Site Records

Site Name: RAF Dunkirk - Chain Home Radar Station

Courtenay Road
OS Grid Ref: TR076595

Sub Brit site visit November 1996 & September 2004

[Source: Nick Catford]

Today the major buildings on the technical site are still standing with a preservation order in force to stop any future development of the site. The main entrance to the station is at the end of a row of modern bungalows on the east side of Courtenay Road in Dunkirk village. Here the original concrete access road runs west alongside the original pair of Air Ministry wardens houses which are now in private occupation. After a short distance there is a junction with one road running south to the transmitter block and the other running north to the receiver block.

At this junction the four concrete bases of the 'J watch' mast have been incorporated into a large chicken coop.

Photo:The transmitter block with the base of one of the felled tower legs in the foreground
Photo by Nick Catford

The transmitter block remains in good condition although rather overgrown; it is kept locked and is used for storage by the farmer. The bases for the four transmitter towers are in a straight line, two on each side of the transmitter block. Two of them are within the current RAF compound and the two to the north are in an untended overgrown field. The technical block blast wall for the Type 55 radar can still be seen between the concrete bases of No. 4 tower.

The receiver block is surrounded by the bases of the four wooden towers set in a rhombic pattern. The block is open but largely stripped of any fixtures and fittings with all windows, doors and floorboards removed leaving deep cable recesses in the floor (care required here). Some original green pain remains on the walls and the northern room still has a tiled floor, this would have housed the main power plant and rectifiers for the receivers. In a small room, accessed from the main spine corridor there is a low concrete plinth for the filtration plant.

Close to the receiver block there is a small open static water tank that would have provided an emergency water supply; this is still filled with water.

Map shows the major features in relation to current roads and foopaths

Between the main entrance and the receiver block another concrete road branches to the south were the standby set house is located. This is of similar construction to the technical blocks although half the size. It is open but is now heavily overgrown making access difficult. At some time it has been used as a cattle shelter but is now unused.

Both the transmitter and receiver blocks would have been fitted with duplicate sets of equipment. In the event of both sets becoming unusable, a third set was located in an underground chamber on the perimeter of the site, these were known as buried reserves.

Photo:The transmitter buried reserve with the emergency exit at the rear. The extractor hood (above the transmitter position) is suspended from the ceiling. The high water mark is clearly visible just below the ceiling.
Photo by Nick Catford

The transmitter buried reserve is in a heavily overgrown wooded area immediately behind the wardens houses. It is on an area of raised ground with concrete steps up to the entrance hatches. When visited in early September 2004 the personnel hatch had been pushed to one side. The internal steel stairs were intact but the reserve was found to be flooded to a depth of eight feet. Permission was obtained from the farmer to pump the water out of the underground chamber and this was done by members of Subterranea Britannica with the help of the Kent Underground Research Group on 25th September 2004.

The main access was by moving a three flat reinforced concrete covers on steel rollers and running rails. The two larger covers were for plant access and the smaller cover gives access to a steel staircase down 17' 5" into the bunker. 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 although now lying on its side on its 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. Both sets of doors still in place although now rusted into the open position. 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.

On the north side of the transmitter room there is a large rectangular galvanised extractor 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 still in place but the escape hatch has been sealed with concrete.

Plan of the transmitter buried reserve
Survey by Bob Jenner

A large rack of electrical switchgear is still in place on the back wall of the transmitter room and a number of other electrical fittings are still in place including GPO junction boxes, fuse boxes and light fittings. Mounted on the ceiling next to the extractor hood are two cylindrical porcelain insulators mounted on the ceiling on stand off metal brackets. These were mounted next to the input for the aerial feed cables. One of these cables protrudes through a circular hole in the ceiling and is still fixed to the insulator. The insulators are dated 1940. In three corners of the room there are cable entry points just below ceiling level with the cut cable ends still protruding through the bitumen. There are three square holes in the ceiling, two in the transmitter room and one in the plant room; these are the three ventilation shafts. There would originally have been three short stacks on the surface with wooden louvres at the top but there is no evidence of these remaining.

The underground chamber is strewn with rubble, especially at the bottom of the stairs and at the far side of the transmitter room. A long wooden bench is probably original.

Close to the access hatches but completely overgrown, the four concrete bases for the 120' high reserve transmitter mast can also be found.

For further information and pictures of RAF Dunkirk click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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