Why was Worth Matravers chosen for radar development?
Just before the war in 1939, the Germans sent the Graf Zeppelin to spy on the radar development work which was then at Bawdsey, on the Suffolk coast.  Bawdsey was evacuated, and the work moved to Worth in May 1940 (via Dundee).  Worth Matravers was chosen because it had a flat cliff-top site which was good for testing radar.  Even before the scientists arrived, there was already an operational Chain Home radar station there.  Swanage, a holiday town, could also provide accommodation for the scientists.  The radar work was top secret - so most of the local people didn't know what the radar scientists were doing.  However, the few visitors to a holiday town in wartime meant landlords were pleased to have tenants.

What's left to see now?
Practically nothing remains of the radar sites at Worth Matravers other than a small building which is used as a field studies centre, and a few foundations on the cliff top - see Purbeck.  A memorial to commemorate the wartime radar work was erected and unveiled in 2001, and there is a small historical radar exhibition at the Swanage Museum & Heritage Centre.  After the war the RAF continued to operate radars at Worth, and the last mast was taken down in early 1970s.  If you visit the Square & Compass Inn, look for the sign 'RAF Worth Matravers' ~ a relic of the RAF's presence.

Why did the radar work move away, and where did it go to?
The Germans had also built radar defences.  In February 1942 British paratroops raided one of their radars at Bruneval on the coast of Normandy.  They brought back key pieces of the radar equipment to work how good it was.  Intelligence reports indicated that the Germans were planning a commando raid on Worth Matravers.  Prime Minister Churchill ordered all the radar development work to move inland before the next full moon.  Malvern was chosen because it was inland (safer from German attack) and detailed plans of Malvern Boy's College were already available.  The plans had been drawn up as a contingency should naval headquarters need to move from London - and this made planning for the move from Worth easier.  In addition, radar research for the army was due to move from Christchurch to Pale Manor Farm on the northern edge of Malvern (subsequently called 'North Site').

How does radar work?
See the what is radar page.

Why was radar important in World War II?
See the radar in World War II page.



copyright Purbeck Radar Museum Trust 2013  |  www.purbeckradar.org.uk  |  version 8f - 9 May 2015

Page last updated: 10 March 2011