RAF Air Defence Radar Museum

A registered Charity No. 1058887

curator@radarmuseum.co.uk Contact Details Phone 01692 631485 email:
FROM “HAPPIDROME” TO COLD WAR ROOM Introduction Following the end of WW II in 1945, it became clear than any harmony between the Western occupying powers (the Americans, French and the British) and their Eastern “ally”, the Soviet Union, was illusionary.  Stalin systematically set out to establish communism as a dominant force in Eastern Europe through a policy of occupation and repression.  Attempts by the West to establish a planned route to a free Europe at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 proved futile and, by 1946, the battle lines were being drawn for the next major War, the Cold War – a war of ideologies (Capitalism vs Communism) which was to last until the disintegration of the Communist Bloc and the Soviet Union from 1991.
This War was very different being mainly combat- free, certainly between the main opposing forces, the two Super-powers (US vs Soviet Union).  Here, it was restricted to an uneasy standoff based predominantly on a policy of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) where both sides developed the capability to destroy the opposing side using Nuclear weapons. However, there were several “minor wars”, most notably the Korean War and the Vietnam War which saw the pressures of the Capitalism vs Communism stand-off flare up into conflict.  In these wars, the fight was between local countries, but their wars were supported by the Superpowers who were determined to protect their ideological allies in the regions.
The history of the Cold War Operations Room
The Cold War Ops Room today is a far cry from the early days after WW II.  We have seen how the room was a bigger version of the “Night Blitz – 1942” room.  The end of WW II saw the layout of the Reporting Hall in the “Happidrome”, with the two Plotting Tables and the three Fighter Control Cabins, essentially remain unchanged.  However, the increasing capabilities of  the Soviet air forces required new radar systems with significantly greater detection ranges to allow for the successful interception of enemy aircraft which could now fly faster and higher than those encountered during WW II.  In addition, the advent of Atomic  weapons meant that the WW II-era Operation Rooms were increasingly vulnerable. However, when you walk into this room, it is very easy to imagine the room humming with activity at the height of the Cold War with Soviet reconnaissance aircraft and Nuclear bombers being regularly intercepted and shadowed by our fighters…....
Air Defence today
Air Defence is as important today, even though the threats and theatres may have changed.  The catastrophic events of 9/11 heralded a new and sinister threat, the fundamentalist Terrorist, who would use civilian airliners as a new “weapon of mass destruction”.  Today, as much interest is taken of aircraft flying the airways as stray aircraft who may enter our airspace from time to time.  And the equipment has changed too; no longer are there banks of Radar consoles; computer monitors identical to those in any city office now provide the Fighter Controllers with a window into the skies, often tracking aircraft 100’s of miles away with secure Datalinks carrying information between the Operations Room at RAF Boulmer and fighter aircraft being controlled far out from our shores.
The People behind the screens While the equipment in use has changed almost beyond recognition, and the potential enemy is very different 70 years on after the first Radar systems were deployed around our coastline, the spirit and professionalism of the Controllers remains unchanged.  The core role of guiding fighter aircraft to identify unknown aircraft and, if discovered to be hostile and a threat to our country or our Armed Forces abroad, to destroy them remains the same - the men and women tasked with the job carry on with this vital role to our national safety in the same cool and calm manner today.
FROM “HAPPIDROME” TO COLD WAR ROOM Introduction Following the end of WW II in 1945, it became clear than any harmony between the Western occupying powers (the Americans, French and the British) and their Eastern “ally”, the Soviet Union, was illusionary.  Stalin systematically set out to establish communism as a dominant force in Eastern Europe through a policy of occupation and repression.  Attempts by the West to establish a planned route to a free Europe at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 proved futile and, by 1946, the battle lines were being drawn for the next major War, the Cold War – a war of ideologies (Capitalism vs Communism) which was to last until the disintegration of the Communist Bloc and the Soviet Union from 1991.
This War was very different being mainly combat-free, certainly between the main opposing forces, the two Super- powers (US vs Soviet Union).  Here, it was restricted to an uneasy standoff based predominantly on a policy of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) where both sides developed the capability to destroy the opposing side using Nuclear weapons. However, there were several “minor wars”, most notably the Korean War and the Vietnam War which saw the pressures of the Capitalism vs Communism stand-off flare up into conflict.  In these wars, the fight was between local countries, but their wars were supported by the Superpowers who were determined to protect their ideological allies in the regions.
The history of the Cold War Operations Room
The Cold War Ops Room today is a far cry from the early days after WW II.  We have seen how the room was a bigger version of the “Night Blitz – 1942” room.  The end of WW II saw the layout of the Reporting Hall in the “Happidrome”, with the two Plotting Tables and the three Fighter Control Cabins, essentially remain unchanged.  However, the increasing capabilities of  the Soviet air forces required new radar systems with significantly greater detection ranges to allow for the successful interception of enemy aircraft which could now fly faster and higher than those encountered during WW II.  In addition, the advent of Atomic  weapons meant that the WW II-era Operation Rooms were increasingly vulnerable. However, when you walk into this room, it is very easy to imagine the room humming with activity at the height of the Cold War with Soviet reconnaissance aircraft and Nuclear bombers being regularly intercepted and shadowed by our fighters…....
Air Defence today
Air Defence is as important today, even though the threats and theatres may have changed.  The catastrophic events of 9/11 heralded a new and sinister threat, the fundamentalist Terrorist, who would use civilian airliners as a new “weapon of mass destruction”.  Today, as much interest is taken of aircraft flying the airways as stray aircraft who may enter our airspace from time to time.  And the equipment has changed too; no longer are there banks of Radar consoles; computer monitors identical to those in any city office now provide the Fighter Controllers with a window into the skies, often tracking aircraft 100’s of miles away with secure Datalinks carrying information between the Operations Room at RAF Boulmer and fighter aircraft being controlled far out from our shores.
The People behind the screens While the equipment in use has changed almost beyond recognition, and the potential enemy is very different 70 years on after the first Radar systems were deployed around our coastline, the spirit and professionalism of the Controllers remains unchanged.  The core role of guiding fighter aircraft to identify unknown aircraft and, if discovered to be hostile and a threat to our country or our Armed Forces abroad, to destroy them remains the same - the men and women tasked with the job carry on with this vital role to our national safety in the same cool and calm manner today.
curator@radarmuseum.co.uk Contact Details Phone 01692 631485 email:
RAF Air Defence Radar Museum

A registered Charity No. 1058887