Models in the recreated Filter Room, leaning over the filter room map

The Many: Those on the ground

Without the tireless work on the ground of ‘The Many’, victory during the Battle of Britain would not have been possible.

Explore the important stories of The Many and the incredible technology of radar and the Dowding System, through the Museum’s recreation of the Filter Room at Bentley Priory and model of the Operations Room.

“All the ascendancy of the Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been fruitless but for this system which had been devised and built before the war. It had been shaped and refined in constant action, and all was now fused together into a most elaborate instrument of war, the like of which existed nowhere in the world.”
Winston Churchill

Filter Room at Bentley Priory

Birds eye view of the Filter Room map, showing the coast line of England and France An experimental Filter Room was firstly created on the Lower Ground Floor at Bentley Priory, before a Filter Room was created on the Ground Floor in the ‘Ladies Room’ adjacent to the Operations Room.  The Filter Room at Bentley Priory has been recreated as part of the Museum’s exhibition galleries.

Operations Room at Bentley Priory

From 1937 until March 1940, the Operations Room was in the converted Ballroom in the Mansion House. It was moved into an underground bunker at Bentley Priory, not long before the Battle of Britain commenced.  It was in the Operations Room that Dowding monitored the intelligence required for his vital decision making in the run up to the Battle.

Black and white photograph of the Operations Room at RAF Bentley Priory

A detailed model of the Operations Room – as it was in the Ballroom – has been created within the Museum.

Photograph: (C) IWM (MH 27893)

Bentley Priory and The Observer Corps

The Headquarters of the Observer Corps were based at Bentley Priory during the Battle of Britain.

During World War II, the function of the Observer Corps was to report all aircraft movement over land and offshore to their respective centres and from where the information was relayed to the RAF Reporting and Control Network.

The Observer Corps was one of the cornerstones of Lord Dowding’s air defence system and he said later in his despatch on the Battle of Britain:

“It is important to note that at this time they (the Observer Corps) constituted the whole means of tracking enemy raids once they had crossed the coastline. Their work throughout was quite invaluable. Without it the air-raid warning systems could not have been operated and inland interceptions would rarely have been made.”

In recognition of the vital role they played in the Battle of Britain, the Observer Corps was given the title ‘Royal’ in 1941, by HM King George VI.