Site Records

Site Name: RAF Holmpton/Patrington ('VQJ') GCI R3 ROTOR Radar Station

Rysome Lane

OS Grid Ref: TA365227

Open To Visitors 8 April
to 3 September 2017

Open 11am till 5pm. The bunker is now self guided with photography and video welcome
Full details

[Source:RAF Holmpton Archive & Nick Catford]

Note: During its operational life the radar station at Holmpton was known as both RAF Patrington and RAF Holmpton, the name changing on several occasions. For the purpose of this report we have used the name Holmpton throughout to differentiate it from the earlier site at Patrington.

A number of 'hot links' (underlined blue) appear in the text. Clicking on these links will take you to an explanation of the term or further photographs. All 'small' pictures can be enlarged by clicking on the picture.

Radar first appeared on the Holderness coast with the arrival of a mobile CHL (Chain Home Low) at Out Newton (the site is now currently in the North Sea due to coastal erosion).

This mobile radar was transferred to a permanent CHL site at Dimlington (now within the gas terminal perimeter). Later, a CHEL (Chain Home Extra Low), was sited at nearby Easington; both of these radars were part of the early warning Chain Home extension.

The first Ground Control radar in the area was a mobile GCI (Code No. 09G) located at Hampston Hill, just outside Beverley after June 1941. Hampston Hill was part of 13 Group Fighter Command at Kenton Bar and was in Church Fenton Fighter Sector with adjoining sectors at Catterick and Kirton Lindsey. This progressed to an AMES Type 8C intermediate/transportable and was planned to be upgraded to be a GCI Type 7.

However this was abandoned in favour of a better location at Sunk Island just outside Patrington village. Here an AMES Type 8C intermediate/transportable was installed until the final Type 7 GCI was completed alongside it dubbed a 'Happidrome' this large brick built control centre contained integral machine and plant rooms along with a stepped (auditorium) operations room with an adjacent standby set house and was operational by February 1943 retaining the code No. 09G.

In 1947, the Happidrome was extended and took on the role of Northern SOC (Sector Operations Centre) until the purpose built Northern SOC opened at Shipton in 1953. From the end of WW2 until 1947 the new Sector was made up of two Sectors, Yorkshire Sector at Church Fenton and Newcastle Sector at the old WW2 13 Group Ops. Room at Kenton Bar.

Photo:RAF Patrington Happidrome
Photo by Nick Catford

However, by the late 40's, plans were well advanced for a new national radar system and as Patrington was designated as one of the new sites, work had already commenced on building a large domestic camp at Patrington Haven just half a mile from the Happidrome operations building.

The camp was later to expand into a major site able to accommodate up to 350 personnel. It was supported by a canteen, medical centre, chapel, cinema and timber hutted accommodation for the single staff with brick build housing for the married quarters, officers and commanding officer.

By this time a stationing at Patrington had become a sought after posting as the camp was one of the first to be fully installed with central heating to all the huts and buildings. The heating was run underground at the site from a central boiler house, unlike the majority of such camps where the heating pipes were run above the surface on supports with heavily insulated pipe work. (RAF Sopley is a good example of this surface pipe work).

1951 saw a start made on the new technical site at Holmpton just three miles from Patrington and although initially planned as a new GCI station, it was very quickly to incorporate other radars.

The original plan had been to build a small underground R2 facility (bunker) at Easington on the site of the former coastal radar providing a new CHEL; this would in turn report to a new GCI Station at Sunk Island housed in an R3 (bunker) on the site of the former Happidrome.

However, after land surveys were carried out the cliff top at Easington was considered too fragile to support a new bunker and the site at Sunk Island was too wet to permit such an excavation. (The name Sunk Island should have alerted the surveyors).

Plans were then revised and after additional consideration was given to the escalating cost, the decision was made to combine both the proposed installations at Holmpton, located exactly three miles between Easington and Sunk Island. The advantage of the Holmpton site was its being some 85ft above sea level, very dry, and providing a high vantage point over all the surrounding countryside.

Cutaway drawing of an R3 underground GCI technical building
Drawn by Jason Blackiston

Work started at Holmpton in 1952 although the first surveys had been undertaken in 1951. The construction involved digging a massive hole in the ground, in this case exactly 100ft and then layering it with a 20ft shale infill for the foundations bed.

GCI operations room
(clicking will bring 5 pictures)

On top of this 10ft of concrete on a pitch and brick lining to form the lower outer shell of the bunker. The outer shell was also reinforced with 1inch thick tungsten rods spaced about 2ft apart with an additional steel mesh framework.

On top of this the bunker was provided with two floors accounting for an internal height of 22ft. Above this a steel shuttered fabrication to form the ceiling and then the outer shell of 10ft of concrete. Finally a brick and pitch outer lining covered with the earth infill to the surface.

Construction took about 18 months with the site undergoing testing during late 1953, becoming fully operational in 1954.

Plan of RAF Holmpton underground R3 technical block as built
Drawn by Nick Catford

The new technical site was an integral part of the 'ROTOR' Radar programme and started life as a combined GCI and CHEL station therefore replacing the functions of the old sites at Out Newton and Sunk Island.

Holmpton was equipped with a Type 54 CHEL radar mounted on top of a 200ft tower and various height finder radars. The main control radar was remotely located about a mile from Holmpton at Hollym and this comprised a Remote Type 7 Mk IV radar along with its small underground machine room, a Type 79 IFF Mk 10 and sub station.

The remaining radars were all located on the technical site in close proximity to the 'R3' technical block.

Type 54 CHEL Radar
Click here to see it being demolished in 1975

The principal GCI radar, the Type 7 was also normally on the technical site but exceptionally, due to local conditions had to be sited remotely; up to 2000 yards from the technical site. These Type 7 Mk IV's, when sited remotely, required a Type 79 IFF facility to be co-located.

Click here for further information and photographs of RAF Holmpton

[Source:RAF Holmpton Archive & Nick Catford]

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Last updated 20 March 2017

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