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Locked Topic Request for Historical Information (Read 4,541 times)
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Request for Historical Information
03.05.2007 at 20:15:54
Jonathan Gill from Oxford Archeology is researching the Northolt Ops Room and e-mailed me tonight with this request.  If anybody can help please post replies to this message and I will direct Jonathan here.  Many thanks...

This is a rather specific question which it is possible no one will be able to answer.

I am currently undertaking a project to record the original 1920s sector Operations Room at RAF Northolt (same type as the one at Duxford).  The work involves taking photographs, producing plans and researching the history/significance of the building.  Clearly one of the key significances of the Northolt site is its association with the Battle of Britain and it is frequently said that the Ops Room at Northolt was a key element of the defensive network.  However, I have seen several references that suggest that by the time of the Battle of Britain Northolt's Ops Room was no longer located in the original 1920s Ops Block and that it had been re-located to a shop adjacent to Ruislip tube station.  I have read on your website that from June 1940 a Controller Training Unit was based in the Old Ops Block at Northolt.

Could you (or anyone at the RAFFCA) confirm that indeed the original Ops Block (Building 27) was no longer used for its original purpose at the time of the Battle of Britain.

Many thanks for any help you can give.
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Nick Loveday
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Location: Derbyshire
Re: Request for Historical Information
Reply #1 - 20.05.2007 at 11:31:45
Spotter - I took the liberty of highlighting your post to Roy Bullers and Dougie Robb and Roy very kindly replied to me which I have posted as a direct cut and paste from his e-mail:

"Thank you for your E-mail dated 3 May 07 regarding the Northolt Ops Room.   A very interesting question which had us scratching our heads and much reaching for reference books, all without any real end product.

We have come to the conclusion that not much research has been carried out regarding fighter station operations rooms.   Yes, they all had them but there the information trail seems to end.

At the start of the war, the fighter station operations room was located on the station (and presumably Building 27 at Northolt concurs with this).   Certainly at RAF Coltishall it was located at the rear of, and part of, the same building as the Station Headquarters.

At some time, the date eludes us,  but certainly after the outbreak of war since reference is made to bomb damage, Air Vice Marshal Gossage, AVM Park’s predecessor at HQ 11 Group, had suggested that ‘standby’ operations rooms should be made available two to three miles from the airfields, and Air Marshal Dowding gave instructions that control should be moved to these emergency ops rooms if this had not already been done.   Several station ops rooms had already been damaged, resulting in loss of ground control.

We know that on 31 August 1940 the ops room at Biggin Hill received a direct hit during a bombing raid.   Temporary accommodation had been set up in an empty shop in Biggin Hill village and was put into use, until such time that a large house nearby, called “Towerfields” had been requisitioned as the standby ops room.

In view of the threat, the ops room at Coltishall was moved to beside what is now the Norwich Ring Road at Catton.    However, this property was itself damaged in a raid on Norwich and a large house, called Stratton Strawless Hall, some 5 miles west of Coltishall, was requisitioned as the standby ops room.

Similar action that we know of, but not the dates, include RAF Kenley which moved to a disused butcher’s shop in the village, for RAF North Weald which moved its ops room to Blake Hall in Ongar, and for RAF Middle Wallop which moved to premises in Over Wallop nearby.   When these movements occurred is difficult to ascertain, but in view of the Gossage/Dowding comments above, and the fact that for Northolt Building 27 was in use for another purpose after June 1940 as the ops room had moved to Ruislip Underground station, possibly indicates that the movement programme for ops rooms was undertaken sometime before the Battle of Britain commenced in July 1940.

Therefore it would appear quite likely that Building 27 at Northolt was no longer in use as an operations room by the time of the Battle of Britain (7 July – 31 October 1940), though further investigation as to the dates of the moves to standby accommodation would be required."

Hope it helps - all credit to the Team from the ADRM!!


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