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]


It's impossible to guess what use most of the rooms have been put to post-rotor. The bunker is a little damp but generally in good condition with no vandalism or damage. The teak flooring remains in place although some boards have lifted due to the damp atmosphere. Others have been removed in one of the rooms on the lower floor.

Moving along the upper corridor, the main stairwell is on the right with an equipment hoist fixed to the ceiling above. At the back of the stairwell is the PBX (private branch exchange) room which still contains a two position manual switchboard for a PABX3 exchange. This dates from the 1960's replacing the original ROTOR period switchboard.

Photo:PABX3 Switchboard
Photo by Nick Catford

Moving along the corridor there is a GPO store on the right then the larger GPO power room which still has two concrete plinths and a butler sink. This is floored with Darlington anti-acid tiles for the batteries and charger; the sink was there in case there was a battery acid spill. The racks of lead acid batteries would have been mounted on the existing concrete plinths and the metal racking on the ceiling would have supported the DC power cables.

Beyond this room is the domestic area, the first room being the RAF (Male) cloak room and toilets; these have been retained from ROTOR with 3 WC cubicles, 4 urinals and 3 hand basins in the toilet and a fifty gallon water heater in the cloakroom. Beyond this is the RAF (Male) rest room with a serving hatch from the kitchen.

The small kitchen has also been retained and modernized with a white tiled wall and a stainless steel double sink and draining board with cupboards beneath and alongside, all the appliances have been removed. The serving hatch into the WRAF (Female) rest room has been replaced by a doorway and a serving counter has been added along one side of the new canteen.

The WRAF (Female) cloak room and toilets include 3 WC cubicles, 3 WC cubicles converted to showers, 6 hand basins and a sanitary towel incinerator. The next two rooms on the right, either side of the rear stairway were originally the RAF and WRAF officers' toilet. The partition wall between them has been removed forming a new unisex officers' toilet; the two cubicles have been retained and three shower cubicles and two hand basins have been added.

Back at the main stairwell the rooms on the left have been radically altered. The first two rooms (originally combined filter plot and track telling room) have been combined into one large room incorporating two smaller rooms and a sunken well built into the pit that originally housed the display table for the Kelvin Hughes projector which was located on the floor below. There is a step ladder down into the well where there is a long bench slightly undercutting the floor above.

Photo:The sunken well originally housed the display table for the Kelvin Hughes projector
Photo by Nick Catford

The four small radar offices accessed along a short corridor have been kept. At the end of the corridor was the trainers room, this has also been retained with the addition of two further small offices.

The next three rooms (originally fighter marshal, chief controller and intercept cabin) have also been retained. These originally had windows overlooking the well of the operations room; the Perspex windows are still there but have been painted over. The fighter marshal's room, which was originally 'L' shaped has been altered and is now rectangular with a new section jutting out into the void above the operations room; it is supported on new steel girders and pillars. The two smaller rooms (intercept and chief controller) have been turned into strong rooms with large safe doors with combination locks fitted for access; these were installed in 1984 when the bunker was used by Strike Command. The final room on the left of the upper corridor was the officers' rest room which also retains its original shape and has been converted into a workshop with a long work bench and a tool board still in place.

Beyond the operational part of the bunker on the upper level there are two plant areas left and right. On the right is the gas filtration plant room with a motor, fan and trunking still in place and on the left the cooling plant room, this is set in a well accessed by a ladder. Three fans for the condenser water cooler are located in the well, set into the side wall. From the well it is possible to walk under the floor of the upper corridor where a 6 foot high cableway runs beneath the corridor for its entire length. A large number of electrical cables for various diameters are still in place on hangers along both walls. There is a recess on the opposite side of the cable way which contains the fresh air fan. Fresh air for personnel use was drawn through this fan before feeding into the main filter bank and then into the air conditioning system in the main plant room below the fan.

Back in the upper spine corridor there is a dog leg to the right and then a second set of heavy steel blast doors, through these the tunnel once again turns to the left towards the emergency exit stairs. There is a second mains transformer on the right behind a locked wire cage door. There are further cable hangers fixed to the wall along both sides of the stairs which are capped with concrete at the top preventing access. On the bottom of the stairwell on the right is the sewage ejector room with two pumps and a compressed air cylinder still in place.

Photo:Emergency Exit Stairs
Photo by Nick Catford

At the bottom of the main stairwell is the lower spine corridor. The first room on the right is the GPO/BT apparatus room. This still contains the main distribution frame and other equipment racking most of which dates from the 1960's.

There is a rack of transmission (amplifier) equipment in the centre of the room with a relay set rack behind it probably for private wires (direct point-to point circuits). There are also some wooden battery racks against one wall. In one corner of the room there's a rack of two-motion selectors, part of the PABX3 exchange equipment. There's also a wooden cabinet fixed to one of the equipment racks from where engineers could test lines.

The next room on the right is the radar machine room; this still has a large quantity of electrical switchgear on the end wall. There are a number of concrete plinths on the floor where the radar frequency generators (rotary converters) would have been mounted.

Next on the right is the main air conditioning plant room. This is a very complex room divided into several distinct areas with partition walls. The plant and electrical switchgear is largely unaltered from rotor days and is probably one of the best preserved AC plant rooms, in its original condition in any of the remaining R3 bunkers. Only Sopley (and possibly Patrington) is more complete. The room is entered through double doors and down a short flight of steps. On the right is the control equipment for the air conditioning plant. This takes the form of large electrical control cabinets. On the left are two 3 cylinder compressors. These compress the refrigerant (originally the toxic
anaesthetic liquid, Methyl Chloride). Mounted on the wall behind there are two cylindrical horizontal tanks where the cooled water from the air cooled heat exchangers cools the refrigerant.

Between the two compressors are the oil separators Number 1 and 2; these separate the compressors lubricating oil from the refrigerant for compressors number 1 and 2 respectively. At the back of the room there is a panel showing the temperature and humidity in the system and various rooms. There were wet bulb hygrometers for this located in various places in the bunker. In the centre is a black dial this is used this to select what is monitored and the various parameters are displayed on the dials above.

Photo:The air conditioning plant room
Photo by Nick Catford

Large diameter brown pipes, each contains the send and return refrigerant lines from the two compressors, these lead into the Baudelot heat exchanger which is located at a higher level and accessed by a ladder. This cools the water which is fed to the cooled water header tank in a small room at the top of the ladder; the air cooler batteries A,B, C and D are fed from here. Air cooling in the ROTOR series bunkers was via water cooled cooler batteries - more modern designs used electric air heaters. The feed to and from some of these water cooled batteries (located in a separate room) are the large insulated green pipes

In a partitioned area diagonally opposite the entrance steps is the main air conditioning fan with two sets of filters on either side.

There is also a large floor standing electrical cabinet. This is the only item of apparatus in the plant room that isn't original. It is the mains electricity control cabinet dating from the 1980's. To the rear of the Baudelot heat exchanger there are two narrow doorways one leads to the apparatus fan which is used for cooling all the radar equipment and the other doorway opens into another filter room. From this fan there is another door back into the lower spine corridor. Beyond the plant room is the rear stairway to the upper level.

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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