Site Name: RAF Sandwich ('YTM') R3 GCI ROTOR Radar Station
[Source: Nick Catford]
Following the outbreak of WW2 and the evaluation of the Chain Home (CH) and Chain Home Low (CHL) radars under operational conditions, a requirement were identified for control radar to aid the fighter interception of enemy aircraft.
The coastal CH and CHL radars all looked out from the UK, leaving a void inland, this void relied on the Observer Corps (later Royal Observer Corps) for overland reporting, which was not effective in bad weather or at night.
The Ground Control Intercept (GCI) was designed to fill this gap, providing inland coverage to Filter Rooms, Sector Operations Centres (SOC) and Gun Operations Rooms (GOR) in addition to the control of defence fighters combating enemy aircraft by day and night. The GCI station enabled fighter aircraft under their control to intercept hostile aircraft. after detection by the network of reporting Chain Home reporting radars.
The first GCI's were mobile, at the insistence of the Air Ministry who required maximum flexibility from the equipment and were the first phase of a three part programme, i.e.: Mobile, Intermediate (mobile or transportable) and then Final.
During WW1 Stonar Camp was built by the army on the south of Ramsgate Road to serve the Richborough Military Port. By the time RAF Sandwich was established this camp was vacant and it may have been used for accommodation. Other station personnel were billeted at houses in Sandwich and at the technical site which is an unusual practice. The Stonar Girls School moved out of the adjacent Stoner House in 1939 and the house was used for officers' accommodation.
Intermediate GCI’s were the second stage, pending the construction of the permanent, brick built, multifunctional 'Final' GCI with the much delayed Type 7 radar array built over an underground chamber containing the transmitter, and capable of conducting several interceptions simultaneously.
Photo:The Happidrome at Sandwich, note the Type 14 radar plinth to the left of the two huts.
By 1943 the station had evolved into a GCI 'final' with a brick operations blocks, known as a 'Happidrome' (named after a BBC comedy radio programme featuring a farcical music hall where nothing seemed to go as planned and nobody quite knew what was happening - much like a GCI!!). The new Sandwich GCI site on the north side of Ash Road became operational on 15 June 1943. Its task was control any interceptions within the south east corner of Kent.
Photo:Type 14 Radar at RAF Sandwich
The second installation was placed at Wartling and by June 1944 most of the important fixed GCI stations were equipped with Type 21 sets. It was found that the proportion of attempted interceptions resulting in enemy aircraft destroyed, or probably destroyed; during Window activity was significantly higher when the Type 21 equipment was brought into use. RAF Sandwich remained operational after the war and a Chain Home map dated March 1945 shows Sandwich as being equipped with Type 7 and Type 21 Mk II radars. In November 1946 Sandwich given the status of an independent RAF station. (Window was a jamming technique consisting of half wavelength strips of aluminium which were dropped in bundles from aircraft; it was shiny on one side and black on the other. When bundles were dropped every strip reacted as an aircraft to German radar).
Photo:RAF Sandwich Final GCI site. The happidrome can be seen bottom centre
with the Type 7 radar top left.
On the formation of 60 Group (the organisation to control all radar matters) the country was divided into Group Wing Areas. By 1944 this had been adjusted to four areas with 70 Group in Scotland and the Islands, 73 Group in the Midlands, 75 Group in the Home Counties and South East England and 78 Group in the West Country. These areas were responsible for the technical support and administration (not to be confused with domestic administration which was the responsibility of he radar stations parent station). Operational command was still vested in Fighter Command thorough Group HQ’s and Sector Operations Centres. In November 1946, 75 Wing became Southern Signals Area.
Photo:The reporting room in a typical Happidrome
In July 1948 the Type 7, Type 14 and mobile Type 11 search radars were reported as being operational.
Click here to continue the history of RAF Sandwich
[Source: Nick Catford]