Site Name: RAF Holmpton/Patrington ('VQJ') GCI R3 ROTOR Radar Station
[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.
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.
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.
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 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]
Last updated 19th January 2006
© 2006 Subterranea Britannica