Chain Home Low K161, Chain Home Extra Low CHL34A, GCI (E), ROTOR Station UPI
Closed: CHEL network ceased to operate in 1945
Location: Where's the Path
Units based here:
950 Signals Unit:
1940/1- Chain Home Low Station K161
RAF Skendleby was originally designed as a Chain Home Low Radar site, replacing the early Emergency CHL RAF Ingoldmels, and became operational in 1941. The site covers a 6.75-acre windswept site, situated 1 mile north-east of Skendleby.
The installed RADAR was a Type 5 known as Chain Home Overseas - Low set, designed primarily for deployment overseas, although a few were installed in the United Kingdom. (COL as opposed to CHL).
CHL sites typically comprised two gantries carrying the transmitter and receiver aerial arrays, a transmitter and receiver hut, a standby set house for the reserve power, and a general purposes hut. Defence measures installed at radar stations included Light Anti-Aircraft gun emplacements, pillboxes, road blocks and air raid shelters.
1942 - Chain Home Extra Low Station CHL34A
From 1942 CHL sites were combined with the British Army's Coastal Defence/Chain Home Low (CD/CHL) sites to form a single, unified one system of low-cover radar under the control of the Royal Air Force. The selected stations were upgraded with centimetric radars to become the K-series of Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) stations. This improvement in radar technology meant that fewer stations were needed to give the same coverage and as a result many CHL and CD/CHL stations not upgraded were closed.
Skendleby was one of the ugraded sites and in 1942 was fitted with centimetric radar to become a Chain Home Extra Low station, Site K161. The Type 54 centimetric radar was mounted on a 200 ft wooden tower and the Type 5 also retained alongside it until the end of the war. It is not known which of the two variants (Type 54 A and B)was installed at Skendleby.
Although the CHL station closed down in 1945 Skendleby still functioned in this low-altitude detection role as late as Jan 1947 when it detected some of the first reported UFOs in the United Kingdom Air Defence Region. See this account of Op CHARLIE on Project1947.com.
In the early 1950s Britain's wartime radar defences were upgraded through the ROTOR programme (apocryphally back-engineered as 'Replacement Of The Old Radars'). Although not initially allotted a role, Skendleby was retained as an Operational Chain Home Low and Readiness Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station. It was designated an GCI (E) site and was equipped with the following radar: one Type 14 Mk 8, one Type 14 Mk 9, three Type 13 Mk 6, two Type 13 Mk 7. These radar were monitored from a new type R3 bunker, a double-storey underground bunker; one of eleven of this type built in Britain. Under the so-called 1958 Plan Skendleby was to become a Satellite Control Station and in 1956 it was reported that a more powerful surveillance Type 80 Mk3 radar was being installed. The station was probably closed in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
The ROTOR programme was developed to advance the wartime radar technology in detecting and locating fast-flying jets. It was approved by the Air Council in June 1950. The first stage of the programme, ROTOR 1, was to technically restore existing Chain Home, centrimetric early warning, Chain Home Extra Low and Ground Controlled Interception stations and put them under the control of RAF Fighter Command. There were three main components to the Rotor stations: the technical site, including the radars, operation blocks and other installations; the domestic site, where personnel were accommodated; and the stand-by set house, a reserve power supply. The technical site for RAF Skendleby was located at TF440708. The domestic site was situated at RAF Strubby and the stand-by set house at TF433694.
1953 - ROTOR Station UPI
Skendleby was reactivated in the early 1950s as part of the ROTOR programme to modernise the United Kingdom's radar defences. It was developed as a Type R3 Ground Controlled Intercept GCI site which became operational in July 1953. More details on the Operation ROTOR website.
The bunker which still exists on the site was built in the early 1950s to house the ROTOR project GCI station. Originally the bunker had two subterranean floors which were connected to a 'bungalow' guardhouse by a curving tunnel approximately 100 metres long.
The station was fitted with a Type 14 Mark 8 and a Type 14 Mark 9 plan positioning radar heads, three Type 13 Mark 6 and two Type 13 Mark 7 height finder radar heads, all mounted on plinths and 25 feet gantries. The ROTOR Radar were mounted on an unusually high, wire-supported mast, presumably to increase range of low-level detection.
The site was active until the early 1960s.
The field behind the bunker, where the the Radar plinths had been located, reverted to farm land in the 1960s on the demise of ROTOR when it was decided to make the bunker a Regional Seat Of Government. In later use the bunker became SRHQ31 covering Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
By the 1980s the ROTOR bunker was modernised by the Home Office to become Regional Seat of Government HQ (RGHQ 3.1), including the addition of a floor partly to accommodate up to 130 people. By this time it was over 21 000 sq ft of floorspace.
The UPI R3 GCI Bunker in now private ownership having been bought by a storage company in 1995. The ROTOR lattice mast still stands in a fenced enclosure between the bungalow and bunker and is most obvious by its shadow in aerial photographs.
Out of the Shadows: UFOs, the Establishment and Official Cover Up (David Clarke and Andy Roberts)
Buy an aerial photo of RAF Skendleby on GetMapping.com
Subterranea Britannica :
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