Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

RAF Branscombe Chain Home Radar Station, King's Down Tail, Devon

This has to have been one of my favourite explores as for once it wasn't so much about the photos (which is just as well as they're not my best, to be honest!), but more to do with being there, discovering the buildings and history, and talking to the people who own and/or work there now. 

The buildings are spread each side of the A3052 at King's Down Tail just west of Branscombe Cross and are situated on three separately owned sites; a business park, a farm and a caravan park.  

My first task after getting off the bus at the right place was to cross the busy A3052, the first port of call being here at the King's Down Tail Business Park. After taking a few photos, and despite the fact that I had a flask of coffee in my backpack, I couldn't resist a cappuchino at the cafe! Talking to the two chaps that run the place, I was told that the station was connected to a military base in Honiton, where the Heathfield Business Park is now situated. This answered a question for me as I knew there was an anti-tank island there, which makes sense for it to be at that particular location.

The owner came out of his office to chat and he told me that these two blocks were the officers barracks, and that what is now his office was then the commanding officer's bunk room. When the owner bought the site 20 odd years ago the original sink, toilet and bed were still inside. He then suggested that I should go and look at another building situated on the farm across the road. "Go and see Gerry," he said "he'll tell you all about it".

So I crossed the busy road again to go and see Gerry...but Gerry wasn't there, so I talked to someone else and he showed me the building in question, which is thought to be the Radio Control Room.  Built with two separate sets of reinforced walls, one room inside another, making it strong enough to withstand bombing. 

Further along the road is the Operations Block housing the Transmitter/Receiver mast. You can just about make it out in the photo below, taken from the farm entrance, with it's modern mast.

However, before going to see that I had to cross the road again! ;)

This is King's Down Tail Caravan Park, now on the site of the main living quarters where the original buildings have been maintained and used for some of their facilities, containing many of the original features.

I found this tidbit on the caravan park website:

''Here and there can still be seen some of the defensive works of World War II. Buildings on the caravan parks were part of RAF Branscombe, the local radar station. They now house some of our amenities. This station worked in conjunction with Dunkeswell Airfield, home to the American 7th Fleet Air Wings. It was from here that Joe Kennedy Jnr. flew on his fateful mission on August 12th 1944.''  www.kingsdowntail.co.uk

Now the leisure room for the park, above, the main buildings are beautifully maintained. I met one of the owners and had a chat. Unfortunately it was her husband that had researched all the WW2 information and he was away that day...just like Gerry! ;)

Above shows the original fittings in the ladies loo. I had a chat to a holiday maker whilst there, and her daughter who was studying WW2 at school, both of whom were very interested in the buildings and original uses.

Aaaaand back across the road! ;)

Then down the road to the Transmitter/Receiver Block. An excellent view can be seen from the top deck of the bus but it's hard to get any decent photos from the ground, which is a shame as they don't convey just how huge it is. However, the photo below shows the entrance to the Operations Room with steps at the side leading up to the lozenge-shaped base on concrete stilts. Upon this sits a tall concrete block with the mast situated on top of that.

This time I didn't have to cross the road again, but continued to the next turning at Branscombe Cross which runs down to Branscombe itself. Half-way down the first field is this building, below. I couldn't get into the field to see inside the building, but I think it was the Secondary Control Room. There is another, smaller building across the other side of the field, which was probably the Generator Room.

This explore really meant a lot to me and to top it all, after meeting so many fab people, a kindly old gent who gave me a lift half-way to Branscombe turned out to have been a radio signaller during the war. What an amazing bit of synchronicity! :) 

More photos along with these can be seen in the Photo Gallery album. 

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