RAF Holmpton “VQJ’ GCI R3 ROTOR Radar Station, Yorkshire

RAF Holmpton was originally known as RAF Patrington, a WW2 Early Warning (EW) radar station. A short period later a Ground Control Intercept Station in the form of a Happidrome was built at Sunk Island near Patrington.

By 1951 this was all changing as air defence was being ‘beefed up’ all over the UK to counter the rising Russian threat. To this end plans were made to construct a ROTOR R2 underground bunker at nearby Out Newton to provide a Centrimetric Early Warning (CEW) function which would report to a ROTOR R3 underground bunker on sunk island. However after extensive surveying this was found to be untenable due to poor ground at sunk island and spiralling costs. The decision was taken to combine the two proposed sites at Holmpton in one R3 underground bunker. Construction began in 1952 and the site opened in 1953, ad becoming fully operational by 1954. It was originally a combined CHEL/GCI station with RAF Bempton nearby acting as the CEW function.

In 1957 Holmpton was upgraded to a Master Radar Station and a type 80 Radar was installed in 1958.  At the same time the remotely located type 7 and type 14 sites were closed. At the same time the interior of the bunker was refitted with a new ops room being constructed and provided with a ‘Kelvin Hughes’ PDU plotting table. This system was able to continually display the radar image onto a plate glass table by photographing the radar image onto 35mm film and the projecting the resultant image into the glass table from below, the system updated the image every 45 seconds. The station was again refitted in 1961 and the old ops room was closed, and nearby RAF Bempton was put into care and maintenance and Holmpton assumed the CEW function. During this period Holmpton also became a control centre for the new BloodHound Missile System, but by 1962 Holmpton became the National Bloodhound Command and Control Centre (NBCCC) for aforementioned system. This was a short lived period though, only lasting around 5 years.

In the late 1960’s and after some major upgrading to UK air Radar by installation of new US equipment at Staxton Wold, Holmpton was upgraded to the status of Master Comprehensive Radar Station (MCRS) now tasked with running its own functions as well as those at the new remote site at Staxton Wold. Holmpton remained operational as a Radar Station till 1974. Between 1974 and 1984 it was used as a training site for Radar Engineers, but post 1984 saw Holmpton being used and refitted as the RAF Support Command. This was completed by 1984 and then evolved into the National Wartime (Emergency) Command Centre for RAF Support Command (RAFSCOC). This new role for Holmpton was short lived and only operation till 1991, the end of the Cold War, with there being no need for facilities such as this anymore Holmpton was closed in 1992. The site was then used for training RAF police and the RAF Regiment. In 1995/6 Holmpton was proposed as the new operations centre for the new UK Air CCIS system, but this was not undertaken due to cost but an experimental UK Air CCIS operations room was constructed at Holmpton – but this element of UK Air Defence is still classified and no further information is available.

An interesting point to note is that during this last refit an area was set aside for the Royal Observer Corps to fulfil their monitoring function. This then evolved into the ROC/NBC Control which remained at Holmpton till around 1997 – almost 6 years after the ‘official’ stand down of the Corp.

In 2003 the Defence Archive moved into the Bunker and over the next few years the bunker was restored with each area representing a different piece in its fascinating history.  The bunker is well worth a visit and is superbly represented by knowledgeable guides as well as lots of original equipment and accurate displays. See the Official Holmpton website for further information.

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Modified: 5th May 2016