December 2023

Twelve Days of Radar – Day Eight

RAF Bawdsey and the Cold War

The remains of sixty years of air defence can be found in the landscape around Bawdsey, with the site playing a crucial role in keeping the skies and land of Britain safe from enemy attack. While the Transmitter Block which houses the museum was in use during the Second World War, the role of RAF Bawdsey in defending the nation did not stop there.

In the period after World War Two, the Chain Home radar at Bawdsey was stepped down and replaced by ROTOR radar, a more advanced system consisting of rotating dishes. As our volunteer Doreen Calver remembers, this system was frequently used to track Russian Bear Bombers over the English Channel at the height of the Cold War. The site included the generator sheds and water towers that can still be seen today, as well as many underground tunnels and bunkers that have since been closed. During this time, RAF Bawdsey, as the master radar station, played a key role in training radar operators, including those from other nations, teaching pilots and radar operators to efficiently work together.

In March 1975, radar operations at RAF Bawdsey were ceased but, in August 1979, RAF Bawdsey re-opened as a Bloodhound Mk II surface to air missile site, with numerous missiles stationed upon the cliff. Many remember being able to see these Bloodhound missiles from the road near the site. In May 1990, these missiles were removed, with the RAF Ensign lowered at Bawdsey for the final time in March 1991.

Bawdsey continues to play a role in keeping people safe to the present day, with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency mast near the Transmitter Block sending weather reports to maritime craft in the local area to help them stay safe.



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Twelve Days of Radar – Day Eight