View Full Version : WEST BECKHAM Chain Home
Oblique aerial view of RAF West Beckham, Norfolk: AMES Type 1 East Coast Chain Home radar station, seen from the west. The site was situated south of the village at Camp Farm. Note the anti-aircraft gun emplacement in the foreground, and Beckham Palace, visible at top right.
Courtesy of Imperial War Museum © IWM (HU 93039)
Will be interesting to see what anyone can come up with, I live less than half mile away and have this shot in my collection from IWM hope Mike Digby who lives on the site now can make some contributions to as his collection is very extensive
Mike Digby has spent alot of time researching RAF West Beckham and has gathered alot of photos and info on the site. He has kindly allowed me to post some of his photo onto the forum.
1945-1946 A Site. RAF West Beckham
1945-1946 B Site. Home to the WAAFs and airmen from 1939 to 1946, then airmen until until closure in 1958. Marl Pit fishing pond just visable at top of photo. Located near Marl Pit at Lower Bodham.
1945-1946 C Site. This site was home to the Royal Norfolk Regiment in 1940, CMPs in 1941 then RAF Regiment from 1942 to 1945.
Some more from Mike Digby's collection
1950. A site, RAF West Beckham
1950s view of A site from nearby Domestic site
Beckham Palace (work house) in distance
Dismantled Receiver Site 1958, the wooden masts were blown up in 1957.
Dismantling underway early 1958
Base of Transmitter Mast
Undated view of RAF West Beckham
See caption on photo, Typpe 55 Parabola
Married quarters with dismantling of transmitter masts ongoing, c.1958
Planned CHL Site
Some more from Mike Digby's collection
Nell Robson Feb 1945 West Beckham
Looking down from the top of 360ft mast
View from Transmitter mast
One mast to another 360ft up
Transmitter Mast number 4 and Receiver Mast number 8
RAF West Beckham B Site 1950, Billets in foreground, NAAFI on right.
RAF West Beckham B site 1950, view of NAAFI along with rest of camp, Marl Pit fishing pond visable in distance as is Bodham Church.
MT Section 1950s
MT section 1953-1955. MT Section with Admin block to the rear, B Site, RAF West Beckham.
MT section sometime between 1953-1955
And some more from Mike Digby's collection
Receiver block at RAF West Beckham 1956
Royal Canadian Air Force trainee radar operators at RAF West Beckham in 1955
Inside RAF West Beckham Receiver Site 1945, Station CO Marius B Winter is in the background smoking his trademark pipe.
Winter Signpost WAAFs at West Beckham 1943-1945 From left to right:- Millie Titshall, Maud Arnott, Maureen King
Flight Lieutenant Winter dancing with WAAF Officer at RAF West Beckham dance hall circa 1945
RAF West Beckham VE Day Group Photo
Transmitter mast being taken apart. 1958
1958 view of ongoing dismantling of Transmitter Masts, view shows planned CHL station. The building was built in 1942 but then the planned CHL station was cancelled and built at Bard Hill instead.
1948 view of Masts from West Beckham council houses
Calculator in Receiver Block 1945
The last lot of from Mike Digby's collection, Please take a look at his collection on Flickr, there is alot more there to see too.
Transmitter Block 1940s
Under Ground Reserve Sites
Transmitter building RAF West Beckham 1956
Transmitter Operation block and 365ft mast RAF West Beckham 1956
Transmitter Tower 2
Transmitter Towers at 365ft RAF West Beckham
Taking down pylons
Standby Set House
What a great set of photographs! Thanks REF and thanks to Mike Digby for sharing them with AiX.
Thanks for adding the photos REF. You made a better job of it than I could have. Glad you found them interesting Peter.
Really interesting those photographs, thanks for sharing them
Amazing to see so many images relating to one site. Make a good article for AR.
Thought I would add some memories given to me by former WAAFs and locals.
Memories of WAAF Millie Titshall
Millie Titshall was a radar operator at RAF West Beckham and arrived at the
start of 1943, she left towards the end of 1945. She also served at RAF School Hill
and RAF Otterburn before coming to West Beckham.
Millie can be seen in the WAAF Winter Sign post photo standing on the left, with Maud Arnott
centre and Maureen Jackson on the right. Millie is also standing centre in the sports day photo
again with Maureen Jackson on the right.
Mille arrived at Sheringham railway station in early 1943 to be greated by an
advertisement for the local cinema saying ''moving pictures'' she could not
understand how a picute could move. she was from up north and coming to
Norfolk was a real culture shock and she found the accent very hard to
understand while her geordie accent was a shock for locals.
Millie remembers as is to be expected mainly working in the Receiver Site but
also going to help in the Transmitter site as and when required aswell as
also using the Underground Reserve sites. These would generally be used
once per month and you would be inside for a single 24 hour shift.
She remembers having to get through the corn with the bicyle and trying to
cause minimal damage to the corn. She would typically volunteer to go to the underground reserves as
she enjoyed it. Once inside and operational one would hone the surface site and inform them you were operating
hence main site could be switched off.
During her last few months at West Beckham Millie wished to becomme a radar mechanic and fitter
and spent most of her time in the Transmitter Site. This normally only had a couple of people inside at a time.
She also climbed the 360ft tall Transmitter masts more than once.
Millie served at RAF Bard Hill for one month when someone was rushed away with apendicitus. She was qualified on
Chain Home Low (CHL) aswell.
She also remembers West Beckham sending out beams to help direct allied bombers on find thier targets in Germany.
Millie can remember a V-1 Flying Bomb (Doodlebug) crashing just behind B Site in the grass meadows, it killed a cow.
It was so close to B Site and would have killed large numbers of personnel had it come down there.
Millie stated how the Marius B winter was a brilliant and wonderful man. He was
never without a pipe in his mouth!
They knew how famous he had been. He was also a true ladies man as is to be
expected! He knew everyone on camp, every single person and would refer to
them by their first names. Marius had geese kept on A site near the water
reseviour, located close to to the existing modern mast. Marius also had a
pigs kept at B Site. The geese would often chase the WAAFs while the pigs
would role over if their backs were rubbed. Marius would have some of these
pigs and geese killed each Christmas time for the personnel to eat.
Marius would always be smoking a pipe.
Mille informs me how popular the station dances were with literally hundreds
of people coming, British Army, USAAF, RAF from stations miles and miles away
plus many, many locals. They were huge events, mostly held Sunday nights.
Great entertainers would come as Marius had known them before the war when
he had a dance band.
Millie was already married while at West Beckham, her husband Cyril was sadly
injured while fighting in Europe, he was taken POW. He later returned and
Millie left the WAAF early to take care of him.
she remembers Pam Taylor, Maud Arnott and Peggy Hurry very well. She mentions
how Peggy Hurry was from Norwich originally.
She remembers WAAF Jo Pearson and her husband Ron Pearson. Ron was at Beckham
for many years and worked for the GPO, he managed to get his wife a posting here
both worked for the GPO but had to wear uniform. Millie kept in touch with
Jo until she passed away. Sadly Ron died a short time after the war when his
strap broke and he fell to his death from a telegraph pole.
WAAF Maureen King and her mother fled from Jersey to England, upon arriving
Maureen joined the WAAFs.
Millie remembers the two Norwegians serving at West Beckham, apparantly they
rowed across the North Sea to get to Britain to carry on the fight.
West Beckham operated a 3 shift system while other places often used a 4 shift
At one point there were hundreds of RAF regiment at West Beckham, they often dug
trenches around the R and T sites to have defence exercises.
Millie remembers Basil Wakeling (in 1945 photo) who was the medic at RAF West Beckham,
he was the only one and would give injections and medication to those who needed it.
She remembers the Bodham Home Guard conducting exercises often on a Sunday outside the
Operations Blocks at West Beckham and defending the station.
There was a blond WAAF Officer station here towards the end of the war who never bothered
wearing a hat. Her husband flew Mosquito's at a nearby station. Even though she was
stationed here she was never hardly here! She had a moped which sounded just like
a V-1 Doodlebug which as one can imagine caused some interesting situations!!!
During the West Beckham dances no alcohol was served until Sgt Robbie Robinson set up
a small bar towards the end of the war with Winter's permission.
At the dances all drinks were priced at 1p a pint. Mostly orange and apple based soft drinks.
She remembers Robbie Robinson's parents ran a pub in either Hordon or Houghton le Spring in County Durham.
She also remembers former WAAF Maud Arnott became a Chief Inspector in the Police Force.
She was originally from a rough area of Glasgow before the war.
WAAF Theodora Chambers was the daughter of a wealthy doctor but a wonderful person to know
and very friendly.
Most WAAFs at West Beckham were posted away during the middle/end of 1945 and found themselves at other
RAF stations doing different kinds of work as female radar operators were no longer required as men took over.
One thing which has puzzled me is how no one can remember the names of the WAAF Officer's at West Beckham.
Millie feels its for two main reasons, firstly they tended to be changed a fair bit so one never got to know
them well and secondly the WAAFs and airmen referred to them only as 'Maam' hence did not use their names!
Millie will be 89 this year.
Memories of local farmers daughter Ruby Digby
Ruby was aged 14 at the start of the war and herself ended up in the Womens Land
Army. she lived part way beetween A Site and B site so remembers much of the
activity. Her home was next door to C site. C site was initially used in 1940
by the Royal Norfolk Regiment. She remembers them marching up and down Rectory
Road sining ''We are going to hang out the washing on the Seigfreed Line''.
They were marching in full battle kit and it was a roasting hot summer, they
were drenched in sweet.
After the Royal Norfolks left C site was home to CMP (Military Police). After
they left the site was taken over by the RAF Regiment who remained for the
rest of the war. These men often called themselves the ''Beckham Gunners'
Often dances and parties were held at C site, spare food such as sandwiches were
swapped with Rubys family for things such as milk, eggs and butter. Her father
Tom Scarfe was a local farmer.
Ruby would visit B Site once a week to collect swill for her fathers pigs with a horse
and cart, she remembers Marius sometimes coming to say hello if he happend to be
Ruby can remember the WAAFs often walking and cycling to their shifts if it was
nice weather, if it was bad they would often travel in an RAF blue lorry.
Ruby remmebers the parties to which were of such a quality the like of which
had not before been seen in this part of the country.
She also remembers a well known local farmers son being engaged to a WAAF from Wales, her
father a top Welsh farmer. Due to this her father sent a prized bull from Wales
to North Norfolk by rail as a gift for his father who also happend to be head of the
Bodham Homeguard and an important local farmer who owned the RAF West Beckham sports field adjacent to
the B Site Camp). However after a short time it turned out the son had been dating
other WAAFs as the same time and WAAF called the engagement off. The son also had
to pay for the bull. He would often be seen leaving and entering the old
catle barn adjacent to the Bodham Rectory with different WAAFs in tow!!!!
He would have ben highly elligable due to being a handsome only son of a local
wealthy farmer, was also reserved occupation due to being only son.
John Breeze was another highly eligable bachelor coming from a wealthy farming
family and being an only son. The story goes one day he was standing outside
when a good looking WAAF walked up to him in uniform and asked if he fancied some
fun, he agreed!
The local vicar was a Reverand Maynard during the war. He lived in the Bodham Rectory.
He also had a tendancy to leave his lights on at night hence ARP always had to go after him.
The Rectory was so close to the B site. The rumours were Rev Maynard was a German spy,
probably no more than rumours though.
The very first West Beckham WAAFs were billited at the West Beckham work house
as the B site had not been finished on time.
Ruby also remembers Sgt Robbie Robinson wishing to borrow her father Tom Scarfe's
white stallion called 'Jock' and ride him on the VE Day fete, but Jock bolted off
across the fields not to return hence they had to go find him.
Ruby also remembers an old tramp hiding outside her house and taking photos of
the pylons, a few weeks later he was knocked down and killed by a military lorry
near the Roman Camp at Aylmerton. It turned out he was a German agent with false
beard. She also remembers a German bomber straffing her back yard and her mum
running for her life, it was due to the close proximity to RAF West Beckham
Memories of WAAF Kathleen Michelle Laverick
MT section driver at RAF West Beckham mid 1943 to mid 1944
Kathleen remembers driving Marius B Winter to meetings in a staff car mostly at
other RAF stations. She would also drive the station lorries and do the
Liberty Run to Sheringham sometimes. She remembers the lorry breaking down
while driving down Lodge Hill once and totally blocking the road in both
She also remembers the dances held at the station and sports events etc.
Kathleen regards Marius B Winter as one of the finest officers she ever met.
She comments how friendly he was and never pulled rank on anyone.
Also how once when she had done something wrong and was peeling potatos he came
and sat with her and another WAAF and was talking of London before the war.
Kathleen can also remember WAAF Section Officer Cutlack who didn't like her
very much and would often pick on her over uniform (aswell as many others,
see RAF West Beckham 1944 Sports Day Brochure Front Cover). Cutlack would
shout out ''Laverick, sort out your hat, it sits on your head like a pea on a
mountain top''!!!!!!!!!!!!! As Kathleen used to have a big head of red hair.
Her nickname was ''Copperhead''. She was also close friends with WAAF Gladys
Before West Beckham Kathleen served at a fighter base down south and witnessed
two Spitfires flown by Polish pilots having a mid air collision. There was
almost nothing left of either of the pilots. At this time Kathleen was am
ambulance driver, after this and having to go to hospital herself for shock it
was decided she would no longer drive ambulances.
After West Beckham she was posted to Scotland. she then married an RAF Officer
and travelled all around the world and even met Colonel Ghaddafi when he was a
young officer. They were also at RAF West Tofts and RAF Cranwell for many
During her year hear she had been friends with local homeguard man John Nichols.
Once posted away it was hard to keep in touch and John got called up to join
the army. After the war John married a local girl. Several decades later
both Kathleen and John had lost their partners and found each other again, they
lived together for many years in Sheringham and Bodham before Johns sad death a
few years back. So in 2011 Kathleen can be found in Bodham, about half a mile
from where she was stationed between 1943 and 1944.
Electrician for AMWD
At West Beckham on and off for 10 years from 1944
I arrived at West Beckham on March 9th 1945. I was aged 15 and then worked for the Air Ministry for the next 45 years
When starting at West Beckham I was an Electricans mate.
He remembers Marius B Winter having a limp (as does someone else I have spoken with, maybe an injury in World War 1)
He remmembers Winter keeping geese at A Site reservoir.
There was a 60kw menese becado generator in the standby set house. Just powerful enough to run the radar systems during a power cut.
The Wellington hit the wooden mast nearest the guard house.
The masts were numbered with number 1 pylon being above our bungalow and the nearest to the workhouse. They then ran 1, 2, 3, 4, the wooden mast
nearest the T Masts was number 5, 6 was nearest the guardhouse, 7 was in the corner and 8 inside the station. The metal pylons (transmitter) were 360ft high,
the wooden receiver masts were 240ft high, the 2 small pylons near the underground rooms were 120ft high and had no numbers.
In 1944 when the Lancaster crashed into and destroyed the Bard Hill mast the system was installed 200ft up at West Beckham in number 4 mast.
A wooden hut for operators was built underneath this mast.
He remembers COs being F/L Marius B Winter, F/L Melville, F/L Turpin who was an Australian and ex Lancaster pilot, in the 50s he remembers F/L Brown who
lived with his wife in a caravan at B Site.
He remmembers a guard in the guardhouse at West Beckham A Site being on duty inside with the door locked during blackout, to wind him up an airmen went up and made scratching noise on the door, the guard pulled out his revolver and shot the airmen straight through the closed door, the bullet hit him in the hip.
That bullet hole was sealed with a wooden cork and remained in the door until well post station closure.
To get access to either block a password system existed. Basically the guard at main gate at A Site would inform you a number, for example 10.
When you got to the receiver or transmitter blocks you would announce your arrival, someone inside would shout out a number, for example 6, you would then
shout out a number that made the total to the same as that given to you at the guardhouse, in our case it would 4 thus 6+4=10 and the door would opened to
either hardened block.
He remembers the left hand side of the Admin Block (Station Headquarters) was used by the AMWD Directerate.
He remembers the RAF Regiment at C Site, they departed at wars end. The airmen were then all moved from B Site to C Site leaving B site for the WAAFs only.
This was to seperate the sexes. After a short time all the WAAFs were posted away and thus the airmen all returned to B Site leaving C Site empty.
C Site was then used by local squatters.
RAF West Beckham also supprted the facilities at Bard Hill, Edingthorpe, Trimmingham and Mundesley.
Late last year I got a phone call from Pilot Officer Martin who was at RAF West Beckham in 1952.
He was telling me that during 1952 West Beckham picked up an unknown aircraft travelling
at a super fast speed, possibly in the thousands of MPH! It was heading West to East.
Next day the local paper carried a report that a Sheringham man actually saw the same
object at the same time! I know RAF Trimmingham also picked up something like it in the
early 50s which let to jets being scrambled.RAF West Beckham 1952 UFO.
Related to Pilot Officer Martin's account I was talking to former Airman Foster who was a
Steward in the Officer's mess. He arrived at West Beckham in Sept 1952. He remembers being
on duty in the Officer's Mess the night of the sighting. He remembers the Officer's chatting
about the track being so fast they could not plot it. It was like nothing any of them had ever... seen before.
They did try to delve into it to find out what it was but were told not to and also not to talk about it.
For anyone who did not see my earlier post Pilot Officer Martin told me how there was a very fast aircraft
flying from West to East very high up, it was travelling possibly in the thousands of MPH. The next day a
Sheringham man had reported to a local newspaper he had also seen the aircraft flying very high and fast.
We can rule out any normal aircraft as the personnel here would have been used to them. But 1952 is pre U-2 and SR-71.
Its a real mystery. RAF Trimmingham also picked up an unknown super fast craft and scrambled jets to intercept,
that would have been around 1952 ish. My relation who served here in the 1950s who has sadly since passed away
also told me about the West Beckham incident aswell.
I also created a couple of videos about the station, essentially slide shows of photos with music sang by wartime station commander Marius B Winter who had been a famous band leader in the 1920s/1930s.
Brilliant stories Mike, thanks for posting them up, I really enjoyed reading through them.
Part of the RAF West Beckham chain radar site, the WAAF domestic site was known as the Marl Pit camp. RAF West Beckham was split into three sites, A site being the radar site, B site being the WAAF camp and C site being the Army camp.
The Radar site was active from 1938 to 1958, the station commander between 1942 and 1946 was the famous band leader Maurice B Winter and due to his background in the entertainment industry many a good band played most weekends, Maurice was very well liked around the camp and was said to have known everyone by their first name. The camp was a very sporting place as well, with many sporting days and activities being held throughout the years.
After the war the C site which once housed the Norfolk regiment went into care and maintenance, A site was closed down in 1956 and the towers blasted down in 1957, the B site lasted a little longer into 1958 as it was still used by personnel from RAF Bard Hill.
There is not a great deal left to see at the WAAF camp but it is still well worth a visit if your in the area.
Sorry, in my haste I have put my thread in the wrong place. Could someone possibly move it for me.
Thanks for that potted history and photos.
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