Swingate Chain Home Radar Station, Horseshoe Bastion, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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Comments (6)

John Latter on April 12, 2010

The above was taken on December 18th, 2009, and is now "out of date" because the right-hand mast was dismantled in March, 2010.

The photo was taken from on top of Horseshoe Bastion just south of Avranches Tower on the Eastern Curtain Wall of Dover Castle.

This is a zoomed shot: the Swingate Station is 1200 yards away with the Louis Bleriot Memorial out of view in Northfall Meadow about 150 yards in front of Horseshoe Bastion.

From Swingate Chain Home Radar Station:

The Swingate Chain Home radar station was built in the late 1930s and used heavily during World War II. It was part of the Chain Home network of early radar systems. Elements of the Chain Home network remained in service through 1955. Wikipedia has a list of Chain Home sites.

The transmitting array was formed of wire strung between 110 meter towers with a beamwidth of about 100 degrees. The receiving array was a pair of antennas on towers about 70-75 meters high and at right angles to each other. Range was measured by time delay of the echo, azimuth by relative strengh of signals at the two receive antennas. Elevation was measured by comparison to a second pair of receive antennas closer to the ground, at least where local terrain allowed. The tower at BAE Systems at Great Baddow in Essex, which originally stood at Canewdown, is said to be the only Chain Home tower still in its original, unmodified form.

The site was also known as RAF Swingate and is currently described by Wikipedia as Swingate Transmitting Station:

The Swingate transmitting station is a facility for FM-transmission at Swingate, UK (national grid reference: TR334429 ). It includes three lattice towers with a height of 111 metres, which were built for Chain Home radar before World War II. The FM transmitting antennas are attached to the middle tower, with microwave link dishes and mobile telephone antennas being attached variously across all three towers.

It is the only radar tower from the Battle of Britain in WWII still in use today.

Currently the only remaining Chain Home radar tower complete with all three cantilever platforms is at Great Baddow, Chelmsford.

After Senior Term graduation from Army Apprentices College, Harrogate way back in 1970 (Satellite view of the College) I was sent to the 22nd Signal Regiment in Churchill Barracks, Lippstadt, West Germany (a BAOR - British Army of the Rhine - posting) and then spent my last two tours at NATO FSS ("Forward Scatter Station") Cape Greco in Cyprus and NATO FSS Stenigot in Lincolnshire.

Cape Greco and Stenigot were two stations in the Ace High network, a tropospheric scatter communications system that ran from Cyprus to Norway. Although I never visted the site at Swingate during my Army days, I believe it had a microwave link into the ACE High system via the Coldblow Lane station at West Malling in Kent.

For more information see Ace High and Nevada Microwave and Tower.

The Horseshoe Bastion and Dover Castle are English Heritage sites.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on January 4, 2011

Dover Coast Guard Station is located nearby.

John Latter on January 14, 2011

The bases of the two remaining masts are visible on the skyline of the Panorama of the Coastguard Cottages at Broadlees Bottom from Dover Harbour photo.

John Latter on January 22, 2011

Chain Home was the codename for the ring of coastal Early Warning radar stations built by the British before and during the Second World War.

The system, otherwise known as AMES Type 1 (Air Ministry Experimental Station), consisted of radar fixed on top of a radio tower mast, called a 'station' to provide long-range detection of aircraft.

This system had shortcomings in not being able to detect aircraft at lower altitudes and thus was used in conjunction with the Chain Home Low system, or AMES Type 2, which could detect aircraft flying at minimum altitude level of 500 ft.

Source: Chain Home.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 26, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/12/18 10:50:29
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/400)
    • Focal Length: 55.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash