Site Records


Site Name: RAF Bawdsey' ('PKD') R3 GCI ROTOR Radar Station

Ferry Road
Bawdsey
Suffolk
OS Grid Ref: TM346388

RSG Site Visit: 19th September 2003

[Source:Nick Catford]

NOTE: RAF Bawdsey Chain Home Radar Station featured on the 2004 BBC Restoration WWW site


HISTORY
In 1935 Bawdsey Manor Estate in Suffolk was selected as the site for a new research station for the development of radio direction finding and the Manor House, close to Bawdsey Quay was taken over for this purpose. Following this research, the first Chain Home radar station was developed on the site being handed over to the RAF in May 1937, two years later 15 Chain Home stations were available for use around the coast.

Bawdsey Manor photo from Suffolk Cam web site
Bawdsey continued in the forefront of the expansion of the radar network with an AMES Type 2 Chain Home Low on a 200 foot platform on the southern (No 4 of 4) transmitter mast. (each mast was 350' high). Towards the end of 1941 Coastal Defence Radar was established making Bawdsey the only site in the UK with three types of radar (CH, CHL and CD) in operation. By August 1943 Coastal Defence was changed to an AMES Type 55 Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL), again this was mounted on a 200 foot platform on the northern (No 1) transmitter mast.

Bawdsey is listed as being operational with both CH and CHEL in 1948. In 1950, the station was chosen to participate in the ROTOR programme which should have been operational by January 1952. Work on the R3 two level underground control centre at the northern end of the site began late in 1950. Bawdsey was designated a GCI/E site utilising 1 Type 7 Mk3 on an R7 building remotely sited on Alderton Marshes, 2km north east of the site.

Photo: The Guardhouse
Photo by Nick Catford

The following radars were planned for the 'A' site:

  • 1 Remote Type 7 Mk 3 with T79 IFF
  • 3 Type 13 mounted on 9' high concrete plinths
  • 2 Type 13 mounted on 12' high concrete plinths
  • 1 Type 13 on a 25' mounted on a 25' gantry (4 of the above are Mk 6 with IFF the other 2 are Mk 7 without IFF)
  • 1 Type 14 Mk 8 mounted on a 9' high concrete plinth
  • 1 Type 14 Mk 9 mounted on a 25' gantry
  • 1 Type 54 Mk 3 mounted on a 200' tower

There was a transmitter and receiver site at Shottisham and married quarters in Alderton village.

In February 1953 an American (Bendix enginers supervised these UK installations) AN/FPS-3 'search' radar was installed using an air ministry wooden hut as the R3 bunker was not yet complete. The new control centre wasn't ready until 1954 although the station was already operational. In July of that year links were established between the UK and French reporting systems allowing two way extension of radar cover over Europe.

Bawdsey was manned by 144 Signals Unit from 11 Group and together with 6 other station in the Easter Sector it offered cover from 30 minutes before dawn to 30 minutes after sunset; there was no night cover.

            Type 80 radar at Bawdsey

In 1958 an AMES Type 80 Mk 3 (Green Garlic) was installed together with 2 AN/FPS-6 US made 'Height Finding' radars. The AN/FPS-3 was retained as a standby as was the Remote Type 7 on Alderton Marshes.

In October 1962 the 1st AMES Type 84 L Band radar came on line.

 

In January 1963 Bloodhound SAGW (Surface to air guided weapons) were regrouped under Master Radar Station status at Bawdsey and Patrington but in June 1964 Bawdsey lost its Master Radar station Status and became a satellite to Neatishead. This status was regained in February 1966 following the disastrous fire in the R3 control centre at Neatishead.

By 1972 the Type 54 had been removed and a reflector for a microwave link was attached to the tower. The microwave link brought live radar feed from the Type 84 and Type 85 radar's at RAF Neatishead. In 1974 Neatishead resumed Master Radar Station status from Bawdsey on the completion of the installation of the Standby Early Warning & Control System (SLEWC).


Bloodhound missile at Aberporth
Photo by Nick Catford (1967)

The following March Bawdsey closed and was placed on care and maintenance. In 1977 the ROTOR period plinths, Type 80 modulator building and 200' Type 54 tower were demolished.

Photo: Bloodhound Mk 2 Missiles at Bawdsey in 1984
Photo by Bob Jenner

In August 1979 Bawdsey reopened as a Bloodhound Mk2 surface to air missile (SAM) site operated by C flight of No 85 Squadron. It was divided into 2 missile sections, each equipped with 6 launchers and a Type 87 fire control radar. The Type 84 modulator building (R17) was retained as a crew room and store for Bloodhound armament handling flight. A new control room was established in the R3 bunker to administer the missile control site. The new storage sheds and storage bays and protective wall are all of Bloodhound origin.

From 1984 - 85 Strike Command's (UKAIR) Interim Alternative War HQ was established in the R3 operations block while a new Strike Command Bunker was being built at High Wycombe, during the construction period the bunker at Bawdsey was given a short new lease of life. The R3 was given a refit and much new (temporary) equipment was installed. At this time the central operations room was altered and a new control cabin installed above. When the new bunker at High Wycombe was ready the team pulled out of Bawdsey, their equipment was stripped and the bunker was abandoned.

Photo: Type 87 TIR Plinth in 1999
Photo by Nick Catford

In 1988 two Type 87 radar heads were removed and replaced by 2 Type 86 Radar Caravans mounted on platforms on top of the Type 87 plinths.

On 31st May 1990 the Bloodhound force ceased operations and in June all the missiles were withdrawn to RAF West Raynham. The RAF Ensign was lowered for the last time on the 25th March 1991 and the station closed on the 31st March.

For a site visit report and more pictures click here

[Source: Nick Catford]


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