RAF Danby Beacon

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RAF Danby Beacon

At the summit of Beacon Hill towers the Danby Beacon. Soaring above the North Yorkshire Moors a beacon has stood here for 400 years playing a colossal role in the defence of the realm. Built originally to warn of a french invasion in 1930s Britain there was a very different threat, this time From Hitlers Nazi Germany. Again Beacon Hill was put to use this time with a state of the art radar station to detect enemy aircraft over the North Sea. When the second world war broke out the station was put under the control of 13 Group Fighter Command, Who’s task it was to guard the industrial north. The Yorkshire town Middlesbrough, described as the infant Hercules with its massive steel industry and ship building on the Tees was an obvious and tempting target for the bombers of Hermann Goring’s Luftwaffe.

At 9AM on the 3rd of Feb 1940 Danby Beacon spotted a blip on the radar and another shortly after.  60 miles out to sea at 1000ft  German aircraft were coming in fast and the Hawker Hurricanes of Blue Section 43 Squadron were scrambled from RAF Acklington to meet them. Flight lieutenant Peter Townsend recalls, “vector 190 attacking ship off Whitby”. Flying in with throttles wide open at wave top hight in search formation, suddenly there it was! spotting the Heinkel 111 just below a cloud. With a shout of “tally -ho two- o-clock” banking right Peter Townsend’s Hurricane had the Luftwaffe”s raider in its sights, ravaging the Heinkel with cannon fire leaving it bellowing  smoke, turning for the coast the Nazi bomber flew towards the port of Whitby. Crashing in a field its surviving crew was captured, and this was first blood to the RAF in the air war over England.

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