Bride Radar Station
The main features of this WWII radar site are now surrounded by an active quarry and are not accessible to the public.
However, following the public rights of way will lead you close to the site and the information on this page will help you visualise what was once here.
The Isle of Man made a significant contribution to the Second World War and one of its most important installations was on the land around here.
In the fields towards the Point of Ayre were huge masts, over 350ft high, and on the ground there were a series of concrete bunkers.
This was all part of the Home Chain system, a scheme which was installed around the coast of the British Isles to detect enemy aircraft.
There were four sites on the Isle of Man at Scarlett, Cregneash, Dalby and here at Bride, and they formed a vital part of Britain’s defences against air attacks.
Radar was still in its infancy in the mid-1930s and the revolving radar scanners that are so familiar at airports today had not been developed. Instead, huge masts were clustered on the landscape, transmitting and receiving signals that reflected off approaching aircraft. Associated bunkers and interrogation huts (to determine whether the aircraft were friendly or hostile) were built near to the masts and the whole system fed its information into strategic control points up and down the UK which determined whether to send up intercepting fighter planes or not. Information of approaching hostile aircraft from places like Bride was also used to alert the air raid protection teams in cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow so that the warning sirens could be sounded and civilians had time to get to their nearest air raid shelter.
The site here at Bride is remarkably well-preserved and it is now thought to be the only Chain Home station in the British Isles with a comprehensive set of remains on a single site. Chain Home Bride is now of considerable national and international importance.
Much of the site is now included in an active quarry, and there is no public access, but the operators, Island Aggregates, have pledged to preserve the remaining bunkers and eventually it is hoped that they will form part of an area that the public will be allowed to visit.
As quarrying continues the public rights of way are being re-routed. Please ensure you stay on the marked footpaths.
As you walk along the footpath from the QR code sign it is possible to see the top of one of the bunkers over on the right, though today it looks like a pile of gorse. It is the remains of the transfomer house which housed equippment for stepping down the electricity from the high voltage supply to a voltage which could drive the various pieces of equipment. An air raid shelter is also nearby.
Following the footpath to the west you will skirt a field in which there were a series of large concrete blocks.
These once tethered the guy ropes that supported the huge masts which were three times higher than the Point of Ayre lighthouse. The blocks are being preserved for future display when the gravel extraction is finished. In preparation for removing one of them recently it was discovered that they go down some 10ft into the ground, a feature designed to take the great weight of the mast above. Strung between the receiving masts was what was known as an aerial curtain. This was a series of wires, under tension, which was in fact the aerial that collected the returning signals.
To be technical for a moment, the Chain Home system was a complex operation with bunkers housing transmitter and receiving equipment. Multiple short pulses were sent out from the transmitting aerials which bounced off the aircraft, and the echo was in turn received by a different set of aerials and decoded in a different set of bunkers.
When aircraft were detected, a nearby building ‘interrogated’ the aircraft. All British aircraft carried a transmitter which sent out a signal identifying it as friendly. These transmitters were fitted with a self-destruct capacity so if the aircraft came down in enemy territory they would be destroyed, thereby preventing their secrets being copied and installed in all enemy aircraft.
This whole site housed other essential items such as air raid shelters, further sleeping accommodation, fencing which carried cables to and from the aerials, junction boxes and so on.
The bunkers were continuously manned, as permanent scanning of the skies was essential. The day was divided into three eight hour shifts, and a large number of staff were on the site.
The operation required supervisors, radio equipment operators, mechanics, officers, clerks, equipment assistants, motor transport mechanics, cooks, butchers, and stewards, telephonists and nursing orderlies, service police and gunners. In all about 125 personnel were billeted in the domestic site and other nearby accommodation. The domestic site was situated south of the road where the footpath started. Most of it has now been demolished.
This set-up was repeated in its entirety at Dalby, and also at Scarlett, and, indeed, at all the other 180 Chain Home stations around the coast of Britain.
Each Chain Home operation overlapped with its neighbour to ensure that as aircraft progressed they were never out of radar scrutiny, except when they were over the sea.
Further up from the first bunker is the largest bunker which housed the standby generating set. In here were a number of generators and a supply of diesel. This would come into action if the power from the Island's grid failed. This is now in the middle of the gravel extraction area.
All the buildings were carefully camouflaged. They were covered in earth and then covered again with camouflage netting stretched right across the entire building and held down at each corner with giant rings set into concrete blocks.
The equipment in the transmitter and receiver blocks generated a good deal of heat and extractor hoods were placed overhead to deal with this. There was also the matter of a gas attack. In order to deal with this each bunker was fitted with an air filtration plant which could be called into action at a moment’s notice. The bunker could be sealed from the inside and air intakes on the roof fed the air through elaborate filters into the work area.
Much of this equipment still survives in the bunkers as do many of the doors and other fittings.
The bunkers are on private land and are not accessible to the public. The photographs and video on this page give you a good idea of what's inside them.
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