Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

RAF Wrafton

RAF Radar

During the Second World War the Royal Air Force had a presence to the east of Braunton Burrows, where an air-defence radar station was established in 1941.

Germany’s re-armament in the mid-1930s was the catalyst for serious attention to be paid to Britain’s air- defence network and experiments were undertaken into detecting aircraft by means of radio pulses – radio direction finding (RDF), later to be called radar.

By the outbreak of hostilities air-defence radar stations capable of detecting high-flying aircraft at long ranges (known as Chain Home) were set up along the east and south coasts of England. These were later supplemented by radars capable of detecting low-flying aircraft (Chain Home Low and Chain Home Extra Low) and by a system able to detect raiders and direct RAF pilots to their targets – Ground Controlled Interception (GCI). Army radar equipment was also taken into the RAF radar network.

The system was soon extended to cover other parts of the country, including the southwest of England, and a GCI radar site – RAF Wrafton – was located in Gallowell Lane, Braunton.

The station developed in stages. At first RAF personnel operated from lorries and trailers with transmitters, receivers, generators and other necessary equipment. Next came the intermediate stage, when the operations staff worked from a timber hut, while a brick structure housed a generator. The radar aerial was positioned above and below a gantry. The final site came on air in 1943 with permanent buildings for the operations block, the standby generator house and for the administrative staff. Search radars, height finders, and equipment that could identify friend from foe were deployed around these structures.

RAF Wrafton ceased operations in 1947 although the site was retained until 1958, but reminders of the station can still be seen from the highway. The operations block, generator house and administrative huts have been converted and modernised and now form a part of the Willowfield Lake Holiday Cottages. In fields to the south of the holiday complex brick structures such as a guard hut and generator-house of the intermediate phase, together with a radar plinth of the final stage, are clearly visible.

A Type 7 Radar

RAF Wrafton. The generator-house on the intermediate site.

RAF Wrafton

A Type 7 radar similar to that once seen at RAF Wrafton, an important link in the nation's WWII radar chain  (photo courtesy of the RAF Air-Defence Radar Museum).

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