Phil Judkins – Before Dawn: Air Defence and Telecommunications during World War One

Author: Dr Phillip E Judkins, University of Buckingham Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies

Title: Before Dawn: Air Defence and Telecommunications during World War One


During World War 1, Britain developed a comprehensive system of air defence, using telecommunications to link its sensors (radio intercept/ decryption, sound locators, visual observers) through a central control room, to civilian air-raid warning and to military air defence, both ground-based (searchlights, anti-aircraft guns both static and mobile) and fighter aircraft. How was this achieved, and how best are the remaining artefacts and sites to be interpreted? The paper examines these questions with particular examples drawn from sites local to Yorkshire, but with conclusions relevant nationally.

By contrast, Germany possessed the intellectual property to a primitive but patented and workable radar system, but despite this and despite having organised anti-airborne weapons against balloons at the Siege of Paris in 1871, did not capitalise on this knowledge to produce comprehensive air defence of its own. What factors inhibited German developments? The paper draws upon Dutch and German research to illustrate the issues of countervailing power of intellectual property claims upon the development of novel technology; and shows Dutch use of artefact reconstruction in interpretation.

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