A look back at RAF Neatishead radar museum ahead of Duke of Edinburgh royal visit

Radar Museum at Neatishead. Manager and curator Chris Morshead.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Radar Museum at Neatishead. Manager and curator Chris Morshead. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Saturday, April 26, 2014
7:00 AM

The museum at Neatishead provides an insight into the once-secret world of radar both on the ground and in the air.

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Its maze of rooms are filled with remnants of a bygone era when attacks from the skies were a constant threat.

The now eerily silent Cold War room has been left almost exactly as it was when last used to monitor aircraft nearing Britain’s airspace.

And outside a Bloodhound MkII Surface to Air Missile offers a stark reminder of how ready the country was for conflict.

The former radar base reveals its secrets under the watchful eye of manager Chris Morshead who, with a dedicated team of volunteers, curates the extensive collection.

Mr Morshead joined the museum three years ago after a career in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm as a communications and radar engineer.

He said in the early stages of radar, invented by Robert Watson-Watt, a lot of the analysis was educated guess work.

As it became more accurate, it was moved into aircraft and Winston Churchill took the decision to allow Henry Tizzard to carry the new technology in his hand luggage to give it to the Americans.

Mr Morshead said: “The deal was they would build us the radar and in return we helped them progress by two years in their development.

“We were the first people to get it all together in terms of using it as an operating system.”

The RAF Neatishead radar base was built in 1941 for fighter controllers to direct RAF fighters to attack enemy aircraft from Germany as they launched raids in Norfolk and Norwich.

It moved into an underground bunker in 1954 but after a fire in 1966 it paused operations until 1974 when it operated a new data-handling system above ground in the old Second World War operations room.

And from the early stages of radar to the 1990s, the museum takes visitors on a journey through Britain’s defence in the 20th century.

The Duke of Edinburgh last visited the RAF Neatishead radar base in 2001 as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations.

His latest visit is the launch of a campaign to raise funds to provide better facilities at the museum and indoor protection for the large mobile radar and missile currently stored outdoors and vulnerable to the changing weather.

The £2m-£3m changes will include space and indoor protection for larger exhibits which are currently outdoors.

And the display, catering and educational facilities inside the museum will also be given a refresh.

Were you part of the team who worked at this radar station? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk.

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