Site Records

Site Name: Rattlesden Mk. 1 Bloodhound Missile Site

Rattlesden Airfield
Hightown Green
OS Grid Ref: TL965556

Sub Brit site visit 25th July 2006

[Source: Nick Catford]

Bloodhound Mk 1 missiles were able to accelerate up to Mach 2.2 (more than twice the speed of sound) with a maximum range of about 50 miles. The missiles were not armed with a nuclear warhead although this had, at one time, been proposed.

The ten missile sites were built to a standard pattern with about fourteen buildings usually within a single compound. The buildings were split into three groups those near the entrance were administrative and technical including a guard room, station headquarters, Air Ministry works directorate building and an electricity sub station. Within this section was the large missile servicing building with plant rooms in an annexe alongside; it's here that the missiles were assembled and tested. Other building in this section include the refueling building where the fuel tanks were filled with kerosene.

Photo:The guardhouse with its turnstile at the entrance to the site
Photo by Nick Catford

The next section of buildings was the remotely sited explosives area consisting of the arming shed, plant room, explosives store and a static water tank. The missiles were fitted with a warhead, detonators and booster.

The final area was the two fire units each with a launch control post and sixteen missile launch pads divided into two groups of eight. The pads were eight sided re-inforced hard standings with the launcher assembly in the centre.

Even before it entered service shortcomings in the Bloodhound Mk 1 were recognised. Its Type 83 radar was susceptible to jamming and its static location didn't allow flexibility of deployment. To counter these drawbacks, trials of the Bloodhound Mk 2 started at North Coates in October 1963.

Mk. 1 bloodhound being lowered onto launch pad

The Bloodhound Mk 1 site at Rattlesden was manned by 266 Squadron who arrived at the site on 1st December 1959 and were stood down on 30th January 1964. The site was sold off in 1966. A long section of the main runway and the control tower were bought by the Rattlesden Glider Club in 1988.

Photo:The arming shed with a static water tank in the foreground. The shed was served by a loop road running right through the building. The small building on the right is a latrine and the small building to the rear of the arming shed housed a generator and air compressor.
Photo by Nick Catford

Today most part of the main runway survives and is now owned by the Rattlesden Glider Club who have their headquarters in the renovated control tower. The south & eastern parts of the perimeter track also still exist plus few of the aircraft hardstands.

The most complete part of the airfield today is the No. 1 technical site which still has around twenty buildings including one of the T2 hangars.

A number of buildings from the Bloodhound era survive alongside the old perimeter track on the south west side of the airfield. At the entrance to the Bloodhound site there are four buildings in a row with an open static water tank (EWS) between them; these are all built of brick with flat concrete roofs. The first of these is the guard room which still retains its entrance turnstile. Beyond this is the station headquarters and the last building is the missile service building, a large two bay building clad in corrugated aluminium sheeting with a gable roof. Along one side there are plant rooms in a flat roofed brick annexe. Workshops and stores butt onto the building along an outside wall, one of the workshops still contains electrical switchgear and one of the plant rooms retains two boilers and ventilation plant and trunking.

Bloodhound Mk. 1 at Rattlesden in c.1962
Photo received from Chris Andrews (Click to enlarge)

Some distance away, the large arming shed still stands, this is a tall single storey building clad in re-inforced concrete with 'hy-rib' walls created by applying concrete to a steel mesh. The shed is located on a loop road with an entrance at either end facilitating 'drive through'. The building still retains its internal gantry. There is a small building in front of it which was a latrine and two small buildings at the rear one of which housed a generator and compressor (and still contains some electrical switchgear), the other was an explosives handling area. Opposite the entrance to the building there is an open static water tank still full of water.

Photo:The entrance to the site with guardroom, station headquarters, and works directorate building with the missile servicing building to the rear. These buildings are on the edge of the old airfield perimeter track.
Photo by Nick Catford

The launch control posts and the launch pads have all been demolished and the land returned to agriculture.

The larger buildings on the site have been put to agricultural use while the smaller buildings are derelict.


Other web sites:
Mighty 8th Air Force web site - two galleries of photographs of the WW2 buildings at Rattlesden
Control Towers web site
447th Bomb Group's web site - includes plans of the domestic sites and WW2 photographs

[Source: Nick Catford]

home.gif Home Page
Last updated 16th May 2008

© 2008 Subterranea Britannica