Early WW2 Radar Stations in Essex.

Wickford's connection.

Canewdon, one of the country’s first ‘Chain Home’ stations had been established, one of five to track Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s flight to Munich in September 1938.

The site was split into two halves, the receivers set in earth-covered concrete bunkers a few hundred yards north of the transmitters.  From each, the great pylons – those for the transmitters were 360 foot high – soared into the sky above the small village.  However, the naturally open landscape which made the area ideal for the siting of a radar station made it, just like the airfield, particularly vulnerable to an airborne attack.  Again, the answer came in pillboxes.  In an area of less than one square mile, at least twenty-one of these squat machine-gun emplacements were constructed, guarding both parts of the site with inter-locking fields of fire from their loopholes.


In late 1938 and during 1939, work was progressing with the construction of an RAF station in Canewdon village 3 miles from Ashingdon. They built an impressive CH (Chain Home) or AMES Type 1 radar station with a row of four 110m (360 feet) high steel radar transmitter towers using 24 MHz / 12m wavelength signals and a range of over 190km (120 miles). Nearby they built  a row of 2 (or 3) 73m (240 feet) wooden radar receiver towers. One of Canewdon’s steel towers still exists at the BAE Systems (Marconi) Research Establishment in Great Baddow. Another identical station was built at Great Bromley, Essex between Colchester and Harwich. They were part of a chain including Dover, Kent, Bawdsey, Suffolk and many more used to detect enemy aircraft. Later the RAF used CHL (Chain Home Low) AMES Type 2 systems with 200MHz / 1.5m wavelength which were mobile truck mounted systems. One was based at Walton on the Naze and another at Sheerness opposite Southend on Sea. Even later in the war, a more sophisticated CHEL (Chain Home Extra Low)  cent metric wavelength mobile system which gave low altitude, high speed detection capabilities was used. It was mostly deployed at each Chain Home fixed or mobile station.


Wickford Connection

A local resident a Mr. Playle who lived in Elm Rd and was a carpenter by trade worked on the wooden towers used by the Radar receivers.

His son related to me that Mr. Playle whilst working on the site would stay at Canewdon all of the week. He would return at weekends and as a part of his relaxation he would go to the Hawk at Battlesbridge. At the end of the evening he would lie down on his cart and give the horse a tap. This done the horse would deliver him home without further ado. .


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  • If this was Ben Playle who lived in Elm Road, he married Ruby, who was my dad’s cousin. He also made me a carpenter’s tool box for my 15th birthday, which not long ago I burnt because it had woodworm. Uncle Ben and Aunty Ruby, she was lovely.

    By bobcroot (12/12/2016)

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