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The eyes of their country

We've had a few injuries which have kept us quiet. Before they occurred, we walked through Upham, in Hampshire. We were supposed to eat in the Brushmakers Arms, but instead headed uphill to a football game between Upham's team and the Crusaders. Intense English shouts from the field as the game was played with passion. We passed an injured Crusader, his bare foot (spiked in the ankle) was bare and bound and up on the bench and his arms were around his young son. He seemed insouciant. Behind the football field were bare winter fields and a wide 360-degree view of hills and valleys. Far south, just visible, a shining line marked the Isle of Wight and further west, Southampton. A clump of trees at the very top of the fields marked a Royal Observer Corps station. Here civilian volunteers, perhaps the grandfathers of the young men playing football, spent 24 hours a day intently watching the sky for Luftwaffe planes during the Second World War.

As you know, the British radar defence system was able to warn of enemy aircraft approaching the British coast, but once having crossed the coastline, the Observer Corps provided the only means of tracking their position.

As soon as enemy planes were spotted, their height was measured, their numbers counted, their direction noted, and the type of airplane identified, and these and other details were immediately passed on to the RAF, which sent its young men speeding into the air to stop the enemy.

Without the eyes of these volunteers, the Battle of Britain would have been lost, the Nazis would have invaded, and the young men playing football might never have been born.

It doesn't seem surprising that the Plane Finder app, which allows users to point their phone at the sky and see the position, height and speed of nearby aircraft, was developed by a British firm for the iPhone and Android. Unfortunately, security firms are concerned that terrorists may use the app.

Listening to the late afternoon shouts of the young men defending against a goal, we remember their grandfathers, and wonder what dangers their grandsons will face.

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