*New information from Bletchley Park's archives:-
*`GC&CS BLETCHLEY PARK 1939-1945**,LOCATIONS AND
ASSOCIATED WITH BLETCHLEY PARK`.
*The entry reads**`Greatworth-Northamptonshire. RAF remote
communications terminal in UK for Sigint channels to/from
So RAF Greatwoth's pre war exsistance is a certainty!
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
Land Agents 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.
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.
§ 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.