View Full Version : Dunstable Downs experimental radar station!

27-04-2012, 19:05
The research in to WWII goings on in Bedfordshire and the neighbouring counties plods on and I have updated a few sites on my map (information here (http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?6672-Bedfordshires-hidden-WWII-past) or on the village website) mostly SOE and RSS connected with Arkley View and the Jedbergh units.

One little piece of evidence that I keep reading but can find nothing to expand on states that ...." Dunstable Downs experimental radar station - 20 miles of chicken wire were erected at 400 feet above sea level"...

Some information has come to light that also stated there was one (possibility two) huts on the downs that were disguised as haystacks, they were located off Isle of Wight Lane and they were connected to the Met Office unit (CFO/IDA Dunstable) not too far away.

Another document confirms that the Met Office were at this time experimenting with weather radar systems, so its logical the two are linked?

The fly in the ointment is there is also a Met Office document that says this work was carried out at 'West Hill Research Centre near Dunstable' but as yet I find no exact location for the site, has anyone come across this in relation to the CFO/IDA at Dunstable? another source has suggested that this in fact have been RAF Eddlesborough (or more to the point the Dagnall site pre RAF Eddlesborough) but i find noting documented to back this up!

So a general plea for help with any references or background knowledge about these sites.

27-04-2012, 19:13
...missed off that Dagnall/Eddlesborough is at 420ft ASL but Dunstable Downs is much higher at around 700ft ASL.

FE location for Dunstable Downs is here: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.862772&lon=-0.529185&z=17.4&r=0&src=msa

FE location for Dagnall/RAF Eddlesborough is here: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.846012&lon=-0.585241&z=17.4&r=0&src=msa

27-04-2012, 19:31
I can't help you with anything specifically Beds, but possibly the mention of chicken wire had something to do with boosting early radars effectiveness by greatly enlarging the "ground plane." Perhaps Carnaby can explain better.
These two photos of early gun-laying systems show duckboards over which crews has to walk.
and Receiver
apparently hundreds of square yards of the stuff were needed at each site and a great many sites needed it, making this wire unavailable commercially for most of the war, just when people would want to be keeping their own chickens. Post war aerial coverage shows its traces quite well adjacent to HAA gun sites especially, usually octagonal, sometimes cutting through hedge lines etc.

Chris Lowe
27-04-2012, 19:51
I would think chicken wire would make a very nice ground plane I've used all sorts of things for a ground plane myself & I would think Dave g4otu probably has as well, I was g6skz until i let it lapse.


29-04-2012, 08:41
Thanks for the replies, if nothing concrete comes up I will go back to Met Office and request papers on East Hill and see what turns up.

My other half is a ham too... a G7. :roll:

27-06-2012, 11:33
Many HAA sites had a platorm for a radar unit which would be on a lorry or trailer - these are often mistaken for vehicle inspection ramps! Where there is one of the platforms the fields is often still covered with steel posts in the ground where the chicken wire ground plane was supported.

SMOOGRO (http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/81790/contribution/smoogro/FNL5748180308/)

QUOY (http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/269885/contribution/south+walls+quoy/FNL5741103262/)

I have forwarded a link to this page to a friend because we were discussion a site near Dunstable recently.


Peter Kirk
27-11-2015, 13:01
I have been looking at Dunstable (East Hill) because it had a camera obscura installed for the Met Office in late 1951, early 1952. It appears a type 37 mast was removed by June 1951 and I assume it was taken over by the Air Ministry Met Office (M.O. 19)around that time. It was noted that it was previously and IFF station and the IFF hut was to be used by the camera obscura team. I don't know if this hut remains but would assume it had a hatch covered opening in the roof. I also know it is East Hill, Dunstable as that is what is on some of the correspondence,

I'm not sure if this adds much but it was certainly a Met Office site whilst the Camera Obscura was there and this was used for measuring very high level jet streams at over 40,000 feet.

The camera obscura in question was purpose built and designed to be bolted to a solid concrete floor for absolute stability - which was vital.