Canewdon Radar Station


Second World War radar site (Air Ministry Experimental Station Type 1) was sited on the edge of Canewdon village, it was the fourth to be built in Britain. The site comprised both a Receiving and Transmission site with four masts on each.

During World War Two, Canewdon Radar Station was one of a network of such sites protecting the east coast of Britain. The site was split into two halves, the Receiver Site lying north of Lambourne Hall Road and this, the Transmitter Site, south of Gardeners Lane (for more background information see SMR 19574).

Unlike the Receiver Site, of which nothing other than two pillboxes remains, the Transmitter Site has, apparently, some considerable degree of survival. The original layout can, to some extent, be determined from an aerial photograph taken in 1960, fifteen years after the end of the war. It appears as an elongated stretch of grassy land with its entrance immediately off Gardeners Lane. There is a driveway from the road to the centre of the site (TQ 9055 9416) where the huge Transmitter Block can be seen. This is rectangular, flat-roofed, semi-sunken, with entrances in the north and west walls, each protected by a blast wall (probably to Drawing AM 4234/38, see Dobinson, page 45 for description and outline drawing) In the north-east corner of the site (TQ 9058 9429) is a similarly protected square, flat-roofed building, surrounded by earth embankments. It is tall and has a blast-wall protected entrance on the west side. This building may well have been for the Standby Generator Set (AM Drawing No. 5744/38, see Dobinson, page 46)

What is probably the Guard Hut stands by the entrance. (TQ 9056 9431). At least four more structures or their remains can be seen: a ruined building to the east of the track (TQ 9057 9427), what is probably a Stanton Air Raid Shelter east of the track (TQ 9058 9423), a small building of unknown purpose to the east of the track (TQ 9059 9419) and what appears to be a roofless, rectangular building with a number of rooms exposed to the southwest of the Transmitter Block (TQ 9052 9412). None of the 350 foot (107 m) towers remained at that time but their concrete foundations - one block for each of the four legs - can be clearly seen at TQ 9050 9423, TQ 9051 9418, TQ 9052 9412 and TQ 9052 9405. It will be noted that the roofless building at TQ 9052 9412, if that is what it is, stood directly beneath one of the towers before it was removed. <2> <3> <4>

It was not possible to access the site as part of the World War Two Defences in Rochford project in 2003. However, low level aerial photographs taken of the site in May 2003 show the surviving features very clearly. During the past 43 years very little has, apparently, changed. The Transmitter Block still stands surrounded by its earth banking and blast walls, as does the Standby Generator Set building. The Guard House remains in its position by the entrance and the Stanton Air Raid Shelter still sits beneath mounded earth east of the track. The small building of unknown purpose is still there. All the tower foundations still remain. The roofless building which stood beneath one of the towers appears to have deteriorated to a grass-covered ruin. Only the ruined building to the east of the track at TQ 9057 9427 has disappeared.

Although the condition inside the buildings is not known, viewed from above, the site has clearly maintained a high degree of survival. <5>

Just outside the northwest corner of the site, immediately by the roadside (TQ 9047 9432) stands a well-worn concrete post approximately 18 inches high. On the face of this is engraved "A.M. No. 2" and there is an upward-pointing chevron. This post, no doubt, signified Air Ministry Site No. 2 of Canewdon Radar Station. One photo was taken. <6>

On the boundary of the site at TQ 9059 9431 and TQ 9048 9416 two pillboxes remain (SMRs 20780 and 20781).

Although the 350 ft steel towers have long gone, one of them still survives. It was dismantled and moved to Marconi in the 1950s and now stands high above the Chelmsford skyline.

With the development of radar in the latter half of the 1930s, Canewdon was one of the first sites to be established, along with Bawdsey, Great Bromley, Dunkirk (Kent) and Dover. In 1938, it became operational in time to track Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s flights to Munich and by the outbreak of war, the following year, it was one of 20 Chain Home stations which guarded the east coast against approaching enemy aircraft. As such, Canewdon has a special place in the history of Britain’s World War Two defences. However, no more than half the station still exists. The Receiver Site has gone and any assessment of survival for protection purposes could only consider the Transmitter Site.

Wartime photo of the radar station

Wartime photo of the radar station

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