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Author Topic: RAF Swingate, Dover.  (Read 49915 times)

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DoverDan

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Re: RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2010, 20:24:46 »
Ive got to say i am stunned to see that. One of Dovers if not Britains most important historical landmarks being wiped out. Such a shame.
Had anyone heard this was going to happen? I know the tower has been without any transmitters or ariels for while but i hav'nt seen anything in the council archives about taking it down!

Offline Islesy

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Re: RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2010, 19:23:44 »
That has only happened today delboy. Another piece of Dover's history gone.
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Offline delboy

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Re: RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2010, 16:00:06 »
Went for a walk today with the dog and spotted one of the pylons being demolished. I was last up there Sunday and didn,t notice it then nor did the wife. delboy



Offline Islesy

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Re: RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2010, 08:45:40 »
The masts at sunset.



Twilight view from Tower 1



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Offline Islesy

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Re: RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2010, 08:39:31 »
Plans of Tower 2 at Swingate, and its compound.





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Offline Islesy

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Re: Memories of RAF Swingate - Flight Sergeant G. Brent.
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2009, 20:22:40 »
Potholer12 - if you take a look at this thread http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=1542.0 my last post shows the ammunition stores. I've got some pictures from inside the blast protected Receiver Block which I'll post up in the RAF Swingate thread shortly (http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=706.0).
I am trying to research the WAAF losses, but have so far drawn a blank - I've been right over the site but have found nothing! At the moment I'm waiting for a researcher at Hendon to come back to me regarding airfield plans for Swingate, and I've got a few leads to follow up at the NA at Kew.
Like you, I am sure there are a few secrets that Swingate has yet to give up!
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Potholer12

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Re: Memories of RAF Swingate - Flight Sergeant G. Brent.
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2009, 20:22:31 »
Thank you Doug, looks quite feasible.  Just when you think you know Dover, it comes back to remind you there is always another layer!

Offline doug

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Re: Memories of RAF Swingate - Flight Sergeant G. Brent.
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2009, 19:38:27 »
The square distubance by the the Swingate pub is probably the Ammunition stores, The exstension from Martin Mill railway line went past the boundary fence to the radar station, the line now removed was in a cutting at this point which was filled in leaving only the upper level to the ammunition stores. The railway line is quite easy to follow, Look for the Hawthorne bushs which seem to like old railway lines

Potholer12

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Re: Memories of RAF Swingate - Flight Sergeant G. Brent.
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2009, 19:20:10 »
Islesy thank you so much for publishing this deeply moving account.  I have been drawn to this site for nearly 3 decades now, and it is as if I can feel that there is something there I should know but don't about it.  I guess it begins to make sense now, but I still think there is more about the site.  Looking at Google Earth I wondered why there are some square shaped ground disturbances in the lane beside the Swingate pub going down towards Bere farm.  Where I wonder but shudder to think might that air raid shelter be, and is it noted anywhere as a war grave, or even is there any other evidence to corroberate?  I also wonder what is inside the  blast protected central building at the site with the massive air con plant. Great post!

Offline doug

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Re: RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2009, 20:07:32 »
The fenced compound at RAF Swingate was the radio station for RAF Ash,* after the closure of Ash the system was taken over by the Americans. The towers and some of the buildings are used by the BBC.
Two of the towers date from ww2 the third is a new one put up in the 1950s, the fourth tower was removed to allow the site to be used by a communication system that ran from the midlands to Ankara in Turkey[ now dismantled] The towers are also used by the RAF aerial riggers school at RAF Digby for training. The site is controlled by MOD Manston. [ * As is/was common Radio stations were often a distance fron parent units] RAF Sandwich ww2 the radio station was at Ash. Manstons radio station was 1/2 a mile away from the airfield buried in a wheat field.

Offline Islesy

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Re: RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2009, 15:10:49 »
The role of the W.A.A.F.
In World War II, with changes in technology came changes in role. One of the jobs that the women did, and did particularly well, concerned the radar control system. This was vital during the Battle of Britain and later in guiding night fighters against the bomber formations attacking the UK under cover of darkness. Initially, women served as radar reporters, using the huge Chain Home radars to locate raids and report their positions, as well as plotting these reports in the Sector Control Rooms. It was the plotters job to obtain information from the signals staff, often W.A.A.Fs themselves, who were listening to the reports from radar and Observer Corps' posts. This information was then transferred to visual plaques on racks, which were then positioned on the map, showing the position and direction of the raid as it progressed. Every raid was allotted a serial number and a prefix to indicate if it was friendly, hostile or unknown.

It was possible for a plotter to achieve 4 to 5 plots in a minute on occasions. This needed great mental dexterity, which had to be learned in a short period of time. By 1944 most plotters were female, as were many of the radar controllers. It was discovered early on in the development of the radar control system that women's voices carried very clearly in radio transmissions, particularly considering the noise levels in most fighter cockpits of the day. Later in the war, German speaking W.A.A.Fs were trained to imitate the Luftwaffe fighter controllers. Using powerful transmitters based in the UK, the W.A.A.Fs gave contradictory instructions to the German night fighters, and caused great confusion, saving many bomber crews lives. In 1944 W.A.A.F's were first called on to go abroad, firstly to Egypt and then into Europe after the invasion, often operating forward airfields and radar control sites. Prior to this there had been several postings to the United States.

Mrs E.M.W Fairley (Mary)  W.A.A.F Radar Operator.
'Swingate, near Dover, was a huge R.A.F station with many different types of radar, all kept secret from one another. We only knew the type on which we worked. My type was used mainly for tracking enemy shipping passing through the Straits of Dover, and clinging close to the French coast near Calais. Our huge cross-channel guns would shell the German ships, just as the Germans shelled ours when they tried to pass through the narrow channel of water. I don't think very many ships were hit as it was difficult for the long range guns to be so accurate, but aircraft from both sides were used for attacking the convoys and I think did quite a lot of damage. Dover town was shelled endlessly with intermittent shells landing for hours - days, sometimes. From the cliff at St. Margaret's Bay where our station was we could see the flash of the gun being fired at Calais, then we would count a certain number of seconds and wait to hear the sound of the explosion when the shell landed on our side of the Channel. Some shells landed on the RAF Station and one fell directly on an air raid shelter in which I and many other W.A.A.F were sheltering (as we were obliged to if we were not on duty). We were buried for some time then we were dug out. Some girls were killed and some injured. I received a scalp wound which bled a lot so I was taken to Dover Casualty hospital which was full of really seriously injured people ? some sailors blown up on a minesweeper and many civilians, horribly wounded by shrapnel. I remember especially a mother and her baby, both terribly injured. My cut healed soon leaving a small scar on top of my head as a memento of the war.'
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Offline Islesy

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Memories of RAF Swingate - Flight Sergeant G. Brent.
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2009, 14:58:50 »
The following account of a posting to RAF Swingate first appeared in a booklet published by The Canadian Legion. I have been given permission to reproduce Gerry Brent's account by his estate.

"I returned to the UK for Christmas 1943 after almost three years in the Middle East and West Africa. On my fourteen days' disembarkation leave, I had a relapse of Malaria and spent most of my leave in hospital. When I reported for duty in January, the Wing Commander at Bromley said, "you've had a pretty rough time, so I'll post you to Swingate Radar Station." I was pleased with this posting, because I had served as a radar mechanic at Swingate in 1940. I found it had expanded a lot and now included an Oboe station.
When I left Swingate in 1940, there had been about 25 WAAF & 70 RAF pilots. Now there were almost 100 WAAF & 25 airmen. My first reaction after three years without women was that I?d died and gone to heaven! We had a Flight Lieutenant as CO and a WAAF section officer as admin.
I was now a Flight Sergeant and Senior NCO for operations. My first duty was to assign personnel for the four operator and four mechanic watches. I divided them up, matching ranks, skills etc, and posted the list, no sweat. In less than half an hour of posting the list, I had tearful, angry and overly sweet WAAFs pounding on my door wanting shift changes because of 'horrid girls', 'loathsome girls' and 'toffee nosed girls'. I was soon learning my heaven was more like hell!
The second day on site, I was inspecting the receiver block and realized an incident was taking place. An incoming target was on the screen with no IFF from the aircraft. It was approaching dead on to our station, losing altitude and only travelling about 140mph. At one point it looked like it was below the level of the cliffs, but it pulled up at the last minute and just missed our block, making a belly landing about 200 yards away.
I phoned the medical people for an ambulance and picked up a couple of mechanics, and we ran to the downed B17 Fortress from the UASF. The pilot, a major, was struggling to remove the Norden bombsight, but appeared to be smoking a cigar. We asked about the rest of the crew and he replied, "they're all stiffs." We removed eight bodies, but there should have been ten. We never knew whether they were blown out of the plane through the flak holes, one of which was as big as a jeep, or whether they were thrown out to lighten the load. All the machine guns were gone.
I made arrangements for motor transport to the railway station in Dover and a rail warrant for London. The Major, carrying the bombsight in a fitted bag, wanted to visit American HQ in London. I now revised my watch schedule to free up two guards for the plane on a twenty four hour basis so the clocks, compass and radios wouldn't walk.
Unlike the RAF, the USAF had crews on site the following day, and amazed everyone by putting airbags under the wings to lift the body whilst they lowered the undercarriage. They installed new propellers, filled the tanks with gasoline and removed the anti-glider wires on the field. The plane was flown off the field at 3:00pm that day.
I thought I was supposed to be having a rest.
The roofs of the barracks were full of patches where shrapnel from the German cross channel guns at Cap Gris Nez, as well as our own ack-ack debris, fell.
A couple of days later in the transmitter block I found that the routine cleaning of salt sea spray from the antennae insulators was overdue. There was no rush of volunteers to climb the 360' towers and be lowered by breeches buoy seat to wipe off the insulators with an ether soaked rag.
It was a sunny day, not too cold. I had often done this routine and didn't mind heights, so I grabbed a guy as ground man to control my descent in the breeches buoy chair with the rags and bottle of ether. There was a series of steel ladders leading to the top and, being young, I was soon on top and sitting in the chair. I was lowered in ten foot intervals to meet each insulator. There was a procedure to protect oneself from radio frequencies burns, since the 900 kilowatt transmitters were energised on a twenty four hour basis.
The work proceeded until I reached the sixty foot platform where the antennae system terminated. I swung over and stepped onto the platform, ready to descend the ladder to ground level and climb up the second of the four towers.
I was startled to hear the bosun's chair crash to the ground as my ground man dropped the rope and ran for cover. There was the scream of aircraft engines in a dive, together with cannon and machine gun fire. As I turned to look, there was a Messerschmitt 109G, slightly below the level of the platform, throttled back from his dive and about twenty feet away! I could see his blond, straight hair, no helmet or goggles, just a headset on his ears - a rather good looking chap. As he shot past me, he poured on the coal, evidenced by a stream of black smoke from his exhaust pipes, and climbed parallel to the line of our towers. Here he was safe from ack-ack. If his dive had been a few minutes earlier, I'd have fallen from that 360' level and been smashed like an over ripe melon. I later learnt that the 109G  was one of four fighters that had fired 20mm cannon shells at three Land Army girls, wounding one, as they worked in a field on a neighbouring farm.
Although I was shaken, pride made this Canadian Sergeant round up the ground man and complete the remaining three towers. We should have been warned there was a 'red alert' on, and we could have delayed the cleaning joy.
All went well for a few days, and I got to play the piano in the local pub for the beers that soon lined the piano top.
Our CO was concerned that people were not following the Air Raid and Shelling rule to immediately take shelter, and instructed me to ensure they were posted on all bulletin boards. I was also to talk to them and convince them they must comply, or face disciplinary action. Just two nights after the orders were posted and announcements made on the tannoy, we received a direct hit on the WAAF shelter by a one ton, twenty inch shell. There were no survivors and we lost thirty two girls.
The shelter site was bulldozed and a small cross was erected. Thank god for the WAAF officer who helped me write the letters to the parents and next of kin for the CO's signature. The letters were all different, not just copies. In the days following, our watches had to be doubled to make up the loss, and several girls developed shingles and other nervous disorders. The Wing HQ took action, and all remaining WAAF were posted to various other stations.
My posting to Rye in Sussex came about a week later. My posting to Swingate for a 'rest' was about the worst four weeks of my service life (although I had been strafed and wounded by a 20mm cannon shell fragment in Egypt, it happened so fast, and we were fighting so hard that it never affected my emotions). Two days after I left Swingate, an RAF Mosquito bomber with two Canadians as crew hit a balloon cable, crashing and burning, killing them and severely damaging the station cookhouse and dining hall"


At present I am in the process of trying to verify and cross reference the events in Gerry's account. The first discrepancy relates to the crashed Mosquito mentioned at the end of the article. I have only been able to locate one incident similar to that stated which is here: http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=4394.0
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Offline Islesy

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RAF Swingate, Dover.
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2009, 14:32:44 »
I've been in contact with an ex-USAF chappie on several occasions recently, and amongst other things he has given me permission to reproduce his photos from Swingate here.
Curtis Haack, or 'Towerdog' as he was known, was part of a USAF Tower maintenance team. Here are his pics (which I have colour corrected and sharpened):









All the pictures were taken in 1982.
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