Memories of Life at RAF Bard Hill 1947 -1949

AC2 Dawson

The following fascinating account of an airman's experiences during the post-war years of 1947-9 at Bard Hill are taken from Barry Dawson's memoirs of his National Service in the RAF - while he was stationed at RAF West Beckham

Barry today


After my initial training at RAF West Kirby, apart from one short break, I completed my remaining service at West Beckham, during which time I was mostly at Bard Hill. The domestic site was near the village of Bodham and it accommodated about a hundred souls and the whole complex of RAF West Beckham was completed by 'Bard Hill', a CHL (Chain Home Low) station about six miles distant.
I  moved into a room at Bodham for six people, which had an adequate small coke burning stove with doors, and a four-drawer chest of drawers; luxury. I was allocated to CH at 'A' Site West Beckham for the first few days, where I was introduced to the 'K' Type equipment, which was ex-naval ships gear situated above ground in a couple of huts under one of the steel towers. The operators display was similar to the CHL PPI, but here similarity ended. The wavelength was ten centimetres, and the transmitted power reached a rotating parabola mounted half-way up the tower, by passing up a hollow waveguide of internal dimension ten centimetres by two centimetres, closed by a mica window at the parabola end.

Air pressure was maintained in the waveguide to keep out damp air by a compressor in the 'engine room,' so called because of the difference between the power systems of CHL and K Type. With CH or CHL you simply entered the receiver room and operated switches connected to the normal mains supply. K Type was designed for use on ships where basic electrical supply is not 200-220v 50Hertz. To fire-up this gear, your first job was to operate the star/delta switch for the compressor. The second was to operate another star/delta switch, starting a generator of 200-220v which provided the proper output voltage and frequency required by the naval generator to provide all necessary power to the transmitter and receiver. K Type was originally installed to detect the low-flying aircraft that CH could not, but for about the first fifteen miles from the station out to sea, it detected the tops of high waves, flocks of birds, the Goodwin Sands and ships.

We had to provide a continuous watch when the Cromer lifeboat was on standby, which only happened in my time when ships were too close, or had gone aground, on the Goodwins, usually at night.We were in land-line communication with Cromer, and gave them a position for the lifeboat when requested.

click here to see Barry's return visit to West Beckham 'A' site in June 2010  

© W.B.Dawson 2010


click on the view above to see it's relation to the village and the sea!
Below: A plan of the layout of the site 1947

I was allocated to the Bard Hill site and duly presented myself at the MT [motor transport] section and piled into a canvas-top Bedford 20cwt lorry, along with seven others. I was looking forward to becoming part of the national high-tech defence organisation which had played such a decisive role in world war two. It was mid afternoon when our transport turned off the narrow country lane onto a tarmac strip just wide enough to take the lorry. This meandered across Bard Hill Common, which was covered in rabbit-cropped grass and low gorse bushes.
The sea was now in sight, together with my first view of RAF Bard Hill. There were two disused rusting Nissen huts to the right, and adjacent these were four angle-irons set in concrete, protruding from the ground about eight feet and badly mangled at the ends. More mangled ironwork scattered about suggested the result of an explosion.

click on thumbnails

A click on this thumbnail to see full size
Bclick to see full size
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Barry's plan of the site as he remembers it
see picture below of the four angle-irons today on the heath to see his plan of the interior of the operations block ('B' above ) click on the plan above







To see more pages concerning the history of these pylon feet
click here

click on the picture to see it full size

The pylon after the bomber crashed into it,
which Barry refers to on
page 2

Barry, on his return visit to Bard Hill in June 2010, to trace the remains of the site where he had served in 1947 - 1949. He is standing on the base of the nissen hut belonging to the wreckage that was already wrecked when he arrived in 1947

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of Barry's Bard Hill story