Visit to a WW2 Radar Station
Members of Forncett History Group and friends recently visited a remarkable historic site in nearby Stoke Holy Cross, which served as an RAF radar station during WW2. We were the guests of Derek Bales (born in 1933) who has lived in the village all his life and whose home is a converted building on the original site.
The Group. Centre - our host Derek Bales
In 1938 the RAF took over a 6-acre field on Derek's parents' farm, which then became the site for one of over 40 radar stations along the east and south coasts of the UK. These stations constituted what was known as the Chain Home network which was operational by the start of the war and was decisive during the Battle of Britain in 1940. The stations could detect enemy aircraft while they were forming over France, giving RAF commanders ample time to marshal their fighter planes directly in the path of the raid.
The outside of the Control Room today
Inside the Control Room, 1940
Inside the Control Room today
The transmitting and receiving masts in 1949
Aerial view, 1941
The station at Stoke Holy Cross was finally closed down in 1954 and the land was returned to Derek's family. The great majority of the equipment was removed from the site, and the masts were taken down long ago, but the buildings remain and Derek has devoted much of his life to documenting the history of the site and the people who lived and worked there. The original guard house, which still stands at the entrance to the site, is now a small museum with dozens of photos and documents relating to the radar station.
The visit was extremely informative and we must thank Derek and his partner, Carol, for their excellent hospitality. After a tour of the site, Derek regaled us with fascinating stories of his life during the war. Stories of bombing raids on the station and their nearby farmhouse, of air crashes near the site and of the dozens of men and women of the RAF who manned the site 24/7 throughout the war. His reminiscences painted a remarkably vivid picture of the challenges faced by everyone during that time. An extensive collection of photos of the station can be found on the Poringland Archive .