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Artefact of the Month

OPERATIONAL CONTROL OF AIR SUPPORT FOR D-DAY

The operational air support for D-Day was conducted from the Tangmere Sector Operations Room at College Hall, Bishop Otter College, Chichester, now part of Chichester University.

From the autumn of 1940 the college was used to house a large number of WAAFs who were employed in the Tangmere Sector Operations Room that had been set up away from the airfield in St James’ Infant School, Chichester. This move from the airfield followed the bombing of RAF Tangmere on 16 August 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Later in the war, with the build up to D-Day and the rapid expansion of air operations it was realised that a larger operations room was needed and a new one was constructed inside College Hall, Bishops Otter College. It opened on 15 February 1944 and remained as a Sector Operations Room until the end of 1944.

The Hall was used extensively during the preparatory phase before the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 to control aircraft carrying out offensive operations against tactical targets such as the enemy’s transport and lines of communications, aerodromes and the new threat – flying bomb ‘noball’ sites. The room was manned 24 hours of the day, the staff being divided into four watches of about 30 personnel; each day watch lasted four hours and a night watch was for eight hours. During and in the days following the landings, Tangmere’s Operation Room controlled 56 squadrons from 18 airfields between Friston in the east to Lee-on-Solent in the west and northwards as far as Northolt in Middlesex.

From January to May 1945, the Hall was maintained as an Emergency Operations Room, with a reduced staffing level, to control the fighter aircraft in actions against the ‘divers’ (V1, flying bombs).

A DRAWING OF A SECTOR OPERATIONS ROOM SIMILAR TO THE ONE AT BISHOP OTTER COLLEGE, CHICHESTER CAN BE SEEN IN THE D-DAY EXHIBITION IN THE MUSEUM’S TANGMERE HALL.

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