Site Records

Site Name: RAF Hartland Point ('HAT') R8 GCI ROTOR Radar Station

Hartland Point
Titchberry, Devon
OS Grid Ref: SS237277

Sub Brit site visit 2nd February 2007

[Source: Nick Catford]
In 1941 Hartland Point was a naval VHF intercept station for the 'Y service', a feeder service for the Enigma operation at Bletchley Park.  The 'Y service' was jointly operated by the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Airforce, Foreign Office, Metropolitan Police and the GPO; together they formed the intercept service for the ‘Y service’ which supplied all the intercept material for Bletchley Park. In 1941 an evacuation plan of coastal wireless stations (Naval or RAF VHF intercept stations) was introduced to remove the stations in their entirety with their equipment in the event of an invasion to protect the Enigma operation.

In the early years of the war an Army Coast Defence Mk IV radar installation was established at Hartland Point. This was
taken over by the RAF on 7th June 1942 as a CHL (Chain Home Low) radar station designated 19A under the control of 78 Wing.

By and by the end of the war a Type 31 and Type 52 radar had also been added to the CHL Type 2. During WW2 there were other military installations in the vicinity at Hartland Quay and Morthoe although it is not known what they were.

After the war the station was retained on care and maintenance until the early 1950's when it was reactivated as part of the post war ROTOR programme as a GCI (Ground Control Intercept) radar station.

Photo:RAF Hartland Point in the 1970's
Photo from RAF Air Defence Radar Museum

RAF Hartland Point (code HAT) was built as part of the first stage of the ROTOR Plan which was itself divided into four phases. Phase 1 was the re-establishment of 28 WW2 Chain Home radar stations. 13 were brought up to a fully operational state while the remaining 15 were brought up to a 'readiness' state. These stations would have required some notice before they were fully operational.

Phase 2 was the construction and installation of 14 new underground Centimetric Early Warning (CEW) and Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) stations. Phase 3 was the construction and installation of 11 new underground GCI stations Phase 4 was the construction of 14 new semi-submerged or above ground GCI stations. These were generally (but not always) located on the west side of the country where the perceived threat of attack was not so great and to save on cost protected underground accommodation was therefore not provided.

Phase 4 comprised of five R6 semi submerged protected stations and nine less substantial R8 stations. Being on the west side of the country the radar station at Hartland Point was provided

Type 13 Radar on 25' gantry in 1975 click to enlarge
with a prefabricated R8 structure built of four parallel ranges of prefabricated SECO (wood fibre and asbestos panels) hutting with a two level operations room. The building would have offered no protection from any kind of attack. Of the nine R8's built, RAF Chenies was the only station to be fully operational; all the others were 'readiness'. The other R8 technical blocks were at Calvo, Charmy Down, Comberton, Gailes, Scaranish, St. Anne’s and Trewan Sands.

Plan of the R8 technical block at RAF Hartland Point
Surveyed (RAF Chenies) and drawn by Bob Jenner

Two further R8's were later built at Killard Point (Ballywooden/Bishopscourt) in Northern Ireland and Wick in Scotland as part of the Rotor 3 programme. The target date for completion of Hartland Point was 18th December 1952 but there were delays.

Photo:RAF Hartland Point in the 1950's

RAF Hartland Point was renamed 405 Signals Unit on 12th June 1953. By 30th August 1953 the first two phases of the ROTOR programme were finished and Phase 3 buildings were complete with the installation well advanced. By this date the fourteen Phase 4 technical blocks which comprised five semi-sunken R6 structures and nine prefabricated R8 structures were nearing completion with technical installation expected to be finished by early 1954.

Photo:The guard room at the entrance to RAF Hartland Point with the
standby set house to the rear (c.1982)
Photo by John Harris from the Sub Brit Archive

The following radars were installed at Hartland Point: Type 11 (Mobile) Mk VII, two Type 13 Mk IV, two Type 13 Mk VII, Type 14 Mk VIII and Type 14 Mk IX. The search radar was a Type 14; there was no Type 80 radar.
The WW2 CHL radar at Hartland Point was sited on the cliff edge in the north west corner of the later Rotor station, the building was demolished to make space for the ROTOR radar heads in the 1950's.

Type 14 Mk IX radar in 1975 - click to enlarge

For further information and pictures of RAF Hartland Point click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

Last updated 27th August 2007

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