Site Name: RAF Pevensey - Chain Home Radar Station
Sub Brit site visit 10.1987 & 1.5.2004
[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).
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' guyed steel masts with the receiver aerial mounted on 240' timber towers.
The majority of Chain
Home stations were also provided with reserve equipment, either
buried or remote. Buried reserves consisted of underground transmitter
and receiver blocks, each with three entrance hatches (two for plant
and one for personnel) set on steel rollers. Nearby were the emergency
exit hatch, ventilation shafts and 120' wooden tower carrying the aerials.
On some stations the transmitter and receiver buried reserves were together
on an adjoining site (often the next field).At others the two buried
reserves were separate but located close to their respective above ground
building. Many of the West Coast stations had remote reserves some distance
from the main station but utilising similar above ground transmitter
and receiver blocks.
Photo:The receiver block
Photo by Nick Catford
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 (earth banks) for blast protection.
The East Coast Chain Home station at Pevensey was built in 1939. It was originally intended to build the station at Fairlight, east of Hastings but the local landowner objected, considering the aerial masts to be unsightly. In order to provide the same coverage as the proposed station at Fairlight two new stations were required one at Rye and the other at Pevensey. Pevensey was the worst site in the southern group as the whole area was flooded and the buildings were sited in silt subsoil and continuous pumping was needed during the construction. Pevensey faced south (line of shoot) for attack across France from Germany. It was in the right position for the Battle of Britain.
As East Coast stations have only one channel, emergency mobile radars (MRU's) were positioned near each Chain Home station. That for Pevensey was at Chilley Farm to the south west.
As first built, RAF Pevensey covered a considerable area of the Pevensey Levels, now Pylon Farm, but the transmitters and receivers were housed in sandbagged wooden huts with 90' guyed wooden masts and a mobile generator. This was known as an advanced Chain Home prior to the building of a permanent station.
Plan of RAF Pevensey
Upon completion of the standard East Coast station, the operations blocks gave a much higher level of protection against attack. These were of brick, built on the surface but surrounded with a traverse and topped with a six foot thick shingle filled concrete sandwich roof. Shortly after completion the blast from a German bomb dislodged several tons of shingle, some of it falling into the receiver building; the damaged ceiling is still clearly visible today.
RAF Pevensey was one of the original 20 Air Ministry Experimental Stations. As originally planned there should have been four 360 foot steel transmitter towers spaced 180ft apart and four 240ft wooden receiver towers in a rhombic pattern set at a distance from the transmitters.
However, it was soon found that the radiation pattern was not as good
as it theoretically should have been and to overcome the difficulty,
a larger curtain array of dipoles and reflectors, suspended on high
tensile steel cables slung between towers, was the answer. At the same
time it was decided that four frequencies per station would lead to
delays and was, in any event, unduly optimistic of achievement. The
number of frequencies was reduced to two in the 30-22 MHz range, (10
-13.5 metre bands). As two suspended arrays could be supported between
three towers, (the middle one being common to both arrays), those stations
still under construction would have one tower deleted from the original
plan even if four bases had been cast.
Photo:The transmitter block seen shortly before it was demolished in December 1987
Photo by Nick Catford
RAF Pevensey was short lived and by December 1945 the station was described as 'caretaking' (Air 25/686 Appendix A) with its future also listed as 'caretaking'. As the station was not required for the post war rotor radar programme both RAF Pevensey and RAF Rye were offered for sale by public auction in Battle (Sussex) in November 1958. The inventory of buildings and equipment offered for sale at the two sites was listed as 'Brick sectional timber and handcraft buildings, 6 350 foot steel towers, 2 water towers and the contents of the buildings including 2 Mirrlees 102 hp diesel engines, electrical equipment and all fittings, steel and timber doors and windows, air ventilation systems, fuel and water tanks, sewage pumps, electric motors, tubular wall heaters, RSJ's, baths, sinks and power cables'.
For further information and pictures of RAF Pevensey click here
[Source: Nick Catford]