Site Records

Site Name: RAF Bawdsey Chain Home Radar Station

Bawdsey Manor
Bawdsey Quay
OS Grid Ref: TM336380

Sub Brit site visit 13th April 2004

[Source: Nick Catford]

In 1950 the station was chosen to participate in the ROTOR programme which involved the construction of a new underground operations room on a new 21 acre site on the north side of the Bawdsey Manor estate; this was planned to be operational by January 1952 as part of the ROTOR Plan Stage 1.

Towards the end of 1953, the Chain Home equipment was taken out of service and placed in a state of 'care and maintenance' and the Chain Home Low array was removed from the southern transmitter tower.

For the later history of Bawdsey Manor as fighter control school see RAF Bawdsey GCI Rotor Radar Station.

Plan of RAF Bawdsey & Bawdsey Manor - This plan only shows the buildings that are still standing.

Today Bawdsey Manor is occupied by Alexanders International School, a residential language school. Many of the RAF buildings have now been demolished but the transmitter and receiver block, two buried reserves and a number of other buildings from all the major phases of the site still survive.

During WW2, RAF Bawdsey was identified as a potential target and in September 1939 was protected by three 40mm Bofors guns and two .303 Lewis anti-aircraft guns. With an increased fear of a German invasion, these defences were supplement in 1940 by slit trenches, sandbag gun emplacements, a concrete gun post and at least ten type 24 pillboxes; nine of these still survive. There were several attacks on the station during 1940 which did little damage with no casualties and on 18th October 1940 anti-aircraft gunners shot down a German bomber. Sporadic attacks continued over the following three years with some loss of life; the last bombing raid near Bawdsey was on 30th June 1944. A V1 rocket crashed on the beach on 21st September 1944 and a V2 detonated over the sea on 9th October.

The main transmitter building is a single storey 'A' type (east coast) protected block which still stands in good condition. The transmitter building itself is 77' X 27' and of brick and concrete construction with traverses around the building. There is a 5' 6" layer of shingle on the roof to disperse blast. It is located in fields on the north side of the estate.

Photo:Transmitter block - the mast is new, replacing the truncated Chain Home receiver mast that was demolished in 2001
Photo by Nick Catford

There are two access points through the traverses, one on the south face and one on the east face; these give access to an open pathway around the building between the traverse and the transmitter building itself.

Chain Home T3026 transmitter (not Bawdsey)
The main entrance was originally on the south side with an entrance porch way and airlock. Internally the building is divided into a number of rooms comprising a lobby, air conditioning plant room, private branch exchange (PBX), latrine, transformer cubicle, sub-station, workshop and the main transmitter room. The building was equipped with a duplicate pair of Chain Home T3026 transmitters with a pulse power of 300 - 450 kW and a frequency range of 20 - 60 MHz.

The building still retains its wooden casement window frames and is Grade II listed; it is currently being restored to its original condition. A public open day was held there in July 2003. The concrete bases of the four 358 'high steel transmitter towers can still be seen in the fields on either side of the transmitter block. The truncated (280') remains of No. 3 tower remained in place and used by the Harwich Port Authority until 2001 when it was demolished despite efforts to save it by English Heritage and the Royal Airforce Museum. The mast was in need of repair and was considered too dangerous to climb.

In the event of both transmitters being unusable a third transmitter was located underground in a wooded area 200 yards to the north east, this was known as the 'buried reserve'.

Photo:Transmitter room in the buried reserve; the extractor hood was over the transmitter. Note the emergency escape tunnel in the rear wall.
Photo by Nick Catford

This underground transmitter room still exists and is still accessible. The main access was by moving a three flat reinforced concrete covers on steel rollers and running rails. The two larger covers was for plant access and the smaller cover gives access to a steel staircase down 17' 5" into the bunker. One of the concrete covers is partly open but the stairway is badly rusted and is in a very dangerous condition and should not be climbed; the only safe access to the bunker being down the emergency escape shaft on the edge of the wood to the west.

At the bottom of the main stairway there is a lobby area with a gas tight steel door into the air conditioning plant room. The gas filter cabinet is still in place mounted on a concrete bed in the centre of the small room. There is a second small concrete bed against one wall; this would have been occupied by a suction fan. There are openings in the wall for the air ducting which has been removed.

Back in the entrance lobby there is also an air lock into the transmitter room. This consists of a pair of large gas tight steel doors into the airlock and a similar sized set of wooden doors out of the airlock into the transmitter room. The steel doors are still in place but the wooden doors have been removed. Beyond the air lock a doorway to the right gives access to a toilet with an alcove to the left of the air lock back to the wall of the air conditioning plant room. In an Air Ministry works drawing this alcove is shown as being partitioned off from the transmitter room and is identified as a rest room. There is no evidence of a partition ever existing.

Plan of the transmitter buried reserve
Survey by Bob Jenner

On the north side of the transmitter room there is a large rectangular galvanised extraction hood suspended from the ceiling. This would have been immediately above the T3026 transmitter. There is a 5' X 3' gas tight steel door at ceiling level in the centre of the north wall with an offset steel ladder fixed to the wall for access to the escape tunnel which consists of a 13' low passage and at the end a vertical ladder. The ladder is not fixed to the brick wall at the top and the brick lined shaft is in poor condition with tree roots forcing some of the bricks out of position. The concrete surround at the top of the shaft has gone and the 'hole' is covered with a wooden pallet.

Close by there are five cement rendered brick ventilators with wooden slats for intake and exhaust ventilation. On the south side of the wood there are four concrete bases for the 120' high reserve transmitter mast and alongside the foundations of Research Hut 90 and the base of the fifth steel 358 'mast from the original Air Ministry Research Station.

For further information and pictures RAF Bawdsey click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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