View Full Version : Bolt Head / Hope Cove

21-12-2008, 17:06
I have just received the following eMail - AFAIK the last official users(as at Feb 1945) would have been the 275 Sq ASR detachment with Walrus, SAnson , Spit Vc ...but did anything or anyone else use the field after that ( ignoring the modern strip)?

I have directed the writer to this thread......

Here is the eMail

Hi Dave,
We are planning an event for Bolt Head May 3rd 2009 where we plan to bring in a Spitfire, Hurricane and two Mustangs to display and land.
I would appreciate any information with regard to the last military flights from Bolt Head, I understand 1945 plus an odd flight thereafter but I have no hard facts as to the type of aircraft, squadron, and purpose, any help appreciated.
Chris Howell.
Event Co-Organizer.

Paul Francis
21-12-2008, 23:38
See these at the TNA

AIR 28/89 More informationBOLT HEAD 1942 Mar.- 1945 July
AIR 29/884 More informationNo. 4179, Watton, West Raynham and Bolt Head 1942 Nov.-1943 Sept.

25-07-2009, 18:53
Paid a visit to Bolt Head / Hope Cove today - and as well as seeing the airfield I was surprised to find 3 aircraft there, although to be fair I don't think the French Polaris will be going anywhere in a hurry.

So the pictures.....

First the Memorial Plaque which is approximately where the runways intersected .


Next the "Modulator " building - part of RAF Hope Cove seen from the south.


Then the GCI building (RAF Hope Cove) which stands to the north of the original E-W runway and east of the NE-SW runway.

From SW and SE(the ladies in the upper picture were awaiting the arrival of the husband of one of them in some kind of homebuilt aircraft...he arrived overhead about 10 minute after we got there- did a quick trial approach and decided discretion was better than valour (- wind right across the runway 20 gusting 30 knots) and promptly headed for home.



Then the building from the East & West showing the antenna tower


The "Customs" shed and Cessna 180 that looks like it has been there a while...GCI building in the background...


A Cessna F182Q that is neatly parked between the GCI building and a smaller structure immediately to the south......


Lastly the current runway which is almost in the same place and same orientation as the original E-W runway...

First looking East, then West and lastly looking N along the modern taxiway - modulator building on left- GCI just out of sight on right.


There one other visible building - looks like some kind of guardhouse and is 2-300yds SE of the RW intersection in a lot of brambles- needs a wintertime photo.

25-07-2009, 22:01
Nice picture Dave the dog is great, All I used to do when I stayed down there in the 70's was fishing in the nearby Soar mill Cove. Which is what a lot of the Aircrew must have done during the war, oh and swiming too; what a posting.

26-07-2009, 07:51
Yes - a lovely place in fine weather but in the middle of a force 8 gale in the depths of the winter I think it may be a little less than inviting.


The dog (Trufflington) thanks you for the compliment - please visit his website with photos and stories for children...

13-08-2009, 13:07
Here is a photo taken on the recent open day.


03-03-2010, 19:46
Was down at hope cove last weekend, met up with Chris who was there to give us access to the rotor bunker, we will be going back down for the 2nd of may event and helping out with the organisation, most of the aircraft in the pics above have gone, there was a guy flying a gyrocopter wich he kept in the modulator biulding.

Chris has produced a great booklet charting the history of the airfiled and the squadrons based there, plenty of good wartime pics too.


Richard Flagg
28-04-2010, 10:06

Richard Flagg
04-06-2012, 00:34
Received from Bob Clary / Subbrit

The Rotor bunker at RAF Hope Cove (AKA Bolt Head) will be open for tours and an exhibition on the WW2 evacuation of Slapton for D Day preparations this week June 5th to June 8th.

Details here: http://www.salcombeinformation.co.uk/ShowDetails.asp?id=507

27-11-2013, 11:55
RAF Bolt Head 1945


This picture was taken by the RAF in 1949 and clearly shows the Type 7 Radar at RAF Hope Cove. In the background Malborough village is clearly visible top left

(sssh! - via facebook)
Quite a few more interesting photos https://www.facebook.com/salcombe.bunker


Peter Kirk
27-11-2013, 14:36
For those that find these things interesting, RAF Hope Cove was allocated the Service Lands Requirement Committee Serial Number 11657. I have found such serial numbers useful in the pst when different names are used for the same site.

28-11-2013, 11:56
from a local tourist information site

The Salcombe area is steeped in military and wartime history.
During 1941 land was requisitioned high on the plateau near Soar.
The RAF began to establish a GCI Radar Station and contractors were brought in to clear hedges to allow two runways to be laid using sommerfield tracking laid on coconut matting.
The airfield was named RAF Bolt Head and the adjacent Radar Station as RAF Hope Cove. There were also Radar Stations on the cliffs near The Port Light which was named RAF Bolt Tail and at Prawle named RAF West Prawle.
RAF Bolt Head was an active forward fighter airfield from 1941 until 1945 when the sites were reduced to a care and maintenance basis.
Later in 1949 the government began to develop the Rotor Programme to up date and develop the UK Radar Stations to counter the perceived threat from the Soviet Union.
The plan with regard to the Radar facility at Soar was to build a new R6 Bunker on two floors and install new updated equipment which became fully operational in 1955. During this time the wartime domestic camp was utilised for RAF Service Personnel and the wartime GCI Buildings utilised for storage.
The RAF departed for Sopley in 1958 and the Bunker closed down.
During early 1960 The Home Office took control of the Bunker and converted it to a Regional Seat of Government and the facility was kept active until around 1994 when it was closed permanently.

Here are a couple of sales brochures for the R6 Bunker which includes photos maps and plans, guide price 750,000


Seems to have had a varied usage, I have found references to Secret Bunker Tours, a "combat" venue, and last year it hosted an art exhibition
http://www.bunkerproject.co.uk/index.html - looks to be in good condition


29-11-2013, 20:48
(sssh! - via facebook)
Quite a few more interesting photos https://www.facebook.com/salcombe.bunker

Some interesting pictures at the link...however the photo that supposedly shows the Somerfield tracking runway being laid was, I believe, taken at Christchurch. The photo is one of a series of 4 pictures that the USAAF stated were at Christchurch - all are here(Scroll down)...
http://www.hampshireairfields.co.uk/airfields/xch.html (http://www.hampshireairfields.co.uk/airfields/xch.html#)

11-03-2014, 13:54
Hope Cove, 1955 Status: No.250 Signals Unit

Semi-underground reinforced concrete operations block
Six Type 13 aerials and three Type 4 aerials, with 200 ft tower
Permanent brick transmitter station with standby power house at Bolberry Down
Permanent brick receiver station with standby power house at Southdown
Equipment stores, inflammable stores and AMWD section in Nissen hutting
Armoury and SAA stores.

Admin: SHQ, office accommodation, guardroom and fire section in Nissen hutting
Lecture rooms - two Nissens - pupil capacity 110.

Quarters: 18 off + 12 SNCO + 169 airmen
WRAF 7 off + 6 SNCO + 216 airwomen.

Messing: 30 off + 30 SNCO + 500 airmen (includes WRAF) in single sitting
Catering:50 off + 50 SNCO + 600 airmen
SSQ: 14 beds

Services: Mains water + 2,000 gal + 6,000 gal high level water tanks
Mains power (11kV), plus 75kVA and 500 kVA standby
Street lighting and PA system

MTGAS - One 1,000 gal semi-underground tank
Diesel - Two 5,000 gal surface tanks + two 1,000 gal surface tanks
Luboil - 240 gal in drums

Recreastional: Cinema + NAAFI institute

Note the Tech site is approx 3 miles SW of the Domestic site.

That's a lot of messing facilities. Was it necessary?

11-03-2014, 20:44
That's a lot of messing facilities. Was it necessary?

Perhaps not for the permanent staff, but there is an indication of a training facility?

Lecture rooms - two Nissens - pupil capacity 110.


Kev Lloyd-Jones
13-02-2015, 18:03
You are correct in that it was a training facility the School of Fighter Control was situated here. The station had a very short life in ROTOR plan, being operational between January 1956 and September 1957,and it is then it became the RAF School of Fighter Control. The site only lasted another year before closing and was finally relinquished by the RAF. See extract below from the Association of RAF Fighter Controllers:

Training commenced at RAF Hope Cove, Fighter Control Course (No 76), in October 1957, using Type 7 and 14 radars. The operations block was a wartime "Happidrome" (39) an above ground structure that was often shrouded in sea mist. The best description I can find of a "Happidrome" appears in the 7th issue of the C&R Bulletin published in October of 1964. There were apparently two generations of the device, an "Intermediary" which I believe to have been the forerunner of the "Finals", which in turn became known as the "Happidrome". These were used for the updating of convoys in 1940 in order to conform with a system utilising radars at Sopley. I quote from a C&R Bulletin from 1945 ".....a provisional design having been settled, six new convoys, production models, were on the way. At the same time, for improving the low cover six transportables with 35ft gantries had been put in hand. These were the fellows that used gantries with the 35ft aerial above and a 10ft aerial below, with power turning. The gantries were mounted on concrete slabs and a new vehicle, a control cabin for the power turning was added to the convoy.
We never discovered who thought of calling these transportable". There is a further insight into where the name "Happidrome" in the Royal Air Force Air Defence Radar museum Newsletter No 21 dated October 1999. I quote, "During the war there was a comedy radio programme about an imaginary variety theatre called the "Happidrome". The first show was broadcast on 9 Feb 41 and featured as manager, "Mr Lovejoy" played by the Arcadian Follies star Harry Korris, with Ramsbottom as stage manager played by Cecil Frederick and the useless call boy, "Enoch" played by Robbie Vincent. The show ran for 52 weeks, closing on 8 Feb 42. It was brought back for two further series in 1943 and 1947. It concerned a variety theatre where everything went wrong and nobody seemed to know what was going on. It was not long before those in the know about RDF realised the similarities between the radio programme and the new Final GCI installations, and the brick operations buildings were dubbed Happidromes. Today's equivalent would appear to be Faulty Towers, but who would dare to suggest that any RAF station equated to that wonderful TV establishment? Certainly not me.
The description goes on to give the locations of many of the sites including, Langtoft, Hack Green, Comberton, Avebury, Wrafton, Hampston Hill, St Quivox, Dirleton, Northstead and believe it or not Neatishead! The report records pertinently, " Not all of these operations had customers, but those that did shot them down."
In 1958 the School was honoured when Her Majesty, The Queen, authorised the SFC crest. The crest depicts a Pointer dog superimposed on the torch of learning and has the motto "Disce ut Dirigas" which translates as "Learn in order you may guide." (40) On 18 May 58 there was a further gigantic step forward when the first course for Fighter Controllers including SNCOs commenced at Hope Cove.
Apart from the above, little of importance appears to have taken place during the very short stay at Hope Cove except perhaps we should note the nominal role for 83 Fighter Controllers Course:

Sgts MacNeill JH
Kemp DR
Johnson AW
Moore K
Riddock WC
Hunter A
Galbraith A
Wetherell I

I trust some of those names will ring bells with many readers of this history. Certainly "Lofty" Wetherell should be remembered by students who attended the School at RAF Bawdsey for the adept use of the clipboard as an instrument of chastisement!
A quote from the Hope Cove unit report for Nov 57, described " Exercise "Iron Bar" which was held against the USAF B47s (41). Fourteen targets were seen by this unit and all were intercepted by Hunters (42) of RAF Chivenor, which were controlled by the instructional staff of RAF Hope Cove.This happy event was followed by yet another change in policy and, as Hope Cove closed, the School was moved to RAF Sopley on 31 October 1958.