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]

Once completed the Hayscastle Cross station had two 240ft wooden receiving towers with a curtain array rigged between the two towers and four 325ft guyed steel transmitting masts. The station had four technical blocks comprising ‘Type B’ transmitter and receiver blocks (1 of each) and ‘Type C’ transmitter and receiver blocks (1 of each).  There were no remote reserve blocks at Hayscastle Cross with the two ‘Type C’ blocks acting as reserve. A mobile radar unit (MRU) convoy was available to provide reserve cover if the station went off air but its location is not recorded. The station was designated Chain Home No 68 and was under the Technical Control 78 Wing at RAF Ashburton in Devon. The operational control was 10 Group with its HQ at RAF Box..

Photo:The 'Type C' transmitter also acted as a reserve transmitter. The high level cable feed can be seen to the right of the rear entrance.
Photo by Bob Jenner

Plan of a typical Type C transmitter block
Redrawn by Nick Catford from an original survey by Len Thomas

The two transmitter and receiver blocks and the standby set house were widely dispersed to avoid all the operational buildings being hit during an air attack. Pembrokeshire was considered a ‘back door’ to gain access to Britain and it was therefore of particular importance to defend the station against hostile invaders.  Not only did Hayscastle Cross provide early warning of enemy aircraft in the Southern Irish Sea area but it also plotted the increasing number of Allied aircraft operating from local airfields.  These were engaged either on training and operational sorties or departing or returning from deep penetration flights over the North Atlantic and Bay of Biscay in the battle against the U-boats.

Inside a typical CH West Coast transmitter room click
By May 1944 as the German bomber threat receded and because of the high cost and manpower required to keep the Chain Home network operating the stations underwent a rapid contraction.  When the European war ended in July 1945, most of the Chain Home stations closed and were reduced to care and maintenance status. By 1947 the only radar cover left in the UK was between Bempton along the east and south coast to West Prawle in Devon via Dover. RAF Hayscastle Cross was reduced to care and maintenance status from 1st June 1946.

On 1st December 1947 the station was transferred from Northern to Southern Signals Area. In 1949 a CFP Combined filter plot had been established at RAF Folly linking the remaining operational South Wales radar stations to the Sector Operations Room, Western Sector at Poltimore Exeter. On 30th September 1950 the station was transferred from Southern Signals Area to Pembroke Dock Coastal Command for parenting. On 15th August 1950 the station was transferred from Southern Signals Area to Radio Navigational Aids Wing.

In the early 1950's, RAF Hayscastle Cross was one of 15 stations selected under the ROTOR programme as a 'west coast Readiness Chain Home' together with a further 13 Chain Home operational stations. The existing Type 1 radar was re-engineered, as part of the first phase of the rotor programme (CodeCHX) to provide early warning cover with re-engineered Type 7 as the control radar at  Ripperston GCI station. A skeleton crew was retained and the station could be brought into operation at short notice. In 1950 it was proposed to upgrade Ripperston

RAF Ripperston GCI Station - Photo Nick Catford click
Happidrome with new air conditioning and blast walls around it. At Folly and Hayscastle new camps were proposed.

Plan showing the location of the main buildings at RAF Hayscastle Cross

On 1st November 1951 the station was renamed 392 Signals Unit. In 1954 St Twynells Rotor GCI replaced Ripperston. It had been proposed to site a Type 54 remotely at Hayscastle Cross, Folly or Rhossili but in event it was placed on main site at St. Twynnells; the new camps were not built with only some minor upgrading of technical equipment. The CFP and Western Sector closed in 1953 control and plot passing to the new SOC at RAF Box under the Rotor Plan. The stations use as part of the Rotor programme was short lived and with the introduction of Type 80 radar in 1955 RAF Hayscastle Cross quickly became redundant because the control version of the Type 80 had twice the range of the Chain Home early warning radar; Hayscastle Cross was retained on care and maintenance for a further five years.

Photo:The 'Type B' transmitter block at Hayscastle Cross now devoid
of its outer blast wall and earth revetment
Photo by Nick Catford

On 15th July 1956, 392 Signals Unit was parented by RAF Folly (another 'west coast Readiness Chain Home' station within the ROTOR programme), 4 miles SSW from Hayscastle Cross and on 13th November 1956 the site was transferred from No. 11 Group Fighter Command to No. 90 Group.  By 7.12.1956 the station was still parented by RAF Folly but was described as inactive.  On 1st May 1958 parenting was transferred to a Care and Maintenance Party Pembroke Dock in No. 19 Group Coastal Command. Shortly afterwards the steel transmitter masts were dismantled and shipped to Trincomalee and eastern province of Ceylon (Sri-Lanka) where they were re-erected. The remnants of the steel guy lines that supported the masts were buried under earth banks.

 On 1st January 1959 parenting was again transferred to RAF Aberporth No. 12 Group Coastal Command. On 20th July 1960 RAF Hayscastle Cross was placed on a disposal list of Air Ministry assets. The land was sold to local farmers and was returned to agriculture.

All of the transmitter mast foundation blocks were demolished by the new landowners but the bases for the two wooden receiver towers still remain.  The two transmitter and receiver blocks, standby set house, sub-station and some of the hutting was also retained.

For further information and pictures of RAF Hayscastle Cross click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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