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Eddie Izzard to play Scots scientist in TV drama

Eddie Izzard will portray Sir Robert Watson-Watt. Picture: Jane Barlow

Eddie Izzard will portray Sir Robert Watson-Watt. Picture: Jane Barlow

  • by FRANK URQUHART
 

COMEDIAN Eddie Izzard is set to bring the life of Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the Scottish hero of the Battle of Britain and the “Father of Radar.” to the screen.

He is to play the Brechin-born scientist whose revolutionary aircraft tracking system helped defeat the Luftwaffe in the skies over Southern England in 1940.

Filming on the new BBC drama - “Castles in the Sky” has already begun Edinburgh. The film is being produced by Glasgow-based Black Camel Pictures, the company behind the recently released hit movie “Sunshine on Leith” which is based on the music of the Proclaimers.

Watson-Watt, whose invention played a pivotal role in the Allied victory in the Battle of Britain, was one of four prominent Scots formally inducted last week into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

And a statue, honouring his achievements, is set to be erected in his home town in Angus.The bronze statue by Scottish sculptor Alan Herriot - depicting Watson-Watt holding a radar tower in one hand and an RAF Spitfire in the other - has already been completed and is due to be erected in the town’s St Ninian’s Square.

Brechin Civic Trust has donated £5000 to the film. And Brian Mitchell, the chairman of the trust, said: “Brechin Civic Trust sees the film as worthy recognition of the man deemed by many as the greatest Brechiner of the 20th Century, as well as bringing welcome publicity to the town.”

Watson-Watt, a descendant of James Watt, the Scottish engineer who invented the steam engine, was born in Brechin in April, 1892. After graduating from Dundee University he became a meteorologist at the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough where he proposed the term “ionosphere” for the upper layers of earth’s atmosphere..

Four years before the outbreak of the Second World War, Watson-Watt produced a report entitled “The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods” which led to the first successful trial in which short wave radio was used to detect a bomber.

He was then appointed superintendent of a newly formed top secret research establishment controlled by the Air Ministry - the Bawdsey Research Station near Felixstowe.

The work done by Watson-Watt and his team at Bawdsey led to the creation of a chain of radar stations on the English coast - known as Chain Home and Chain Home Low - which played a vital role in the fight against the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.

In 1940 Watson-Watt also invented the cavity magnetron which produced a compact source of short-wave radio waves and allowed Fighter Command to detect incoming enemy planes from a much greater distance than ever before. Today, magnetrons are used as the source of heat in microwave ovens.

Watson-Watt was knighted in 1942 and ten years later was awarded £52,000 by the British government for services to his country.He was also awarded the US Medal for Merit

After the war, Watson-Watt moved to Canada, where he is said to have been later caught in a radar trap and fined for speeding. After being pulled over he told the policeman toting the radar gun: “Had I known what you were going to do with it I would never have invented it.”

He died in Inverness in 1973 and is buried in Holy Trinity Churchyard at Pitlochry in Perthshire.

 

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