Site Records

Site Name: RAF Hayscastle Cross - West Coast Chain Home and West Coast Readiness ROTOR Radar Station

Hayscastle Cross
OS Grid Ref: SM920256

Sub Brit site visit 25th May 2007

[Source: Nick Catford]

Following the development of radar at Orfordness and at the Bawdsey Research Station in Suffolk during the mid 1930's, the Air Ministry established a programme of building radar stations around the British coast to provide warning of air attack on Great Britain. A survey was undertaken in 1938 to assess the suitability of the local terrain for Air Defence Radar operations with the first of these new stations coming on line by the end of the year. This network formed the basis of a chain of radar stations called CHAIN HOME (CH).

West Coast Chain Home guyed transmitter masts click
These stations consisted of two main types; East Coast stations and West Coast stations. The East Coast stations were similar in design to the experimental station set up at Bawdsey in 1936. In their final form these stations were designed to have equipment housed in protected buildings with transmitter aerials suspended from 350' steel towers and receiver aerials mounted on 240' timber towers.

The West Coast stations differed in layout and relied on dispersal instead of protected buildings for defence. Thus the West Coast
stations had two transmitter and receiver blocks with duplicate equipment in each. Transmitter aerials were mounted on 325' steel masts with the receiver aerial mounted on 240' timber towers.

The west coast stations used ‘Type B’ or ‘Type C’ blocks (or a mixture of both).  The ‘Type B’ blocks lacked a protected roof whilst the ‘Type C’ blocks were usually completely earth covered for protection. The majority of Chain Home stations were also provided with reserve equipment either buried (completely underground) or remotely sited.

Most stations were powered from the National Grid but they were also provided with generators to cover interruptions in the mains electricity supply. These were located in another protected building known as a stand-by set house. These were similar in design to the transmitter and receiver block although smaller and were of brick construction and surrounded by a traverse

Chain Home wooden receiver towers click
(earth banks) for blast protection.

Photo:The 'Type B' Receiver Block at Hayscastle Cross
Photo by Nick Catford

By the outbreak of war in September 1939 twenty ‘East Coast’ Chain Home stations were already operating along Britain’s coastline, most of them on the east and south coast facing France, Belgium, Holland and Norway. Construction was also well under way on the ‘West Coast’ stations that could cover the equally important areas to the west with stations in Northern Ireland the Isle of Man and Wales.

Photo:Aerial photograph of RAF Hayscastle Cross in 1955 The 'Type B' transmitter block can be seen centre right with the four transmitter masts above. The 'Type B' receiver block can be seen centre left with one receiver tower either side. (a shadow cast by each tower and mast can be seen to the right)

Radar sites were chosen based on specific criteria. The land had to be well back from the coast to be clear of a possible attack from German shipping. A smooth slope between the station and the sea was required to provide good height finding and range finding abilities. The chosen sites also had to be accessible to heavy engineering works with ground suitable for carrying the heavy steel masts. The Hayscastle Cross site was owned by Mr. Philips; a local farmer and was requisitioned by the Air Ministry under wartime legislation.

In July 1940 Germany had already overrun France and was already launching attacks against Britain from the French channel coast. Several attacks took place that month off the Pembrokeshire coast on local shipping and on Carew Airfield and the oil storage depots at Pembroke often with fatal results.  In addition U-boats were causing havoc to our supply lines from America being directed to them by long range German aircraft.

As part of a solution to this problem and pending the construction of a full West Coast CH station at Hayscastle Cross an Advanced Chain Home station was put in place. ACH stations were mobile units utilising telescopic wooden masts and temporary wooden hutting.  The construction of the ACH at Hayscastle Cross was delayed due to the shortage of labour and materials with only one mast half built by the time the hut was complete.

Blast wall surrounding one of the ACH temporary huts

The ‘line of shoot’, i.e. the direction the station radiated its signal, was to the north west covering St. George’s Channel between Wales and Southern Ireland. Other radar stations were soon operating at Pembrokeshire at Warren near Castlemartin and Folly near Nolton to counteract low flying aircraft and ships. Chain Home Low (CHL) and Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) were also built at St. David’s, Strumble Head, St. Twynnells (near Warren), Old Castle Head (near Manorbier) and Kete (near Dale). Chain Home Low was originally designed by army scientists for use in plotting shipping for coastal batteries and was adapted by the Air Ministry to locate low flying aircraft, a task in which Chain Home performed relatively poorly. CHEL stations gave further improved sea level coverage.

For further information and pictures of RAF Hayscastle Cross click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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