May 6 – Bawdsey Radar Station

Churches in Bromeswell and Eyke

Hello from 1066 – Medieval Mosaic

We are on our last week in Hacheston and since it is a gorgeous day 22C we decided to drive out to Bawsdsey to visit the Bawdsey Radar Station. It is only open two days a week and Sunday is one of them. It cost £6.50 each to go in. There was a big building with ample parking. We were greeted at the door by one of the volunteers who recognised Mike from our exhibition in Melton. Someone told me about the Radar station at our exhibition and I have been meaning to go there ever since but it is closed during the winter.

RAF Bawdsey became the first fully operational Radar station in the world on 24 September 1937. Following World War 1 it became very important to protect the UK from attack and over the next decade, many exercises took place to find a solution. The Air Ministry investigated the idea of radio ‘death rays’ which would eliminate or disable pilots and their aircraft. A prize of £1000 was offered to anyone who came up with something that could kill a sheep at 100 yards. However, no sheep were ever killed in this experiment and the idea of a death ray was dropped.

The Scots physicist Robert Watson-Watt was contacted and while he dismissed the idea of the ‘death ray’ he thought that radio waves could be bounced off enemy aircraft to detect them. His assistant Arnold “Skip” Wilkins made the calculations to demonstrate the feasibility of ‘aircraft detection by radio waves’. In February 1935 Watson-Watt and Wilkins successfully demonstrated their system using a BBC transmitter and managed to pick up a bomber being used as a test target. They and a small team of scientists moved to Orfordness to conduct experiments that would lead to the world’s first working RADAR system.

They then moved to the bigger premises of Bawdsey Manor to continue their research. 240ft wooden receiver towers and 360ft steel transmitter towers were built and Bawdsey became the first Chain Home Radar Station. By the outbreak of World War 2 a chain of radar stations was in place around the coast of Britain. Radar stations such as Bawdsey were to prove invaluable intelligence during the Second World War and particularly during the Battle of Britain when 2,600 Luftwaffe planes were set against the RAF’s 640. Bawdsey was used as an RAF base through the Cold War until the 1990s when the Bloodhound Missile was the last ‘tenant’ in this base.

Today Radar is still used extensively for air traffic control, speed cameras and weather forecasting. It is also used for vehicle collision avoidance systems, auto driving vehicles as in Google cars, spatial mapping, distance measurement and geographical monitoring.

We found the whole visit quite fascinating and enjoyed listening to the gentleman who worked here after the war during the 1950s and beyond. I was particularly interested in the live air traffic control software, FlightRadar24, on an iPad that was showing aircraft all over the UK and the rest of the world.

As we were so close to Bawdsey we drove down to the end of the road. It was much busier than last time we were here with families enjoying the beach and the sunshine. The Bawdsey Ferry was travelling backwards and forwards across the Deben to Felixstowe Ferry and the ice cream van was doing an excellent trade.

On our way back up the road, we stopped for several caches and found our way to another dead end road to East Lane Bawdsey where there were a pillbox and more substantial defences where there were six-inch gun emplacements.

 We saw the square Battery Observation Post which consists of a partially underground basement with loopholes and a ground floor with two further floors above. The top floor has an armoured steel roof once supported by corner posts, which permitted all-round vision. The corner posts have since failed, allowing the roof to drop on to the main building.

Nissen huts were provided for office and domestic accommodation and the whole site was surrounded by barbed wire. Each battery was responsible for its own defence and gunners would have been allocated to defend the perimeter. The pillboxes which had been built in 1940, long before the construction of the battery, may have been used as part of their defensive plan. In total, the battery would have been manned by approximately eighty men.

On our way home we visited St Edmunds church in Bromeswell. It did not have a church micro but was a church that we had not yet visited. It had a lovely Norman decoration over the doorway and some lovely flint work on the outside. Inside is mostly Victorian with angels holding shields on the ceiling beams. The octagonal font is tall with big lions on the base. It had some lovely stained glass windows including a circle with St Edmund holding his arrows.

Next, we drove to Ramsholt to visit St Felix as it is one of the few churches we need to complete our Wilford Penisula Pilgrimage.  It was a modern church and we were surprised it was part of the pilgrimage. There are 18 churches to visit and after this, we only have two left to see and we drove right past them today.

On our way, we passed through Eyke and stopped to have another go at finding the church micro at All Saints. We went there on 31/1/18 but had been completely unable to find the cache. This time we seemed to be having the same problem and just as we decided to leave I reached up and touched where I could not see and something moved under my hand giving us our 786th Church Micro.

We had had enough for the day at this point as the heat, walking and the driving had left us tired and so we headed the short distance home for a nice cup of tea and a game of Ticket to Ride.

Wilfrid Peninsula Pilgrimage

Tunstall – St Michael and All Angels 25/12/17
Wantisden – St John the Baptist 10/3/18
Alderton – St Andrew 30/1/18
Bawdsey – St Mary the Virgin 30/1/18
Boyton – St Andrew 30/1/18
Bromeswell – St Edmund 6/5/18
Butley – St John the Baptist 10/3/18
Eyke – All Saints 30/1/18
Hollesley – All Saints 30/1/18
Iken – St Botolph 25/12/17
Orford – St Bartholomew 25/12/17
Ramsholt – All Saints 31/3/18
Rendlesham – St Felix 6/5/18
Rendlesham – St Gregory the Great 30/1/18
Sudbourne – All Saints 25/12/17

Still to do

Chillesford – St Peter
Shottisham – St Margaret of Antioch
Sutton – All Saints