Royal Air Force Greatworth

962 Signals Unit

History of RAF Greatworth

 
RAF Greatworth stands to the north of the village, that lent it's name to this RAF Establishment. Originally thought to have been built between 1949, when the Air Ministry purchased the land and 1954, there have been conflicting reports as to when the station was first built, but it is now known to  precede WW2, where it supplied transmissions for the now famed Bletchley Park*. After the war, RAF Greatworth's  powerful HF telecommunications transmitters were used for the RAF's global communications networks, made necessary by the infamous `Cold War'. All the Buildings were replaced with permanent brick and concrete structures in 1955 and many acres of adjacent fields were covered by tall aerial masts and towers, carrying long caged rhombics connected by an extensive wired feeder network, all were a prominent feature of the landscape, that could be seen from miles across the countryside. Sadly, RAF Greatworth was decomisioned and closed forever in November 1988 and has since 1992 been a business park, its buildings still survive, although much altered and extended, they are still quite recognisable. Greatworth Park is privately owned and permision is needed for access.

*New information from Bletchley Park's archives:-

*`GC&CS BLETCHLEY PARK 1939-1945**,LOCATIONS AND
ORGANISATIONS
ASSOCIATED WITH BLETCHLEY PARK`.
*The entry reads**`Greatworth-Northamptonshire. RAF remote
communications terminal in UK for Sigint channels to/from
BP *`.

So RAF Greatwoth's pre war exsistance is a certainty!


Airmen of special note

KEN SWALLOW a cricketer for Sulgrave Cricket Club part of the South Northants League was stationed at RAF Greatworth in 1954.
DERRICK SAVAGE (1955), PETER FEASEY(1954), J
EFF TURNER(1948) and MICHEAL ??? (1948) all `national servicemen', served part of their service here and are four of our earliest site members to be stationed here,  The late Leslie Hinder is one of the earliest recorded as being on station strength from 1943 untill 1945 and Michael O'Hagan (living in Canada) 1943 the other, see our gallery.

JOHN OGDON, A classical pianist served part of his `National Service' at RAF Greatworth during 1958. He went on to lead a highly successfull career in music until his untimely death in 1987.

RAF Greatworth 962 Signals Unit

RAF Greatworth, from January 1956 untill at least September 1960, was 962-Signals Unit and was a transmitter station to RAF Stanbridge 2-SU. There is no record of it being used for any other purpose than a radio-transmitting station and because of the extensive aerial networks, masts and towers covering an enormous area of farmland, there certainly were no airfield facilities here. An aerial photograph, allegedly taken between 1945 and 1950* reveals only fields, pastures and meadows. One of our members, Micheal, submits that RAF Greatworth operated during the war, as transmitters for Bletchley Park and that the nissen mess and acommodation huts hadn't yet been built, the airmen then being billeted over at Helmden village, acommodated by local families in their cottages. (more information needed ?). On being asked about how he was billeted in Helmdon, Micheal replied  :-

"Private houses. I was first placed in a cottage opposite the church. It was not too hygienic and I asked to be moved. That was approved and I was billeted with a mother/daughter in a very old house with sloping floors and doors that did not shut properly. They were nice people and clean."

* There is no information as to when this photo was actually taken, it's scource says 1945 -1950, but RAF Greatworth's transmitter Hall was already be in exsistance well before 1940, so the photo has to be prewar? There could never have been an airfield at RAF Greatworth either, as is infered by other scources of information, the radio masts, aerials and feeder wires that cover the site bear witness to this. There are however, several RAF airfields nearby, which could have caused confusion in the security blackout of the time.

NB. The village is off the lower edge of the foto left of centre where Helmdon Road joins the foto and the site of the TX Hall would be a third of the way up and central, with one end (southern) of the hall near what looks like a farm gate and Helmdon Road joining the Welsh Lanes partly up on the right edge. the married quarters would be to the left at the photos lower edge where Helmdon Road joins the foto with the CO's house just round that corner.


The Winter of '62/'63

In the early part of 1963, during a time of exceptionally heavy snowfall, high winds and bitter cold, the entire area became totaly inaccessible and after a week, it was sought to land a helicopter with necessary supplies. This was quickly decided to be much too dangerous, because of the high winds, deep drifts and the proximity of so many wires and aerial towers, so the idea was aborted, so was dropping supplies by parachute. Nearly another week passed before the local snowplough cleared the roads enough to let our supply vehicle through. There was an incident in this attempt at supplying provisions too, negotiating the narow and winding country lanes around Greatworth, the supply truck, a Bedford 10 tonner, accidentaly skidded accross the packed snow and ice, into a snow bank cleared from the roadway by the snowplow, damaging the truck's front. Fortunately it was able to continue and complete it's delivery. During most of the two weeks, the Airmen's Mess had to ration meals to make supplies last. Our cook was regarded as hero of the hour, for his efforts to keep us all fed.



Air Ministry acquires land at Greatwoth in 1949:-

Documents relating to Culworth, Greatworth, and Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, in the archives of Balliol College, Oxford

Greatworth.

Land Agent’s file OBC 7 Greatworth
MBP 88. Box 2.1 Sales of cottages at Greatworth to Carpenter, Paul, Sharp and Isham. 1952
MBP 88. Box 2.4 Sale of land at Greatworth. Northants to Brackley Rural District Council. 1950-1
MBP 88. Box 2.6. Sale of land at Greatworth, Northants to the Air Ministry. 1949
MBP 164.b. Drafts of legal documents and other papers returned to the College by Morrell Peel and Gamlen, re purchase of the Malt House, Greatworth, 1947.
MBP 338. Papers re Greatworth Cottages 1945-1952 including an annotated sale map of the Marston St. Lawrence Estate, 1937


(There is no specific plot description here, just `box' numbers (plots?) maybe it's that the Air Ministry extended the aerial Farm? or even replaced a lease with a purchase? There are no explanations offered, so we can only guess (as `Town and Country Planning' had yet to happen!). Coincidentaly, The new acomodation buildings and the married quaters with the CO's house included, all used `fresh' plots of land. Was this the land that was purchased?

From the war untill 1954 RAF Greatworth appeared as a collection pre-war of nissen huts, the largest of which was the hangar sized transmitter hall. It looks like the station had been hurriedly constructed with readily available materials and equipment at the begining of the war and in answer the increasing requirements for HF communications. During the war, there were no acommodation facilities on site and in the cold winters after the war, living conditions were very spartan compared with todays luxury lifestyles.
In 1954 the RAF started to modernize the station, replacing the ageing corrugated structures with bricks and concrete. In late 1954 untill early '55 the transmitter hall was replaced without interupting operation of the transmitters and despite horrendous difficulties were completed successfully. The new accomodation and messes on the northern site next to `The Welsh Lane' were completed shortly after and the old nissen huts were then demolished. The station was then ready to become a major player in the global HF communications networks of the UK. Made very necessary by the COLD WAR. Which, when concluded at the end of the nineteen eighties, made RAF Greatworth, redundant.

Earliest direct references to RAF Greatworth are from the National Archives at Kew, Dating it as existing in 1944 as W/T Station RAF Greatworth (Bletchley Park!). Movements info dates to 1948 when Jeff Turner was posted into RAF Greatworth.

Planning

planningRAF Greatworth

The Greatworth Ghost

Was a sergeant or some other service personnel electrocuted in the TX Hall and did he come back to haunt us? Whether this information is accurate I do not know - If this did happen, it was before my time.

The story goes: The person was electrocuted while working on one of the four Marconi transmitters at the far end of the main hall. Supposedly it was a transmitter directly in front of the riggers workshop door (possibly it was a T1509, pictured below, of which there were four at the north of the hall.). The event occurred during the day while performing routine maintenance. He was taken into the riggers workshop and put on one of the large workshop benches then later taken to the sergeants mess.

During my two tours at Greatworth, everyone made light of this unfortunate event by playing practical jokes on each other. But for me there may have been a modicum of truth in the ghost story. That particular transmitter was always QSY’ed at about 4 AM every day and strangely did appear to have it’s own quirks during the retuning process.

As we all did on the “middles” shift, two or three of us slept on the drive unit room floor while one stayed up and worked. On this particular shift it was my turn work and along came 4 AM and time to do the QSY. The transmitter was not behaving itself at all, and then I heard what I thought was the riggers workshop door close. The hair on the back of my neck stood up but I figured it was just one of the others playing tricks. I quickly finished the QSY and ran down to the drive unit room only to find everyone asleep. I questioned everyone later and all strongly denied doing anything and said, “It must have been the ghost”! From that day on I was always uneasy while working on that transmitter.
Stu Cook

The history of Greatworth Village

    Greatworth is situated on a hill, some 500 ft above sea level, it lies about seven miles east of Banbury, just to the south of an important old drove road, Welsh Lane, used for taking stock from Wales to London. The houses on the west side of The Street were originally part of the hamlet of Westhorp, administered by Marston St Lawrence. In 1935 Westhorp became part of Greatworth. Before that the old minute books of both parishes record many disputes between them. Village folk in Westhorp had to be buried in Marston churchyard and it is recorded that in 1895 a bier was purchased to convey the corpses the one and a half miles down the steep hill to Marston, despite the fact that Greatworth church was only a few hundred yards away. The layout of the village is such that the houses, old farmsteads and terraced rows of cottages form tight building lines winding along the natural contours and creating attractive streetscapes. The older part contains a number of listed buildings. The row of houses known as Dering Cottages remind us of Lady Dering, who seems to have been an early supporter of education for women, as she endowed a charity for girls as well as boys which still gives small grants to students from the village.
    The manor house has a commanding position overlooking the agricultural landscape. The present manor stands on the site of the two previous manors, the second of which was destroyed by fire in 1793 along with many of the village records. The pair of elaborately carved stone pineapple finials still stand marking the entrance of the previous building. George Washington, America's first president, was descended from the Pargeter family of Greatworth.
    A little wayside church' is how Arthur Mee described the village church of St Peter. The battlemented tower is 15thcentury but the chancel is 13th century and the nave has been rebuilt in the style of the first English builders. In the churchyard a magnificent sycamore tree and a healthy old hornbeam stand among some very old gravestones.
    Between Cockley Rill and Greatworth lies Cockley Brake. This is the overgrown remains of early Victorian enterprise, the junction of the Banbury to Bletchley and the Banbury to Northampton railway lines. The second route was not all that successful commercially, but in its latter days the lads of the village would stand by the track to hear the Northampton football score called out by the driver, and to catch the newspapers thrown to them for delivery in the village.Geographically the area is a watershed with streams running into three rivers, jthe Ouse, the Cherwell and the Tove. The fact that the village stands on one of the highest points in Northamptonshire accounts for the presence of RAF Greatworth Transmitter Station to the north of the village. The tall masts, ugly in close-up but a landmark for miles, are now redundant and soon to be demolished.
    NB. The village information above is taken from the Northamptonshire Villages book, written by members of Northamptonshire County Federation of Women's Institutes and published by Countryside Books.

USAF Leasing detail

RAF Greatworth
HC Deb 11 November 1988 vol 140 cc321-2W 321W
§ Mr. Boswell To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of RAF Greatworth.322W
§ Mr. Freeman The Ministry of Defence has been considering the future of RAF Greatworth, for which the RAF no longer have a requirement and we are now able to announce that we will make available to the United States Air Force an enclave containing the station's buildings to provide support for the US Air Force main operating base at RAF Upper Heyford. The buildings will be used for personnel accommodation and the storage of non-warlike items such as furniture. That land not required by the United States Air Force will be sold. Historically the signals facilities at RAF Greatworth have played an important role in support of the Royal Air Force and I am pleased that the station will be able to continue to contribute to the defence of this country in this way. I shall be arranging for an appropriate ceremony to take place in due course to mark the handover of the station and to commemorate the station's historical contribution. Representatives of the local community will be invited, including the hon. Member for Daventry.

The United States Air Force (Comms) Handed back RAF Greatworth to the MOD on 8th February 1992

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The tuning of mind and machine

   Aston  Martin  Racing.

Are situated in the messes, naafi and accomodation buildings.

(where Triple 8 (888) once ocupied)


 

Tim Samways occupy the central end and east wing of the `T' in the TX Hall.

Restoration and garaging of classic/historic sports cars.

(Visitors only by apointment!)

 

At the northern end Of the TX Hall.

Angus Watt's Campers.

VW Campers's in the Centre Hall.


Close by the old Nissen Hut's site

and the CO's Old House site there is

Home Nurseries 

Off Welsh Road. Here, you can

buy plants for hanging baskets

and patio tubs etc.

01295 768 141