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Battle of Britain radar operator Kath dies at 99

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A Battle of Britain radar operator who lived in Wolverhampton has died at the age of 99.

Kath Isaacs answered an advert in a newspaper in 1939 calling for 'young women of good breeding and intelligence' to apply to the Air Ministry for a secret project.

Leaving behind her job at department store Harrods, London-born Mrs Isaacs went on to train in the secret science of radar, which played an invaluable role in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Family tributes have today been paid to the mother-of-two, who died on Saturday.

Born in Battersea just before the outbreak of the First World War, Kathleen Mary Isaacs left school at 15 to work in a mail order business before becoming a temporary worker at Harrods one Christmas.

She went on to work in the children's clothing department for a decade, even dressing royal offspring.

But in late 1939, she spotted an advert in The Times for a secret project with the Air Ministry and was one of 3,000 people to apply.

Mrs Isaacs was among a handful selected, despite cheating slightly by taking her glasses off before the interview.

The medical officer in charge subsequently pronounced her fit, on the basis of 'her cheek'.

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Mrs Isaacs reported the following morning for duty in the WAAF and, ordered to tell no-one, was whisked away to Bawdsley Island, off the coast of Suffolk, to train for nine months in the science of the early warning system radar, tracking German warplanes and giving the RAF sufficient time to attack them.

She graduated in June 1940 and was posted to Dover shortly before the Battle of Britain.

In a short film clip about her wartime experience, posted on YouTube, Mrs Isaacs recalled being on duty as German bombs were dropped on Dover.

"I was on duty the night the first bombs were dropped on Dover and on our station," she said.

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"We were so busy you didn't realise that we were in any danger.

"We were just so busy passing on information to our headquarters."

She described being on a cliff in a small wooden hut, tracking incoming 'hostiles' and reporting it to Fighter Command HQ.

She also told how they were ordered to 'keep mum' about the radar stations, despite probing questions from soldiers who they met at dances at Dover Castle.

"You had to keep absolutely mum about it," she said.

"Nobody could make out what these enormous masts were for.

"The Germans knew about them, of course."

She also recalled one night during the height of battle, as bombs dropped on Dover.

"I remember we were passing through the information to Flight Command headquarters and we were reporting hostiles –if you didn't recognise them as your own, they were hostiles – and then the bombs dropped," she said.

"The CO came on 'Dover, Dover, are you all right Dover? Are you all right Dover? God be with you Dover'. They couldn't do anything about it."

Mrs Isaacs later trained other people in radar at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

In the early 1940s, she married Terence, who served in the RAF.

After the war, the pair moved to Wales, where Mrs Isaacs concentrated on bringing up the couple's two sons John and Edward.

After her husband's death in 1970, she moved to Sussex, then to the North East and, at the age of around 86, to Tettenhall to be closer to Edward.

Last year she moved from her home in Tettenhall to The Croft residential home in Finchfield where she was cared for until her death from natural causes.

Her son John, who now lives in New York, today described his mother as 'feisty' and opinionated. "She had a certain cuteness and a certain charm which made people warm to her," he said.

Edward, of Stockwell End, Wolverhampton, who runs a housing consultancy firm, said: "Both my mother and my father told us about what they did during the war when my brother and I were growing up.

"We were always so impressed with it," he added.

Mrs Isaacs was also a keen bridge player, enjoyed completing Daily Telegraph crossword puzzles and, while living in Wales, was the president of the local Women's Institute.

She also leaves behind granddaughters Hannah Isaacs of Birmingham, Naomi Isaacs of London and Antonia Bailey, of New York.

A funeral service for Mrs Isaacs will be held on August 15 at 1.30pm at the West Chapel of Bushbury Crematorium.

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