View Full Version : RNADC Kete / HMS Harrier, Pembrokeshire

31-01-2012, 12:03
RNADC Kete / HMS Harrier, St Annes Head, Pembrokeshire.

I'm just stumbling across the this place in assosciation with other research that I'm doing.

The Royal Naval Air Direction Centre (RNADC) was a unit that trained ratings and Air Direction Officers in the task of controlling fighters from the ground and ships, ie the naval version of RAF controllers in sector operations rooms.

Initially this was undertaken at Yeovilton during WWII but a purpose built unit was then established between 1945-48 at Kete, Pembrokeshire, and named HMS Harrier.
This seems to either be actually built on, or very near to RNAS Dale / HMS Goldcrest, and aircraft from that station would have initially been used for the ground fighter direction controller training at Kete.
From 1950 Airworks Ltd provided aircraft (Sea Hornets, Sea Mosquitos) and aircrew for the flying aspect of the training as the ADTU (Air Direction Training Unit) from RNAS Brawdy, before moving to RNAS St Davids, before gaining jets (such as Meteor T.7s, Sea Venoms, Vampires) and moving back to Brawdy in 1958.

Kete closed in 1960 when the Air Direction School was moved back to RNAS Yeovilton, where it still exists as the Royal Navy School of Fighter Control.
The Airworks Services operated ADTU followed them to Yeovilton in January 1961, and went on to merge with the Fleet Requirements Unit to become FRADU (briefly FRADTU, Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit) in late 1972, the unit still serves its original purpose, now being based at Culdrose with Hawks.

I would love to know more about the actual Kete site, was it a part of Dale or was it on St Annes head itself? There are loop holed walls on the headland which suggests that there migh have been something there.

Some links here, http://www.ndassoc.net/history/index.php?pg=0&PHPSESSID=fd6494261d847862424a74b4419a6681, http://www.dale-coastlands-history.org.uk/research/militaryactivity.htm

Peter Kirk
31-01-2012, 14:22
There is a good write up in the relevant Ivor Jones book. There was a large circle of grass where practice was carried out by directing WRENS on tricycles. If I remember I will see what I have when I get home tonight.

31-01-2012, 15:10
Thanks Peter, I must admit I don't have the W.Wales addition, was the RNADC site on Dale or remote from it?

The tricycles were used as part of the direction training and had a metronome, radio receiver, and compass fitted to them, and represented controlled 'aircraft' on the ground, the WRENS operating them had a very restricted point of view - synthetic training at its best!
I remember Michael Hordern on a programme about his Naval career which featured these, and there is one preserved at the FAA Museum.

It should be mentioned that the Air Direction School/School of Fighter Control is more commonly known as 'D School'.

31-01-2012, 15:42
HMS Goldcrest II / Harrier was a mile to the south of Dale airfield. It was a large site split, with what appears to be accommodation to the north, and the instructional site to the south. All buildings and most concrete subsequently removed, probably in accordance with National Park policy

WTP Link (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=51.695029908380945&lon=-5.184937660453648&gz=16&oz=9&gt=1). Note it's incorrectly marked as 'airfields' !

Get yourself a copy of Ivor's West book, James, its esential reading.

Peter Kirk
31-01-2012, 21:15

This was Kete from a 1972 map. The big area in the middle was the circular field. It did look like an airfield from the air but a tad small
Do get or take a look at Ivor's book or books they are well illustrated as well, especially with aerial photos. They also mention bombing ranges as well :)

31-01-2012, 22:27
Great plan. If only we could find building annotations for RN sites. However, just found some hopeful TNA documents for my next visit.:roll:

31-01-2012, 22:36
Thanks Peter & Graham for all the info and help, I wonder what the complex looked like when it wrapped up in 1960?
Thinking it would require radar, radio comms, and a control room to deal with jet interception control.
Unfortunately the pic of Kete in my first link won't enlarge.

31-01-2012, 23:21
I note that Dobinson locates the Chain Home Low Station Here - 802042 (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=51.69400700958205&lon=-5.180633401414954&gz=19&oz=9&gt=1)

OOps - just noticed I can't open PNK's map above any more ??

Peter Kirk
01-02-2012, 09:45
THe Old-maps website also has a larger scale version of that map.

Chris Lowe
01-02-2012, 13:24
Nice HAA battery the other side of the road http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=51.692873826932846&lon=-5.169239044189453&gz=19&oz=9&gt=1

02-02-2012, 15:35
In a state of totally stone cold sober I attempted to trace the naming of Kete.

On 1 May 1943 HMS Goldcrest was formed at Angle. The accounts were administered by HMS Vulture (St Merryn). Between 5 and 7 September 1943 Angle and Dale airfields were swapped (FAA/ RAF).

{Dale became self accounting as Goldcrest, then was paid off 31.10.48}

In Dec 1946 HMS Vector was the Sheerness Radar School. One year later it merged into HMS Wildfire (Sheerness / Brightlingsea)

Vector was then allocated to Kete - but it didn't happen.

In Feb 1948 Kete came off the books of Goldcrest and became HMS Harrier (Harrier had been a torpedo / gunboat)

In September 1949 Wildfire's training went to Harrier.

In July 1960 Kete moved to HMS Dryad (Southwick Park)and HMS Heron (Yeovilton).

Harrier was then allocated to a Diesel Harbour Launch.

Source: Warlow, Lt Cdr B, RN, 2000. Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy. An excellent reference in which the author readily admits that a lot of things just don't make sense. ( It seems that often the name of a sunk ship was reallocated to another ship / shore establishment), only to find later that the ship hadn't sunk, or someone in another department had already reallocated the name. If only they had Lotus 123 / Excel in those days.

Peter Kirk
02-02-2012, 22:32
I'm sure I read somewhere that each shorebased ship name should have a real boat of some sort with that name at the same time.

02-02-2012, 22:45
I'm sure I read somewhere that each shorebased ship name should have a real boat of some sort with that name at the same time.
That can't be right, so I thought - but yes it was. The book quotes a 27 foot boat with a 'crew' of several hundred officers and men. The original idea stemmed from the 18th century principle that if you were in the Navy you'd be part of a ship - there were no shore establishments - you lived on a ship. Hence your place of work / address (in order to get paid) had to be HMS something-or-other. However at the beginning of Ben Warlow's fine book, he has a four page preface devoted to the anomolies, fallacies and intricacies of this system. The words 'but', 'however' 'problem' 'sometimes' 'confusingly' etc appear regularly.

Peter Kirk
03-02-2012, 22:00
Yes I forgot to add that by "boat" is was usually something small. I get the impression that at the TNA all the documents that help make sense of the whole file have been removed :)

If I find the reference I will add it, but to a new thread.

28-07-2012, 21:45
Have a look at this local history website. There may be the odd nugget you have not seen yet.


Edit: And this!


Edit: And this!


Also do a search with the term "Kete" on the Pembrokeshire Record Office catalogue, then if you are in Wales you could pop in!


29-07-2012, 08:20
Excellent finds Rerun57, thanks.
Great to see the Pembrokshire files so well organised and searchable now, hopefully this approach will spread throughout Wales.

Peter Kirk
29-07-2012, 09:36
Yes, those link are very good. The Experience site doesn't appear to have any contact details as I wanted to ask for the source of one of their pictures.

05-08-2013, 12:27
Random browsing through distant memories reveals surprising results. In mid-1955 I was a member of a small group of RN Aviation Cadets. We had just completed our six months of sea time on board HMS Theseus and we were in a sort of limbo before we could join FTS1 at RAF Syerston to start flying training. "They've had enough leave - better find something to do with 'em" so we were shipped down to RNADC Kete learn about air traffic control. We spent a week being lectured and trying to put one of a pair of Sea Mosquitos in the tail of the other by observation from the ground and a radio link. I don't think any of us got remotely near completing the task successfully.

I do remember that there were about 250 WRNS there and very few male ranks so we became a bit of a welcome distraction for some very attractive ladies. We made the mistake of accepting their challenge to a hockey match. We'd played 'shinty' on the deck of an aircraft carrier so we were confident that 'girls' would be a pushover. We got hammered, beaten by superior skill and sheer brutality!

We went swimming in Westdale Bay, sank pints in a pub in Dale and forgot everything they had tried to teach us about ATC.

23-10-2013, 15:13
I recently visited Dale and St.Ann's Head during holiday in Pembrokeshire, pic attached of info on display at National Trust car park at St.Ann's Head:


29-04-2014, 15:41
Visited the site in April - atrocious weather! Photos from the board mentioned above.






Must return in decent weather and do the job properly.

27-06-2014, 18:58
Photo from June 2014 with improved weather.

27-02-2015, 16:00
[QUOTE=Rerun57;107773]Have a look at this local history website.
Edit: And this!


I looked at the cloud observers website photos & found to my surprise several of my mums photos
My mum was at Kete Oct - Dec 1952 so her photo album says, she'd come from Burghfield & went on to Culdrose at Helston.
there's 18 photos in her album for Kete.
I worked at Dale fort field centre for 21 weeks* in 1982. *(Falklands war - the Chef's son was there so he [the chef] took his pain/worry out on us)

30-11-2015, 16:04
I had a quick flick through a colleagues library to see what I could find out about the Fighter Trike in post #20.

Apparently the enemy tricycles were pedaled across the base fitted with a Radio-Telephone, Compass and Metronome.

They were tracked by Radio Location and so this must have been a Training Aid.

It appears that the Metronome was to maintain a constant speed with the Compass for directionandh the Radio-Telephone for Instructions.

The Steelworks located in Swansea & Port Talbot had been considered to be a sufficient risk to enable Kete to be issued with the latest Radar.