Map of radar sites in Purbeck
Click on image for map of radar sites in Purbeck - opens in new browser window.

The maps and photos show you where radar development took place in Purbeck. Almost nothing is left today except some foundations on the cliff and a small hut used as a field studies centre.

There was radar here before the scientists came in 1940. An early warning radar, called 'Chain Home', was set up on A-Site; it had two 240ft (75metre) masts for aerials. When the scientists arrived, they moved onto B-site which was still being built. A 360ft (110 metre) high steel tower was also being put up for transmitter aerials on E-site. 

Very quickly, a radar to detect low flying aircraft was tested on D-site. This was called 'Chain Home Low' and showed that high cliffs were a good site for this type of radar. 

Until 1940, radar had to have big aerials because of the wavelength it worked on. The scientists at Worth were successful in making radars work on shorter wavelengths so that they needed only small aerials and could fit easily into aircraft. In August 1940, the first tests of these radars took place with echoes received back from St Aldhelm's Chapel, an ancient Norman chapel dating from the 12th century. Later, the first moving target was tracked by radar - a bicycle with a researcher sent out to ride it!. 

The first modern 'map-like' radar displays, called a 'Plan Position Indicator' were built here (back cover photo). This could show both attacking bombers and defending fighters on the same radar screen, and made defence against night air attack effective.  This was called 'Ground Control of Interception'. 

A landing strip for aircraft was used for flights for radar calibration and testing. 

More scientists came to Worth, and early in 1941 its management moved from B-site to Durnford School. Some experimental work moved from C-site to Leeson House, and a training centre for radar operators and technicians was set up in Forres School (now Purbeck View School). 

The Germans had also built radar defences, and in February 1942 British paratroops raided one of their radars at Bruneval on the French coast. They brought back key pieces of the radar to work out how good it was. After this, Churchill thought that the Germans might raid Worth, and ordered all radar research to move inland. The scientists hastily moved to Malvern in May 1942. About 200 people came to Worth in May 1940; by May 1942 about 2000 people worked here! 

The RAF continued to operate radars at Worth until well after the war, and the 360 foot (110 metre) tower was only taken down in the early 1970s. 

The scientists enjoyed a drink at the Square and Compass Inn: they nicknamed it the 'Sine and Cosine' after mathematical terms they used in their research. The inn is 300 years old and several generations of the Newman family have served as its landlord. Look for the sign 'RAF Worth Matravers' in the hallway - a relic of the RAF's presence. 

There are other radar sites in Purbeck - two are parts of radio navigatioin systems used by British aircraft. One was at Tilly Whim, where Durlston Country Park visitor centre now is: this was part of the 'Oboe' system. Another, at Brandy Bay, was part of a system called 'GEE'.


copyright Purbeck Radar Museum Trust 2013  |  |  version 8f - 9 May 2015

Page last updated: 10 March 2011