Site Records

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

Rysome Lane

OS Grid Ref: TA365227

[Source:RAF Holmpton Archive & Nick Catford]]

Over the life of Holmpton technological developments saw the removal of the majority of the early Plessey and GEC radars and their replacement with new equipment from the United States (AN/FPS6).

The original modified signals plan was for the R3 to be upgraded and a linked R14 bunker built to house the equipment rooms and air conditioning plant. A new R6 bunker was to be built on the disused WW2 Chain Home site at Staxton Wold for a Type 84 radar.

A Type 85 radar mounted on an R14 technical block was later due to be built at Holmpton with addition of a second Type 84 despite the close proximity to Staxton Wold.

However in 1964/5 it was decided to install the Type 84 and Type 85 radars at Staxton Wold with Holmpton acting as the control centre with the R3 linked by microwave and landline to Staxton Wold, thereby obviating the need to build the R14 and R6 and saving money.

Staxton Wold which is just outside Scarborough and about 50 miles north of Holmpton was a more suitable location for the radars because of its high vantage point. (Had the installation at Staxton actually been carried out at Holmpton, there is every chance that Holmpton would still be operational today).

The end result was the scaled down plan to provide the additional radars at Staxton Wold. Firstly in 1964 a Type 84 was installed, this was an improved version of the Type 80 at Holmpton. Although planned for the same time this was followed in about 1968 by a Type 85, one of the most powerful radars ever built and requiring a huge R12 technical building to house all the apparatus to support the radar, which weighed so much that it required a electro-hydraulic system to operate it.

Holmpton in 1972 - radars are (left to right); Type 80, Type 54, AN/FPS 6, AN/FPS 6, microwave relay mast. Two defunct radar plinths (Type 13 or 14) can also be seen on either side of the Type 54 tower

Due to the threat of wide band noise jamming of ground radar by airborne Carcinotron jammers some form of countermeasures became essential. In March 1960 a new Passive Defence radar was established under the codename 'Project Winkle'; the PDR could determine the position of a large number of jammers simultaneously. In trials four aircraft were used with the Type 80 radar. A horn aerial and the bulk of the PDR equipment was at the trials site at Bard Hill in Norfolk with a beamed aerial at Bempton (this accounts for the rather strange concrete foundations at the site which still remain to this day).

There were two microwave link relays to Holmpton and Skendleby to cover the 100 mile hop. A static noise source was provided at the old chain home radar station at Stenigot (in effect as stationary target).

Following the trials the production PDR was due to be installed at Holmpton but in the event it was installed above an R17 building at Staxton Wold under the control of the Holmpton Operations Centre'

The provision of the remote site at Staxton Wold required the construction of a new telephone exchange building at Holmpton which in turn supported a microwave tower of 180ft providing a link between the two sites. This brought with it a number of technical difficulties and at the onset the microwave link proved to be a major operational problem. Eventually this transmission problem was resolved with the signal being relayed from another tower located at RAF Kirton Lindsey which in turn provided a more direct 'line of sight' to Staxton Wold.

As noted earlier this was a very fluid period in planning. The planning behind all these developments and changes was that Holmpton was to be the operational command centre for both its own functions and those of Staxton Wold, eventually resulting in Holmpton becoming an MCRS (Master Comprehensive Radar Station) One of just 5 major hubs running the much improved UK air defence radar system.

During the mid to late 60's and early 70's the inside of the bunker at Holmpton underwent further major changes. To facilitate the running of the remote station at Staxton Wold, the entire old twin level operations room at Holmpton was demolished to make way for a giant 'machine hall' this accommodated all the computer systems and relay systems that linked the two sites together and also connected into the UK radar network.

A control cabin

The original galleries, control cabins and 'tote' were completely removed along with the internal dividing walls and a new raised deck was provided over the former 'ops floor' with additional ventilation ducting installed below to support the control systems. At the southern end of the old 'ops' area was floored over to provide storage space for spares and equipment and below this a new set of rooms were constructed to provide office space for the engineering team. A stairwell was then inserted to provide access between the new levels.

Whilst the rest of the Air Defence Radar system was coping with the introduction of the new Linesman/Mediator system an experimental control called 'Fire Brigade' was trialed at Holmpton. Designed to track and intercept incoming enemy fighters automatically it proved a failure as it was only able to perform a simultaneous intercept for 12 fighters and was therefore very limited in its scope. The demise of the Fire Brigade in 1972 saw Holmpton reverting to Linesman/Mediator, conforming to the rest of the Air Defence system.

However the Linesman system was doomed from the start with poor co-operation between the two main manufacturers and a totally inadequate budget due to the politics of the day.

After a few years of literally 'making do' Linesman was eventually replaced in the 1980's by the UKADGE (United Kingdom Air Defence Ground Environment) system which then went on during the 90's to provide the United Kingdom Air Defence Ground Environment Improved System II, which in turn leads on to the systems of today currently being upgraded (2006) to provide the UK with one of the most sophisticated radar reporting systems in the world, the UK Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) which provides the Recognised Air Picture (RAP).

Photo:The air conditioning plant room - one of the few rooms to remain largely unaltered for 50 years.
Photo by Nick Catford

Today the only remaining part of the massive computer centre once housed at Holmpton is a door panel with the label 'Linesman Link' still in place.

Holmpton itself remained operational until 1974 when it was put on care and maintenance as the UK Air defence network was reduced to just 3 Sector stations, Buchan, Boulmer and Neatishead. Staxton Wold became a stand alone air defence unit with a control cabin 'Wendy House' added on the top floor of the R12. It reported direct to Boulmer Sector station and the Air Defence Data Centre at West Drayton thus finally removing the need for the control centre at RAF Holmpton.

Click here for further information and photographs of RAF Holmpton

[Source:RAF Holmpton Archive & Nick Catford]

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Last updated 20th January 2006

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