RAF Ventnor

RAF Ventnor is a former Royal Air Force radar station located 0.7 miles (1.1 km) north east of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, England.[2] It was initially constructed in 1937 as part of a World War II coastal defence programme codenamed Chain Home. The site played an important role during the Second World War, providing early warnings of incoming bomber attacks carried out by the Luftwaffe.

The site was also part of the ROTOR programme in the 1950s as a Centimetric Early Warning (CEM) station, keeping a constant watch for suspicious Soviet bombers. During the time, an extensive bunker complex was also built at the site, which would later be converted for use as a shelter in case of a nuclear strike during the Cold War. Most of the buildings and facilities at the site have since been demolished, with the bunkers now sealed shut following unauthorised access.[3]

RAF Ventnor
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom
Located near Ventnor in the Isle of Wight
Royal Air Force Radar, 1939-1945 CH15174
Radar receiver towers and bunkers at Woody Bay near St Lawrence, a 'Remote Reserve' station to Ventnor radar station
RAF Ventnor is located in Isle of Wight
RAF Ventnor
RAF Ventnor
Location within the Isle of Wight
Coordinates50°36′00″N 1°11′00″W / 50.6°N 1.183333°WCoordinates: 50°36′00″N 1°11′00″W / 50.6°N 1.183333°W
TypeRadar Centre
Site information
OwnerAir Ministry
Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Site history
In use1938–1961[1]


World War II

Following the development and introduction of early-warning radars during the mid 1930s in locations such as RAF Bawdsey and Orford Ness, the Air Ministry set out a programme of building a ring of coastal radar stations around the British coast to provide early warnings of air attacks, codenamed Chain Home (CH). Ventnor was one of 20 original Chain Home stations authorised in 1937 and became operational in October 1938 using experimental transmitters and receivers in temporary hutting. The site, like most Chain Home stations, was powered by the National Grid but had electric generators to cover for interruptions in the supply.[4] The station subsequently went on 24 hour watch from early 1939 and was put on a war footing on 24 August 1939 in preparation for war.

On 12 August 1940, four Chain Home stations were targeted for bombing by the Luftwaffe, including RAF Ventnor. The radar station suffered considerable damage with most of the buildings being damaged or destroyed. However, casualties were light with only one soldier being injured. Following this attack, a mobile installation were set up and remained in operation until the station was repaired.

The site played an important role during Operation Overlord, the codename for D-Day, monitoring both ship and aircraft movements involved in the landings. From June 1944 onwards the station was active in detecting incoming German V-1 flying bombs.[5]

By November 1947, Ventnor was one of 26 radar stations still in use in the UK with the Type 24 long range microwave height finder and Types 52 and 53 radars still operational.[3]


Following the threat from the Soviet atomic bomb project, the British Government set up a plan to introduce an air defence radar system to counter possible attacks by Soviet bombers, codenamed ROTOR. RAF Ventnor was chosen to participate in the programme. In the early 1950s, the site was re-activated as part of Phrase 1 of the ROTOR programme.[6]

The site (codenamed OJC) was operated by the No.23 Signals Unit under the control of the Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station RAF Sopley. In 1952 the site was remodelled as one of seven underground Centimetric Early Warning (CEM) station, designed to provide more accurate information on the height, range and size of an attacking force compared to the World War II Chain Home radar stations.[6] The bunkers, made of ten feet thick reinforced concrete, housed RAF workers who kept a constant watch for any suspicious aircraft up to 300 miles away. Most of the radar operators and technical personnel working at Ventnor at the time were teenagers, serving their period of compulsory National Service.[7]

By the end of 1956, the AMES Type 80 had been added to the site. Ventnor remained operational until 1957 before being placed into care and maintenance.[5]


The Royal Air Force decommissioned the site in 1961 and, from 1962, it was used by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as a communications station.[1] In the 1960s, the Linesman radar programme was established with the intention of combining military and civil aviation control, known as Linesman/Mediator. The programme refurbished and improved radar defences at Ventnor.

Until the 1990s, the site was involved in the detection and interception of intruding Warsaw Pact aircraft, using the Marconi Type 264A radar and secondary surveillance radars.

The operations bunker was refurbished as the Isle of Wight Council's Control Centre and remained in operation until 1991 as the Isle of Wight Emergency Command Centre for command and control of the island in-case of a nuclear attack.[5]

The site today

St Boniface Down, Ventnor, Isle of Wight
View of St Boniface Down (location of RAF Ventnor) in 2018

The guardhouse, air vents and emergency staircase of the bunker were demolished in 1991 and the bunker itself was eventually sealed shut in 2004 following unauthorised access. Some of the original features of the site are still present, such as mast bases.[1] As of 2014, the central compound still remains and is in used by NATS for air traffic control with telecom masts owned by other companies also present. The surrounding land is in the care of the National Trust.

The surviving components of the original 1938–1939 Chain Home radar station, such as the receiver building, the three receiver tower bases and any remains of the former station defences including a pillbox, is considered a Grade II listed building for their "architectural interest and degree of survival" and for their "historic interest (history of radars)."[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Historic England. "Ventnor History and information (1306901)". PastScape. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  2. ^ "RAF Ventnor". D. C. Adams. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b "RAF Ventnor unit history". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. ^ "RAF Ventnor Chain Home Radar Station History". 1 October 2004. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Historic England. "Former Ventnor Radar Station Receiver site and remnants of the radar station's defences (1420621)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b "RAF Ventnor ROTOR Radar Station History". 1 October 2004. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  7. ^ Perry, Sally (4 June 2017). "Life At The Ventnor Radar Station". On The Wight. Retrieved 14 March 2019.

External links

AMES Type 80

The AMES Type 80, sometimes known by its development rainbow code Green Garlic, was a powerful early warning (EW) and ground-controlled interception (GCI) radar developed by the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) and built by Decca for the Royal Air Force (RAF). It could reliably detect a large fighter or small bomber at ranges over 210 nautical miles (390 km; 240 mi), and large, high-flying aircraft were seen out to the radar horizon. It was the primary military ground-based radar in the UK from the mid-1950s into the late 1960s, providing coverage over the entire British Isles.

In the late 1940s, the RAF developed the ROTOR plan to provide radar coverage over the UK in a phased rollout. As part of Phase II, a new radar with long range would be deployed starting in 1957. But a TRE research project, Green Garlic, appeared to be able to fill the same role. The first examples of the Type 80 were being installed in 1953 and became operational in 1955. New sites received updated Mark III models and some formed the Master Radar Stations (MRS) that directed air defences, filling that role as well. The original ROTOR plans for over 60 stations was reduced by half, retaining only a small number of older radars to fill gaps. Many of the ROTOR operations rooms, only recently completed, were sold off.

The system was developed during a period of rapid development in both radar technology and the nature of the strategic threat. The introduction of the hydrogen bomb led to serious questions about the nature of the defence, as a single bomber escaping interception was capable of causing catastrophic damage. Meanwhile, the introduction of the carcinotron radar jammer appeared to make such attacks much more likely to succeed. This led to plans to replace the Type 80s even before they were fully installed, relying on a much smaller network known as Linesman/Mediator with only three main sites. Two Type 80s were retained in this network for coverage over the North Sea, and several more were used for air traffic control.

Some of the Mark I models shut down as early as 1959 as the Mark III's increased range began filling gaps. Most of the UK fleet shut down in the late 1960s as Linesman's AMES Type 85s came online. The Type 80 also saw some overseas use by the RAF, with stations in Germany, Cyprus, Malta and Christmas Island. One was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force for operations around Metz. Four were used in Sweden. Potential sales for NADGE lost to a system from Thomson-CSF. The Swedish examples, Tom, Dick, Harry and Fred, were in use until 1978/79. The last Type 80, at RAF Buchan, shut down in 1993 after 37 years of operation. A total of about 35 Type 80s were built.

List of former Royal Air Force stations

This list of former RAF stations is a list of all stations, airfields and administrative headquarters previously used by the Royal Air Force.

The stations are listed under any former county or country name which was appropriate for the duration of operation. Stations initially took their station name from the nearest railway station or halt to the airfield, e.g., RAF Abingdon from Abingdon railway station. It has also been stated that RAF stations took their name from the parish in which the station headquarters was located (e.g., Binbrook has never had a railway station).

St Lawrence, Isle of Wight

St Lawrence is a village on the south side of the Isle of Wight, in southern England. It is located to the west of Ventnor and many consider it a part of that town. St Lawrence is situated on the Undercliff, and is subject to frequent landslips. The village is a 1 1⁄2-mile (2.4 km) strip along the coast next to the English Channel, nearby bays include: Woody Bay, Mount Bay and Orchard Bay. The area of the village is around 329 acres (133 ha) in size.


Ventnor () is a seaside resort and civil parish established in the Victorian era on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, England, eleven miles (18 km) from Newport. It is situated south of St Boniface Down, and built on steep slopes leading down to the sea. The higher part is referred to as Upper Ventnor (officially Lowtherville); the lower part, where most amenities are located, is known as Ventnor. Ventnor is sometimes taken to include the nearby and older settlements of St Lawrence and Bonchurch, which are covered by its town council. The population of the parish in 2016 was about 5,800.

Ventnor became extremely fashionable as both a health and holiday resort in the late 19th century, described as the 'English Mediterranean' and 'Mayfair by the Sea'. Medical advances during the early twentieth century reduced its role as a health resort and, like other British seaside resorts, its summer holiday trade suffered the changing nature of travel during the latter part of that century.

Its relatively sheltered location beneath the hilly chalk downland produces a microclimate with more sunny days and fewer frosts than the rest of the island. This allows many species of subtropical plant to flourish; Ventnor Botanic Garden is particularly notable. Ventnor retains a strongly Victorian character, has an active arts scene, and is regaining popularity as a place to visit.

Formations and units
Branches and components
Reserve forces
Associated civil organisations
Symbols and uniform

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