain on a properly organised basis.

On 23 February 1940 No 60 Group was formed with its headquarters at Oxendon Lodge, Leighton Buzzard.  On the formation the units in the group were the Bawdsey Training Centre, BMHQ Leighton Buzzard, which became part of the group headquarters, No 2 Installation Unit Kidbrooke and its Special Calibration Unit, RAF Special Flight, Martlesham, and 37 AMMSs.  The rank of the Air Officer Commanding was air commodore.  The function of the group was the assumption of technical and administrative control of the radar chain and its subsidiary servicing and installation units in accordance with operational and tactical requirements.  Some of these latter had been formed and operated previously without proper establishment action.  In the early stages it was intended that the group should also be responsible for supervising the introduction into the Service of all other radar equipment. The operational direction of the chain remained under the Commander-in-Chief, Fighter Command, who informed No 60 Group of the operational requirements from the radar chain,  It was then the responsibility of the Senior Air Staff Officer (SAS0) and the policy staff of the group to see the requirements were met by the organisation under their control; if they could not be met No 60 Group was responsible, for consulting with the Direcorate of Communications Development as to the methods of rectifying any short comings.  The Air 8taff, or executive part of the AOC's staff, was composed mainly of general duties signals officers.

No 60 Group was also responsible for liaison with all other users of radar throughout the RAF.  Under SASO, there was a small training staff which was responsible for indicating to the Directors of Manning, Training, and Personnel, the group's requirements in officers, airmen, and WAAF, for the training policy of this personnel and for ensuring that the personnel of the chain itself were maintained in a high state of efficiency.  The training staff was also concerned in the preparation and amendment of the training syllabus for the initial training of all radar operating personnel.  In the administrative branch were the organisation and personnel sections, the staffs of the Services, and certain specialist sections.  The personnel staff were responsible for advising the Record Office on selection and posting of personnel within the radar organisation.  Until the formation of No 60 Group this had been done by D of S for civilian staff and by Headquarters Fighter Command for Service personnel.  The group captain in charge of administration was also responsible for supervising and co-ordinating the work done by BMHQ, which was at that time staffed by personnel of DCD with the addition of a few Service personnel attached by the Director of Personnel.  The Installation Unit at Kidbrooke, responsible for installing radar apparatus at CH and CHL stations, was also absorbed into No 60 Group for administration.  The Chief Technical Officer (CTO) also came under the administrative branch; he was in charge of a number of maintenance control and technical specialists who gave a 24-hour service to the chain.  Also under the CTO was a calibration section, responsible for the calibration and re-calibration of radar stations, an RDF Air Section, consisting of eight special signals officers established for the purpose of instructing in the use and servicing of airborne radar apparatus, and four detached radar servicing sections, scattered throughout the United Kingdom and responsible for carrying out repairs.  Wherever possible the group was established on a Service basis but because it was impossible to find sufficient serving officers with the peculiar qualifications necessary for the highly technical work and responsibilities of the group, many posts established for serving officers were annotated to the effect that they might be filled by the appropriate grades of technical officer.

Responsibility for Ground and Airborne Radar

In April 1940 No 60 Group took over from the Air Ministry Research Establishment (AMRE) Dundee the complete responsibility for installing and servicing the chain of ground radar stations in the United Kingdom.  As a necessary adjunct to this the group was given authority to exercise the powers of local purchase previously granted to the AMRE for the provision of minor item for radar stations.  No 60 Group formed a radar unit by providing equipment, mustering and training the necessary personnel, and then despatching it to the chosen destination.  The personnel were posted to the nearest RAF unit for all purposes other than operations.

In May 1940 D of S laid down the responsibilities of No 60 Group in relation to airborne radar equipment (IFF, ASV, and AI).  No 60 Group was to assist in the introduction of airborne radar equipment to units in the United Kingdom by providing technical advice to the command, group and station signals officers concerned.  It was to provide technical officers to visit stations to advise on the training of unit servicing personnel and to advise local signals officers about the methods of air operation which had produced the best results.  It was to maintain liaison with the authorities responsible for research and development and to keep units and signals staff informed of progress.  In order to fulfil its responsibilities towards airborne radar, Headquarters No 60 Group attached liaison officers in May 1940 to No 32 Maintenance Unit, St Athan, RAE, Farnborough, and AMRE, Swanage.  These were responsible for collecting information about the day to day fitting of aircraft with airborne radar, particularly AI, for reporting the daily position to Headquarters No 26 Group, and for assisting and co-operating with unit personnel to give maximum productive effort.  No 60 Group was not responsible for the supply or fitting of initial IFF, ASV, or AI equipment in aircraft.  At the beginning of September 1940 all responsibility for airborne radar was removed from No 60 Group.  The personnel who had carried on the work were distributed between Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Commands and carried out the same functions at their new posts.

The first aim of the first Air Officer Commanding No 60 Group was to simplify the cumbersome and unsatisfactory technical servicing arrangements for the radar chain.  At that time servicing was carried out by four section maintenance units (SMU) which dealt with all emergency repairs of a major or difficult nature.  Three of them had been established in the spring of 1938 and the fourth in September 1939.  The SMU covering the southern area, the Isle of Wight to the Thames, was located at Hawkinge and Pevensey, that covering the eastern region, the Thames to the Wash, was at Bawdsey, that in the north-eastern area, covering the Wash to the Forth, was at Driffield and Staxton, and that in the northern area, from the Forth to the Shetlands, was at Dundee.  Early in 1940 the SMUs were moved to Hawkinge, Mildenhall, Linton-on-Ouse and Leuchars respectively.  There were two main drawbacks to the system of servicing by four section maintenance units.  First, the personnel and equipment available could not keep pace with the establishment of new AMESs.  Second, there was an uneconomical use of personnel in the north-eastern and northern sections because of the large areas to be covered by each.  It was dangerous operationally because it caused serious delay in repairing stations which were widely separated.  As a result a great deal of detailed technical control, handling and issue of spares was centralised at BMHQ.  The first object when No 60 Group was established was the decentralisation of many functions performed at this unit.

Accordingly, on 2 April 1940 proposals for the creation of units to provide technical servicing for AMESs were submitted to the Air Ministry and were approved.  On 1 July 1940 the United Kingdom was divided into eight areas in each of which a radio maintenance unit. (RMU) was formed.  The units were responsible for the technical administration of the chain of AMESs, the four SMUs being disbanded and absorbed into the now units.  These units were also responsible for the erection of radar stations.  The location of and areas served by the radio maintenance units were: -

RMU No Base Area
1 Wick Shetlands to the Moray Firth
2 Dyce The Moray Firth to the Firth of Forth
3 Usworth The Firth of Forth to the Tees
4 Church Fenton

The Tees to The Wash

5

Duxford

The Wash to the Thames

6 Biggin Hill The Thames to the Isle of Wight
7 Filton The Isle of Wight to South Wales
8 Speke

North Wales to the Clyde

The need for efficient equipment provisioning, distribution and accounting was one of the pressing problems to be faced when No 60 Group was formed.  In the early days of the radar chain it was experimental and under purely civilian control.  All testing for it was controlled from BMHQ Carlton Lodge, Leighton Buzzard, where such spares as existed were held at the immediate disposal of technical personnel.  There were difficulties in the way of adequate equipment organisation.  In the first place the equipment staff at BMHQ had been too busy receiving and despatching urgently needed radar equipment to keep adequate accounting records.  Second, with the rapid expansion of the chain under wartime conditions the arrangements for controlling receipt and issue of spares were inadequate.  Third. spares were scarce because most of the equipment was still experimental and only short-term spares provisioning had been made as recommended by DCD.  Some of the spares were bought as required under local purchase order by BMHQ.  Fourth, the equipment was difficult to identify by a non-technical person because very little bore a stores reference number. Fifth, the holding of most spares at a central unit, meant that the distribution of vital spares was slowed down.  From May to July 1940 radar equipment was supplied to AMESs direct by Headquarters (Unit) No 60 Group, but this was a temporary measure until some improved method was evolved.  When the RMUs were formed equipment sections were included on the establishment to hold and distribute technical equipment; this facilitated identification because technical personnel were always available at the units.  For all technical items bearing reference numbers RMUs demanded on their appropriate universal equipment depot (UED) in the normal way.  For all unreferenced spares they demanded on No 60 Group Headquarters (Unit.), where local purchase order action was taken provided no contract existed for the particular item.  Headquarters No 60 Group controlled the provision and distribution of radar stocks. BMHQ continued to hold sufficient spares to supply overseas AMESs.

AMES personnel continued to be posted to neighbouring RAF stations and these parent stations administered the satellite radar stations in all domestic matters.  For operational purposes radar stations came directly under Headquarters, Fighter Command who could issue verbally via the Filter Room direct orders regarding such matters as observing and reporting.  Copies of written correspondence in connection with these matters were sent to the appropriate radio maintenance unit and Headquarters No 60 Group.  On 30 June 1940 the division of responsibilities between Headquarters No 60 Group and parent stations was laid down.  Parent stations were responsible for rations, pay, discipline and courts martial, transport (petrol, oil, servicing and accident reports), clothing, repair and washing contracts, stores (non-technical equipment), works services (maintenance only), defence, and medical matters.  Headquarters No 60 Group was responsible for establishments, recommendations for courses, promotion, reclassification and remustering, posting and attachments, leave (officers), transport (establishment and supply of vehicles), technical stores (radar equipment), supply of typewriters, amendment of standard equipment establishment, provision and employment of RAF police and Air Ministry wardens, training and initial works services.  On all these matters AMESs were to correspond direct with Headquarters No 60 Group.  Parent stations published Personnel Occurrence Reports.  On 6 October 1940 Headquarters No 60 Group stated that the RMUs were responsible to it for the technical servicing and efficiency of all radar stations  They were not directly responsible for the administration of these stations except for technical stores and medial matters, but it was hoped that eventually they would take over complete administrative contro1 of AMESs and act as a direct link in all matters between stations and the group headquarters.

On 14 October 1940 the Air Ministry issued orders that RMUs were to be known as radio servicing sections (RSS).  They were to be self-accounting for equipment only, and also self-accounting for equipment only for all stations which they serviced.  Parent stations of AMESs were therefore no longer to be responsible for equipment accounting for those stations.  During 1940 No 60 Group was gradually taking to itself more responsibility for the domestic affairs of the AMESs and using the newly styled radio servicing sections as the intermediate chain of command.  In November 1940, however, the Air Ministry issued a new order ruling that the responsibility for administration (other than technical), discipline, and welfare of personnel of all radar stations was that of the parent station and parent station's group and command.  In no case was No 60 Group to concern itself with the non-technical administration of stations.  This caused some confusion because AMESs had been informed that a scheme whereby full responsibility both for their technical and non-technical administration by RSSs had been submitted to the Air Ministry for approval.  In spite of the Air Ministry ruling the trend continued within No 60 Group for RSSs to assume greater administrative responsibility and in November 1940 a formal request for reorganisation within the group was submitted to the Air Ministry.

Reorganisation

By November 1940 it was clear that the existing organisation within No 60 Group was unsatisfactory and required overhauling.  All parties agreed on the need for improvement.  Parent stations complained of the cumbersome method of administering satellite AMESs, which were often miles away, sometimes in remote and inaccessible spots.  Many radar stations were controlled by large operational units, the administrative staff of which were fully occupied with the cares of operational flying stations.  The personnel of AMESs often felt that the importance of their work was minimised and their particular needs and problems overlooked in the pressure of work at parent units.  The RSSs were doing technical administration and the provision of some equipment and by November 1940 they were gradually taking over from parent stations certain administrative matters, such as medical questions.  The resulting diarchy thereby was inefficient and uneconomic.  Headquarters No 60 Group also found that the original system proved unworkable in practice, particularly as during 1940 the radar chain increased both in extent and in numbers of stations.  So many formations were concerned in administrative matters - AMESs, parent stations, RSSs, Headquarters No 60 Group, and groups and commands of parent stations - that the channels of communication were diverse and unwieldy.  Serious delays would have occurred if normal procedure had been followed, so the necessary administrative work had been carried out by a short-circuit of groups and commands.

During 1940 Headquarters No 60 Group struggled, by liaison with the authorities concerned, to effect the co-ordination and standardisation of many administrative matters, but there were still serious defects in their internal organisation.  The AOC felt that because of its peculiar composition and the fact that it was a functional and not a geographical group No 60 Group should be given greater authority over its units and in some aspects the powers of a command.  There were eight main difficulties produced by the division of responsibility within the group.  The first was works services.  A large number of new radar stations had been opened, many of them in remote places where communication and accommodation problems were manifold.  Works services had to be carried out under the supervision of various Works Area superintending engineers under orders from the Air Ministry or Headquarters Fighter Command.  After the erection of a camp, works, maintenance and the provision of additional accommodation were necessary.  Headquarters No 60 Group had no power to order these works services to be carried out; all it could do was to request the various authorities concerned to provide what was required.  Provision always lagged behind requirements.  The second difficulty lay in personnel and discipline matters.  The AOC No 60 Group had disciplinary powers over personnel of the headquarters unit only because personnel of AMESs were on the strength of units of other groups.  If personnel of an AMES were charged with offences of a technical nature which were beyond the powers of the junior officer commanding such stations, they had to be dealt with by officers at parent units who knew nothing of the technical work of an AMES and were not allowed to be told anything about the work because of its secret nature.  This meant that the parent units, groups and commands carried responsibilities for which they had no establishment.  Another difficulty in administering personnel lay in the fact that No 60 Group had no peacetime trained senior officers commanding its stations.  AMESs and RSSs were commanded and staffed almost entirely by civilian technicians in uniform.  Transport proved to be a third difficulty.  All transport belonging to No 60 Group units was borne on the strength of parent units belonging to other groups.  No 60 Group therefore could do nothing to effect major repairs, replacements, and writes-off, and the utmost difficulty was experienced in maintaining in a serviceable condition such transport as was available.  A fourth difficulty lay in the defence and security of AMESs.  Theoretically parent units were responsible for the defence of No 60 Group stations, but often they were situated miles from the parent unit and it was impossible for these to exercise effective control.  The AOC No 60 Group felt that a Defence Officer and a Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal should be established at Group Headquarters to supervise the defence and security arrangements. Accountancy presented a further problem.  Within No 60 Group there were large numbers of civilian technical officers, technical assistants, laboratory assistants and other civilians.  Their terms of service and regulations differed from those normally met on RAF stations.  Queries on travelling claims and subsistence allowances could not be properly answered by accountant officers of the parent units because they were ignorant of the No 60 Group conditions of service.  Often command accountants were also ignorant of the regulations and Headquarters No 60 Group had no power to deal with such matters.  Difficulties also arose with equipment accounting. RSSs were in theory self-accounting for technical equipment for themselves and for the AMESs in their areas, but in practice procedure differed from command to command; in some commands technical inventories were kept and in others they were abolished.  Equipment proved to be a further difficulty, and equipment arrangements were the most abnormal feature of No 60 Group.  Most of it was not in the stores vocabulary, was not obtained through normal equipment channels, but direct from the manufacturers, and was not standard.  Most of it was experimental and highly technical and could be identified only by technical experts.  With the increase in the number of stations and the development of more technical equipment the task of the equipment branch in supply and distribution for home and overseas grew steadily.  The AOC No 60 Group considered that the group equipment branch required the status of a command equipment branch so that it might have direct access to Air Ministry branches.  Welfare problems presented another difficulty.  The question of maintaining morale by supervision of welfare and the provision of comforts was very important in No 60 Group, where stations were in isolated spots and the number of personnel small.  Headquarters No 60 Group could do little to ensure that adequate attention was paid to the matter except by requesting parent units to do what they could.  On the question of health, sanitation, and hygiene, No 60 Group had a chain of responsibility independent of parent units.  There was a Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at the Headquarters and medical officers at each RSS who were responsible for these matters at AMESs.  The SMO, however, did not have the powers of a Principal Medical Officer (PMO) at command headquarters and had to rely on higher authority supporting his proposals in order to effect adequate provision for the units.  The AMESs had no medical officers of their own and had to rely on local civilian medical practitioners.

On 18 November 1940 proposals for the improvement of administration within No 60 Group were submitted to the Air Ministry.  Among these was one that the eight radio servicing sections be raised to wing status and given full administrative powers.  On 6 January 1941 a meeting, under the chairmanship of the Director General of Organisation, was held at the Air Ministry to discuss the matter.  The Director of Signals, the AOC No 60 Group, the Director General of Works, and representatives of Air Ministry branches, Technical Training Command, Coastal Command, Fighter Command, Flying Training Command, Bomber Command, and No 60 Group were present.  It was agreed at the meeting that the RSSs were to be enlarged and known as Signals Wings, the eight existing ones being renumbered 70 to 77 instead of 1 to 8.  The RSSs were to be fully self-accounting units to which the personnel of their own units and the AMESs, which they serviced should be posted.  They were to be responsible for pay, discipline, the issue of all equipment, technical and non-technical, the arrangement of medical attention, the co-ordination of repair of MT, the administration of Service Institute funds, and the co-ordination of local defence with the local Army commander.  Rations for each AMES. were to be drawn from the nearest source.  More extensive powers were granted to No 60 Group.  A works officer was established at the headquarters.  Equipment branches of No 60 Group were empowered to deal directly with the Air Ministry on matters of technical equipment only, on matters of non-technical equipment on the opening of new stations through No 40 Group and on non-technical equipment on other occasions through the usual channels.  The new organisation of the group came into effect on 17 February 1941.  On 24 February 1941 another Signals wing, No 78, was formed to cover the Plymouth area.

Expansion

The number of AMESs in the home chain continued to increase and with this grew the responsibilities of No 60 Group.  In May 1941, therefore, No 60 Group asked for increased powers, more in line with those wielded by a command headquarters.  The requests were for full and responsible equipment functions directly under the Air Ministry accounts staff with powers equivalent to command accountants, and works powers in respect of AMESs. This last included the power to authorise new works services up to 1,500 for any one item, full control of works services authorised for No 60 Group stations, power to authorise requisitioning of property and land up to an agreed annual rental value, and the power to authorise re-appropriation of buildings.  No 60 Group claimed the powers not only on the grounds that the group had expanded considerably.  It was claimed that the burdens of the group were heavier than those of other groups.  As far as radio was concerned No 60 Group was the only operational training ground, the only source of supply of instructors for the training schools at home and abroad, and the only source of supply for overseas drafts.  The greatest possible degree of unified control was required and it was felt that if No 60 Group had command powers, urgent operational commitments would be executed far more quickly than if reference had first to be made to higher authority.  With the increasing use and increasing importance of radar in the war effort, speed of fulfilment of the various tasks was all-important, and on 20 June 1941 the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Fighter Command, concurred in the proposal that the administration and works services of No 60 Group should be divorced from Headquarters Fighter Command and made the entire responsibility of the group commander.  In September 1941 the Air Ministry gave permission for Headquarters No 60 Group to refer requests for requisitioning properties direct to the Air Ministry instead to Headquarters Fighter Command as previously.  No 60 Group was also given authority to re-appropriate buildings, but this power was not extended to requisitioned properties.  The group was, however, not given full command accounting powers because on the information supplied by Fighter Command few accounting problem were dealt with by them for No 60 Group.  On 27 September 1941 the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Fighter Command gave authority for the Air Officer Commanding No 60 Group to deal with Part II works services up to 2,500 for the chain of radar stations, Headquarters No 60 Group and the signals wings.  In September 1941 a new wing (No 79) was formed to be responsible for the AMESs in Northern Ireland, which at that date were 11 in number.

The work and responsibilities of No 60 Group continued to expand during 1942.  By the middle of September 1942 the personnel strength of No 60 Group was 785 RAF officers, 315 WAAF officers, 90 USA officers, approximately 12,000 airmen and 5,000 WAAF, WRNS, and ATS, together with about 300 civilians making a total of over 18,000.  By that date the Air Officer Commanding No 60 Group was responsible for the servicing and operational efficiency of his stations, for the installation of new stations and for the administration of signals wings, and stations within the group.  The centralised filtering at Headquarters Fighter Command, Stanmore, had given way to the establishment of seven group filter rooms.  As a result close liaison between fighter operational stations and Headquarters Fighter Command was essential and greatly increased communication facilities were provided to keep a large number of additional Army and Navy centres supplied with information obtained by radar methods.  No 60 Group was charged with the responsibility for the operation and servicing of all radar reporting stations at home, irrespective of whether such stations were intended for naval. Army or RAF purposes.  These additional commitments involved the taking over or commissioning of approximately 100 naval and army stations and operating them primarily for naval or army purposes.

Another aspect of No 60 Group's responsibilities was the continual increase in the size and technical complexity of its stations.  With the introduction of TEB Mark III. IFF ground installation, CMH Mark II, Consols and reserve channels, the technical effort required for the installation and servicing of a station was several times greater than that required for a station on the formation of the group.  A further new commitment was the responsibility for the operation and servicing of Type 7000 stations (Gee) which provided navigational assistance for Bomber Command.  As a consequence of the increase of the work and responsibilities of No 60 Group the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Fighter Command requested on 11 September 1942 that the post of Air Officer Commanding be upgraded from the rank of air commodore to that of air vice-marshal. DGIS had recommended this upgrading the previous month.  On 3 October 1942 therefore, the proposal was considered by the RAF Establishments Committees in consultation with D of Tels. and D of RDF.  It was agreed that, as No 60 Group had a pre-operational and post-operational responsibility upon which the fighting efficiency of the operational groups was largely dependent the proposed upgrading should be recommended.  This recommendation was supported by the Chief of the Air Staff on 15 October and approved by the Secretary of State on 24 October 1942.

Reorganisation Of Signals Wings

In February 1943 a review of the organisation and establishment of No 60 Group Signals Wings was carried out to ascertain how far it was possible to reorganise the group geographically on the basis of one signals wing to one Fighter Command group area.  The object of the review was to ensure the maximum possible economy of manpower consistent with maintenance of satisfactory operational and technical efficiency.  It was considered possible in England and Wales to make the signals wing area coincide with that of each Fighter Command group.  It was recommended that in Scotland one wing should be responsible for the area of the two northern sectors of No 14 Group and another should cover the southern sector and the radar stations in Northern Ireland.  The proposals were submitted by Headquarters No 60 Group to the Air Ministry and on 25 March 1943 approval was given for the alteration.  There was some delay in the reorganisation because the Fighter group boundaries were not finally determined, but on 19 April 1943 instructions were issued that the ten signals wings were to be reformed into six wings, the boundaries of which corresponds with the reorganised operational groups in Fighter Command, No,. 71, 74, 76 and 79 Signals Wings were disbanded and the new wings were: -

(a) No 70 Wing situated at Bunchrew Manor, Inverness. To operate in No 14 Group excluding the Turnhouse sector.

(b) No 72 Wing situated at Dollar, Clakmannanshire. To control radar stations of RAF. Northern inland and the Turnhouse sector of No 14 Group.

(c) No 73 Wing at Easthorpe Hall. Malton. Yorkshire. To control radar stations in No 12 Group.

(d) No 75 Wing at Keston, Kent To control radar stations in No 13 Group.

(e) No 71 Wing at Woolton, Liverpool. To control radar stations in No 9 Group.

(f) No 78 Wing at Holme Park. Ashburton, Newton Abbott, Devon. To control radar stations in No 10 Group.

This reorganisation took effect on 1 July 1943. Meanwhile, on I May 1943 another signals wing was formed in No 60 Group.  The function of this wing, No 84, was to control radar stations Types 100', '7000' and '9000', from a technical, operational and servicing aspect.  These stations were administered for all other purposes by the appropriate signals wing. This wing did not have a very long life because on 1 September 1944 it was disbanded and re-established as a section of No 60 Group Headquarters annotated No 60 Group Radar Navigational Aide Section Cambridge.

On 15 May 1944 further reorganisation of the signals wings was earned out.  The existing six wings were reformed into five wings to effect essential economies in manpower.  No 70 Wing controlled AMESs in No 13 Group and RAF Northern Ireland, No 73 Wing controlled AMESs in Nos 9 and 12 Groups, No 75 Wing remained in control of AMESs in No 11 Group and No 78 in control of those in No 10 Group.  The AMESs of No 72 Wing were transferred to No 70 Wing, and the Headquarters of No 72 Wing was reformed at Headquarters No 60 Group as a new commitment for special service. AMESs of No 77 Wing were transferred to No 73 Wing.

Calibration of Radar Stations

In the early days of the radar chain, before the establishment of No 60 Group, calibration arrangements were on a small scale and by the spring of 1940 were quite inadequate.  One detached flight at Martlesham from the Special Duty Flight at St Athan provided aircraft for height and performance calibration, in addition to special interception training at Bawdsey.  Also three autogyros and two pilots were available for AMRE Dundee, and use was also made of balloons for D/F calibration.  This was insufficient and Fighter Command provided aircraft from time to time for performance tests, but the arrangement was not satisfactory as it diverted aircraft from their operational duties, required special arrangement and involved the use of pilots who did not always understand fully what was required.  On the formation of No 60 Group a survey was made of the facilities and machinery for the administration, technical servicing and calibration of existing and projected AMESs.  As a result it was discovered that few AMESs were being accurately calibrated.  Therefore in April 1940 when the AOC No 60 Group proposed the formation of servicing units he suggested that the units should include personnel and aircraft for calibration.  This proposal was embodied in the establishment of the RMUs and when these units became signals wings provision for calibration was continued.  Each of the ten wings had a flight consisting of Blenheim Mark IV, Tiger Moth Mark II and Hornet Moth aircraft.  By means of these each officer commanding a wing was responsible for calibrating for height the radar stations under his command.  In addition, there was No 1448 Flight at Halton consisting of Rota aircraft, which was directed by Headquarters No 60 Group; these aircraft were allotted by group headquarters as necessary for azimuth calibration.  Ground controlled interception (GCI) stations were, in general, calibrated by sector aircraft.

This organisation worked efficiently but was extravagant in personnel and aircraft.  During the summer of 1942 investigations were made in order to try and economist by reorganising the arrangements for calibration.  On 3 September 1942 suggestions were put forward by No 60 Group.  It was proposed that the wing flights of Nos. 74, 75, 76 and 78 Wings be replaced by a squadron of Spitfire aircraft, centrally located in the area south of Oxford.  The Hornet Moth aircraft from these disbanded flights were to be transferred to the establishment of a Rota-Moth squadron replacing No 1448 Flight at Halton.  The proposal was supported by Headquarters Fighter Command but rejected by the Air Ministry.  For another year the question of economising on the calibration flights of No 60 Group was debated.  Among suggestions was one that four calibration flights should be amalgamated in No 116 Squadron, whose function it was to calibrate Army radar stations under Fighter Command.  This was considered technically impracticable by the Air Ministry and No 60 Group.  A proposal that the calibration duties of No 116 Squadron should be taken over by the No 60 Group calibration flights was opposed by Headquarters Fighter Command in January 1943.  Finally, in June 1943, it was decided that No 70 to 79 Signals Wings Calibration Flights and No 1448 Flight should be disbanded.  All the aircraft, equipment and personnel thrown up on the disbanding of these eleven flights were utilized in the formation of three calibration and one Rota squadron in No 60 Group.  These squadrons were No 526 (Calibration) Squadron, based at Inverness and administered by No 70 Wing. No 527 (Calibration) Squadron based at Catterick and administered by No 73 Wing. No 528 (Calibration) Squadron based at Filton and administered by No 78 Wing, and No 529 (Rota) Squadron based at Halton and administered by No 75 Wing. Each squadron was self-contained for servicing.

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