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Radar stations during wartime Malta

Transmitter for Mark 1 gunlaying radar. The photo does not say where it was shot.

Transmitter for Mark 1 gunlaying radar. The photo does not say where it was shot.

Bill Crawford (February 4) asked for information on No. 504 AMES Radar Station and similar stations in wartime Malta.

There is not much information about a particular station in wartime Malta. Period photographs do not seem to exist presumably because it was an important technology at the time.

Some photographs were possibly shot during the war, but due to strict censorship they do not contain any indication that the subject was AMES No. 504 at Dingli. The following is some information on the wartime radar system of Malta.

After several experiments, in December 1935, the British Government decided to install a five-station system called Chain Home (CH), covering approaches to the Thames Estuary. However, the name was immediately changed to RDF, meaning Radio Directing Finding.

In the meantime, as radar technology was in its infancy, in Malta, the British authorities decided to build an early-warning system, the Parabolic Acoustic Mirror known as Il-Widna (ear), constructed at Ta' San Pietru, Magħtab.

Il-Widna became outdated when the British government decided to install the first RDF in Malta. It is important to say that this was to be the first RDF installed outside the UK.

So, in March 1939 the first Air Ministry Experimental Station (AMES) No. 242 was mounted at Dingli Cliffs. By mid-July 1941 the number of stations was increased by three: No. 501 AMES at Tas-Silġ, No. 502 AMES at Madliena and No. 504 AMES at Dingli too (since Dingli is one of the highest points in Malta). The early RDF stations were Type GL. Mk. I and Mk. II

At this time the name was changed to COL (Chain Overseas Low) stations which had the role of plotting medium to low-flying aircraft, while No. 242 AMES at Dingli was a COH (Chain Overseas High) station which had the capacity of plotting high-flying aircraft.

The information received by the stations, which consisted of the approximate number of approaching aircraft (both Allied and Axis) and their height was passed to the Filter Room at Lascaris War Rooms.

The Filter Room would then pass the information to the plotters in the Operations Room where, on instruction, they would place counters on the grid references on a large map of the Central Mediterranean with Malta in the centre. This information would then pass to the RAF fighter to intercept enemy formations.

For an exact control of RAF fighters intercepting enemy aircraft, a GCI (Ground Control Interception) station was also mounted at Qawra Point as 314 AMES. More radar stations were afterwards set up: No. 241 AMES at Għar Lapsi (previously installed at Dingli in 1939), 841 AMES at Wardija and at No. 521 at Gozo Giordan Lighthouse. These RDFs consisted of AM.13/14 units.

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