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]

SITE VISIT - 19th SEPTEMBER 2003
Following the closure of RAF Bawdsey in 1990 both the main stairway and the emergency exit stairway were capped with 10" of concrete. The bunker had already been abandoned by this date as both the mains electrical supply and the air conditioning plant was considered unsafe. A notice dated 1989 still displayed in the main plant room states that the plant should not be started as there are refrigerant leaks.

RAF Bawdsey was occasionally used for military training during the 1990's but was eventually offered for sale by public auction.

In late 2000 the MOD land agent unsealed the bunker for an inspection and then sealed it again. It was again unsealed for the sale viewing and then the concrete cap was again reinstated. The winning bidder was A.L Digital who also own the former ROTOR site at Ash marketed as 'The Bunker'. This has become a high security 'server farm' and Bawdsey was acquired for the same purpose. Since buying the site, A.L Digital has also purchased the protected command centre at Greenham Common which better suits their needs. Bawdsey is now surplus to requirements and is to be offered for sale again.

Photo:Main distribution frame on left. Rear of transmission equipment (amplifier) racks in centre. Relay set racks at right rear, probably for private wires (direct point-to-point circuits).
Photo by Nick Catford

The bunker still remains in exactly the same condition as when A.L Digital took over the site in 2001, there is no mains electricity supply although contractor's lights have been installed in all the rooms and corridors and these are powered by a portable generator. The bunker is still sealed and when Subterranea Britannica arranged this visit we also had to employ a contractor to break through the concrete in order to gain access into the bunker. The concrete cap was repaired immediately after the inspection. A member of the maintenance staff from A.L Digital was present during the four hour visit.

The guardhouse has deteriorated since our last site visit in 1999 when it was found to be open. Since that date, a concrete block wall has been built between the main part of the guardhouse and the machinery entrance at the rear where the capped stair well is located.

All the windows have been boarded up and there is some damage to the roof where people have, in the past, succeeded in breaking in. All the glass panes on the verandah have also been removed or broken since 1999. There has been a lot of vandalism at the site with most of the surface building having been broken into despite regular patrols from a local security firm.

Photo:The guardroom
Photo by Nick Catford

Inside the main entrance to the guardhouse there is a turnstile preventing further access but it is possible to climb through the broken window into the guardroom. This is not an original ROTOR feature and a report in the Evening Standard in 1974 describes a wire grille. The turnstile must date from the stations use as a Bloodhound site after 1979.

The guard room has been trashed by vandals but it still retains its furniture, a small switchboard, some electrical switchgear and a wall mounted slave unit for the Minerva Fire Detection System, this links to the main control cabinet in the bunker below.

There are hinged metal shutters over the windows and in the corridor there is a ladder fixed to the wall giving access to the roof space where the water tanks were located.

Alongside the entrance corridor, but only accessed from the other side of the turnstile, is the armoury. This still contains several weapons racks for rifles, sub machine guns and pistols. There is also some ventilation trunking and two sliding metal shutters covering a weapons issue hatch. The magazine was in an adjacent room; this still contains two safes, the larger is for ammunition while the smaller is labeled 'Safe Custody' and would have been for pay packets and the imprest fund (petty cash).

Luckily the vandals haven't managed to gain access to the bunker and once through the concrete cap we were able to descend the stairwell to the 200 foot long entrance tunnel. This is clean and dry, turning 45 degrees to the east and then another 45 degrees to the north east before entering the R3 bunker.

There are two recesses on the right, the first is the cable shaft with a ladder and manhole cover; this has been deliberately concreted over and couldn't be located on the surface. The second recess contains switchgear. Diagonally opposite the cable shaft is the main transformer. All the incoming electrical cables have been cut and as the transformer was taken out of use due to an electrical breakdown it is unclear whether it could ever be used again. Beyond this there are two heavy steel blast doors and a dog leg into the main north - south upper spine corridor.


A Cable Shaft
B Switchgear
C Transformer
D GPO Store
E Chief Controller
F Unknown Office
G Operations Office
H Technical Officer
I RAF Cloakroom & Toilet
J Kitchen
K WRAF Cloakroom & Toilet
L WRAF Officers Toilet
M RAF Officers Toilet
N Chief Controller
O Gas Filtration Plant Room
P Sewage Ejection
Q Officers Rest Room
R Radar Workshop
S Store
T Projector Room
U Transformer
V1 Apparatus Fan
V2 Air Conditioning Fan
W Filters
X Compressors
Y Filters and humidifiers
Z Chillers
A Cable Shaft
B Switchgear
C Transformer
D RAF Cloakroom & Toilet
E Kitchen
F WRAF Cloakroom & Toilet
G Officers Toilet
H Strong Room
I Strong Room
J Gas Filtration Plant Room
K Transformer
L Sewage Ejection
M Apparatus Fan
N Filters
O Chillers
P Filters
R Air Conditioning Fan
S Compressors
T Filters and humidifiers
U Filters
The upper floor plan shows the layout of a typical R3 bunker during the ROTOR period, the lower floor plan shows Bawdsey as it appears today.
Survey by Bob Jenner Drawn by Nick Catford

Most of the rooms on the east side of both upper and lower corridors remain largely unaltered from the original ROTOR bunker although the function of some of them has changed over the years. The rooms on the west side of the two corridors have changed fundamentally with many of the internal partition walls being removed and repositioned. Some of the room shapes can be recognized from the original ROTOR layout while other sections of the bunker have changed radically. This work was probably carried out during the stations use as a radar training school and still later as a control centre for the Bloodhound Mk 2 missile site.

In January 1964 RAF Bawdsey also acted as a base for the School of Fighter Control. In June 1940 a controller training unit was formed at HQ Fighter Command using the old Sector Ops. Room at RAF Northolt, moving in 1941 to a private house at Stanmore. This unit transferred to RAF Rudloe Manor in January 1946 and a year later was renamed Fighter Command School of Control and Reporting. In February 1948 the unit transferred to RAF Middle Wallop and in January 1951 was renamed The Control and Reporting School. In September 1957 it was disestablished and the former Fighter Control Squadron transferred to RAF Hope Cove where it was renamed the School of Fighter Control. In October 1958 the school moved to RAF Sopley disbanding in April 1960. In January 1964 The School of Fighter Control was reactivated and based as a lodger unit at RAF Bawdsey with its earlier title of School of Control and Reporting, reverting in October 1968 to the School of Fighter Control. In October 1974 the school relocated to RAF West Drayton remaining until October 1990 when the new school of Fighter Control opened at RAF Bulmer when it currently remains.

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 21st October 2003

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