Fairlight Rotor Radar Station

From Historical Hastings

This site at Fairlight near to the Coastguard Station was an operational radar station from almost the start of WW2 until 1956, having been relocated and reconfigured to suit the needs of the Cold War.

Aerial view 1965. Left to right: Fairlight ROC post, ROTOR guard house, AC Cooler plant moist air exit, Emergency exit, T14 Plinth, Electrical substation (via Sub-Brit)

Becoming operational in September 1940, the Fairlight Chain Home Low (CHL) Radar Station (05A in 75 Wing) was located on the north side of Fairlight Road; the ‘A’ site centred on TQ845117, and the ‘B’ site centred on TQ849117. At that time it was equipped with Type 4, Type 11 Mk1, Type 31, Type 52 and Type 53 radars[1].

The site was surrounded by both heavy and light anti-aircraft guns which most likely caused some disruption to the radar facilities.

Flying Bombs

With the onset of the Flying Bomb campaign in June of 1944, Fairlight was upgraded to become a reporting GCI(Ground Controlled Intercept) station, having a number of extra radar systems added. A special console for tracking aircraft was installed in its own ​building​ and extra accommodation built for the extra personnel involved in its more active role.

By the end of 1944, with Doodlebug attacks diminishing, Fairlight reverted back to a CHL although some of the additional radars were retained.

Cold War

In the early 1950’s Fairlight was selected to be used in the ROTOR project as a Chain Home Extra Low ‘A’ (CHEL’A’). As a result of this, the station was moved closer to the coast (the associated guard-house being located to the east of the footpath alongside the coastguard station), with a single level bunker and its Type 14 Mk7 radar coming on line on the 30th August, 1952. The original station to the north remained in use for a short period after this date and the domestic (accommodation) site was retained for the new ROTOR station. Some concrete footings of this site are still visible adjacent to the modern-day car-park[2].

By 1956 the station had become redundant, finally closing by the early 1960s. The bunker was surveyed by Hastings Borough Council as a possible site for the Hastings Area Civil Defence Control in 1962, however, when the concept of area controls were abandoned in 1964, the survey had still not been completed. In addition, no funding had been agreed for the project, so the idea was abandoned. As a result, the bunker was sealed and all ​building​s on the site demolished by Hastings Borough Council in 1973, the area being landscaped as part of the Hastings Country Park. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Sub-Brit Investigation

After gaining permission, the bunker was re-opened in 2002 by members of the Sub Brit organisation and a photographic record made. Following this, the access point was re-capped and the surface returned to grassland as per the agreement made between the organisation and HBC[1].

Exploration by Urban Explorers (Urbexers)

Access was somehow gained to the bunker in mid-2022 (possibly by means of the same access point utilised by Sub-Brit - or at least very near to this - the video below following the description of the site given by Sub-Brit very closely) by the IKS Exploration group who posted a video on Youtube. The video is embedded below:-

A comparison of the views from the two explorations shows little has changed in the intervening 20 years as can be seen below:-

References & Notes

  1. a b Fairlight Rotor Radar Station – Subterranea Britannica, accessdate: 24 January 2021
  2. East Sussex County Council Archive The Keep ESHER_MES23631