Arnold Frederic Wilkins
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Arnold Frederic Wilkins O.B.E., (born 20 February 1907 in Chorlton, Cheshire; died 5 August 1985) was a pioneer in developing the use of radar. It was his offhand suggestion that radio might be used to detect aircraft that led to initial steps to develop radar in the UK, and his lashed-up system used in the Daventry Experiment that successfully detected an aircraft for the first time.
He was usually known as 'Skip' Wilkins and worked at the Radio Research Station with Robert Watson-Watt. In an experiment on 26 February 1935 in a field in Northamptonshire at Stowe Nine Churches, Watson-Watt and Wilkins became the first to prove the possibility of radar. Known as the Daventry Experiment, this demonstration detected a Royal Air Force Heyford bomber aircraft at a distance of eight miles. In mid-May 1935, Wilkins left the Radio Research Station with a small party, including Edward George Bowen, to start further research at Orford Ness, an isolated peninsula on the coast of the North Sea. By June they were detecting aircraft at 27 km, which was enough for scientists and engineers to stop all work on competing sound-based detection systems. The successful results of the initial test led to the setting up of a research station that was to become the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE).
By the end of the year the range was up to 100 km, at which point plans were made in December to set up five stations covering the approaches to London by Watson-Watt and Sir Henry Tizard. Those stations opened in 1938 with the help of Wilkins and were further extended to the Chain Home system. In 1938, he helped to develop the British version of the Identification friend or foe (IFF) system.
He died in Saxtead, near Framlingham, Suffolk. His widow, Nancy, died in Framlingham in 2011. They are survived by three daughters.
- Colin Latham and Anne Stobbs, The Birth of British Radar: The Memoirs of Arnold 'Skip' Wilkins, Speedwell for the Defence Electronics History Society 2006, ISBN 0-9537166-2-7
- Victor Lown and Paul Mitchell (2010). Arnold Wilkins: Pioneer of British Radar. The Historian (Journal of the UK Historical Association) no. 107, pp 15 -17. http://www.history.org.uk/resources/student_resource_3570.html