Site Records

Site Name: RAF Kilchiaran ('ECK') CHEL R11 ROTOR Radar Station

Kilchiaran Farm
Island of Islay
OS Grid Ref: NR207616

Sub Brit site visit 16th August 2004

[Source: Nick Catford]

The final stage of the ROTOR Programme (Rotor 3) was to provide radar cover for the north and west of the British Isles which were still exposed to attack and to give low and surface level cover over the Atlantic, the absence of which prevented effective action against low flying enemy aircraft. Three new CEW stations were to be built at Aird Uig, Faraid Head and Saxa Vord equipped with Type 80 Mk 2 and Type 13 radars. The new CEW operations buildings were to be above ground, heavily built and designated R10, similar in internal layout to the underground R1 bunkers.

Photo:The R11 operations block at Kilchiaran
Photo by Nick Catford

Rotor 3 included five new Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) stations equipped with Stage 1 radar equipment to enable detection and tracking of low flying aircraft. (Stage 1 comprised Type 7 Early Warning [E/W] GCI , Type 14 E/W search radar E/W or Fighter Control [CEW station], Type 13 H/F and a Type 15 [mobile Type 7] - radars from this list were installed as required) The proposed stations were at Kilchiaran, Murlough Bay, Prestatyn, Snaefell and West Myne (demolished). These were to be heavily built operations blocks, designated R11; the above ground version of an R2 bunker.

Two new GCI stations were also proposed as part of the Rotor 3 programme, each equipped with a Type 80 radar and R8 prefabricated operations block. One at Ballywooden (Killard Point) in Northern Ireland and the other at Wick on the Scottish east coast.

It was hoped that The ROTOR 3 programme would be complete by 1957 and all technical aspects were classified as 'Super Priority'.

The map shows the technical site and the VHF receiver site 400 yards to the south west. The standby set house was located in Kilchiaran village on the site of the WW2 Chain Home Low domestic camp.

The site chosen for RAF Kilchiaran was occupied during WW2 by a Chain Home Low radar station, this closed in 1945. A 'secret file' on RAF Kilchiaran was raised 0n 18.05.1953 listing the facilities that were to be provided. An above ground R11 technical block was chosen because of the adverse weather conditions; a prefabricated R8 SECO block would have been the preferred option. Two radars were to be provided, one Type 14 on a 12' plinth and one type 13 on a 9' plinth. A medium voltage switch house was to be provided on the technical site with the standby set house at NR208603, close to Kilchiaran Farm house.

A 'small' VHF transmitter block with a 90' tower was to be built at NR296616, 80 yards north east of the technical block with a 'small' VHF receiver block with a 180' tower at NR203611 on part of the WW2 Chain Home Low site, 450 yards south west of the technical site.

No dogs or post and wire fence were required due to the site topography and there was to be no special provision against attack. There were to be no married quarters with personnel being billeted in hotels in Port Charlotte and Bridgend.

Photo:The R11 technical block. The WW2 CHL technical block can be seen to the rear with the Type 14 radar plinth to its right. The building on the far right now houses BT microwave equipment. The same building is exclusive to R11 Rotor stations. At RAF Snaefell it was used as a standby set-house.
Photo by Nick Catford

The transmitter and receiver blocks were complete 17.12.1953 and another PRO file shows the height of the receiver tower as 120', 60' lower than originally proposed.

Construction of the technical site commenced in 1955 with an estimate drawn up in November 1954 showing the expected cost of construction: £31,700 for the R11 building alone and the total cost anticipated at £160,000. By the target completion date of April 1956 some ROTOR stations had already closed down and the introduction of the 'Comprehensive Radar Station' as part of the '1958' plan had no place for Kilchiaran. Despite the large outlay, the station had a very short operational life; on 11.7.1958 the station was reduced to inactive status with all AMWD assets being removed

For further information and pictures of RAF Kilchiaran click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 26th August 2004

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