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History Radar

RAF Ventnor Chain Home Radar

REF NR: 548

The Beginning

The site chosen for the main transmitter was the highest point on the island - St. Boniface Down, being around 750 feet above the sea. Ventnor was one of the prime locations that the Air Ministry had chosen for Britain's chain of early warning defence radar stations.

 

A survey in 1938 had selected the area as suitable for the positioning of one of these new stations, which were to become known as Chain Home (CH) and formed the basis of a chain of interlinked radar stations around the east and south coasts of Britain.

 

The initial setup was a rather ramshackle affair by all accounts, using experimental transmitters and receivers installed in temporary huts.  In January 1939 after 240 transmitters had been installed in the previous year, the station moved into 'intermediate' operational status. In September 1939, Ventnor was ready to begin operating at its full potential.

 


The War Years

During the early part of 1940, the German High Command eventually woke up to the need to take out the radar operations where possible. Ventnor was attacked by 15 Junkers 88 who dropped 72 high explosive bombs at mid-day on the 12th August 1940 causing considerable damage. Gallant efforts brought it back online supposedly within the hour with a limited service. However, a follow up raid by 6 JU 87s resulted in 15 bombs being dropped on the station and finally it was forced off air, causing a badly needed position in the Chain Home to be non-functional.

 

 

It then took several months to repair the station, returning to the air on November 1940 complete with some new extra power; a 1 megawatt curtain array was placed between two of the 365ft towers and went operational in May 1941.

 

Immediately following the station's bombing, the Air Ministry had dispatched a mobile station to the island which was set up at Bembridge - resulting in the island being on air by August 23rd. However it was realised that even with the backup mobile solution, there was too much down time while they were installed and fine-tuned to be of any operational use. It was then proposed by the Air Ministry that a number of backup or reserve sets of equipment along with fast implementing mobile platforms be developed.  At Ventnor it was decided to supply a buried reserve which was located to the southern perimeter fence consisting of underground transmitters and receiver blocks.

 

A further reserve station was also developed and installed just off the foreshore at St. Lawrence as a redesigned emergency alternative. During 1941, the main station at Ventnor began being used as an experimental base for various new designs and inventive steps. Further information on the types and styles of radar installations developed at Ventnor can be found within the Resources section.

 

March 1945 saw Ventnor radar play another significant role by keeping an air umbrella over the assembling D-Day invasion craft of 1,600 in a phenomenal diamond array. Within a few months of the invasion the station began to be run down but various newer functional systems stayed in play for some years after the war.

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