RAF Fylingdales – BMEWS Photographs & Story



raf-fylingdales-golf-balls

Building Of The BMEWS At Fylingdales Moor

raf fylingdales in the snow

RAF Fylingdales In The Snow – 1963

The History Of Whitby

This Article, RAF  Fylingdales – BMEWS was first published on 13th Dec 2011 and  is dedicated to my late father George William (Bill) Kilpatrick of Whitby who passed away November 17th 2010. Whilst sorting through some of his belongings my mother came across a set of photographs of my dad working on the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station (BMEWS) at RAF Fylingdales on the North Yorkshire Moors outside Whitby.

The pictures are marked unclassified and before publishing them I sought permission from Flight Lieutenant Mike Foster at RAF Fylingdales.

My mother believes the photos date back to the late 1950’s and early 60’s when my father worked as maintenance supervisor at the base.

From discussions with my father, I recall that the base was one of three identical bases in the northern hemisphere, built to give radar cover for the entire northern hemisphere during the cold war with Russia and the Eastern Block.

I believe this is where the phrase 4 minute warning originated from as the base would give a 4 minute warning in the eventuality of a nuclear strike from The USSR.

Throughout my early childhood I have memories of my dad being away from home for long periods of time. I believe my father was away working on the construction of the other two BMEWS in Thule Greenland and Clear Alaska.

I also believe my father worked on a similar base somewhere in Belgium and again was away from home for long periods whilst working there.

Whilst working on the BMEWS, dad was employed initially by RCA and then more recently Serco for whom he worked from 1950’s right up untill the 1990’s when, believe it or not, one of his final jobs was to dismantle the raydomes he had helped construct 40 years early.

The bolts from one of the raydomes are now used to hold my garden shed together.

To add a final twist to the story, I myself worked on the construction of the new pyramid which replaced the golf balls on Fylingdales Moor in the early 1990’s.

Gallery Of Images From The Initial Building Of RAF Fylingdales. Images are copyright to Real Whitby. Please double click to view full sized images

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22 Responses to "RAF Fylingdales – BMEWS Photographs & Story"

  1. Dave Heselton  December 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Interesting pictures – My father also worked on the construction of RAF Fylingdales in the early 1960s and he was stranded at the base in the winter of 62 / 63 – I was trying to recognise any of the men on the pictures, in the line of men walking to Goathland station I am pretty sure the front man wearing glasses is Gordon Couzens.

    Reply
  2. Steve Wood  March 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Thank you for publishing this article! I was stationed here in late 60’s. I was living on base in the airman’s quarters, we did get snowed in a few times although never had to walk to Goathland. We would however walk to the Saltersgate Inn on such occasions and enjoy the hospitality
    which as I recall included a roaring fire in a huge fireplace.

    Reply
    • Alan Crosby  February 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      Hi Steve. My Dad Colin Crosby was stationed at Fylingdales in the late 1960’s (we lived on Castle Park estate in Whitby) and I was wondering if you knew him? The picture of the night shift walking in the snow….I’m convinced that the tall guy leading the walkers is Colin!
      Thanks.
      Alan

      Reply
      • Babs Hamlet  August 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm

        My dad worked at Fylingdales, I think it was 1968 the first time then again from 1974. I also lived on the Castle Park estate. I have to admit I don’t like the new design and much preferred the ‘Golf Balls’.

        Reply
    • Hazel Watson  August 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Hi Steve, I remember you. Ohh what fun we had in Whitby :)

      Reply
  3. Geoffrey Powell ..Formally Pallett S A C , RAF GOLDSBOROUGH 1961/3  June 17, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Dear Webmaster.
    I am really really interested in the Fylingdales site, I was a SAC senior aircraftsman with 5131 bomb disposal sqn billetted at Goldsborough East Barnby camp and we travelled daily to clear the moors so workmen could build safely the station as it is today ,this was clearing munitions left from the last war as it was a firing range then. I was there between 1960 to 63 and as stated the pictures of building the golf balls is wrong being built as early as the 50s . We had not cleared the moors for such building then.. I have many photos of the time if you would like them, I am 71 now and was 21 during these years… if you please get in touch or anyone knows me it will be appreciated regards Geoffrey Powell formally Pallett as I changed my name for family reasons Thank you…my e-mail geoffrey.m3uxb@virgin.net

    Reply
  4. Geoffrey Powell ..Formally Pallett S A C , RAF GOLDSBOROUGH 1961/3  June 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Dear Webmaster,
    Thank you so much for putting my comments of my time at Fylingdales on the site.. If anyone remembers me then please feel free to e-mail me.. and if anyone would like any photos black and white of course of our Bomb disposal men at work in the 1960s on the moor I can copy and send if you supply details of your name and address, special thanks go to the gentleman or lady who provided the most interesting pictures of his or her late fathers collection.. Again thank you Geoffrey…

    Reply
  5. admin  June 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Hi Geoff, Thankyou for getting in touch, We would love to see your photos and publish them onto the site if that’s ok with you ? How are your writing skills ? Perhaps you could write us a short article on what you did, how and when ?? Our email address is realwhitby@gmail.com.

    Best wishes – Glenn

    Reply
  6. Geoffrey Powell ..Formally Pallett S A C , RAF GOLDSBOROUGH 1961/3  June 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Dear Sir/ madam,Webmaster
    I was asked to provide info or pictures of my time at Fylingdales which I have done .. I have enquired as to whether you have received them to the two links and received no reply.. Could you acknowlege receipt please Geoffrey….

    Reply
  7. GEOFFREY POWELL  March 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Dear Webmaster,
    Please, in case anyone wishes to contact me change my e-mail address from geoffrey.m3uxb@virgin.net ..to geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com.. I am geoffrey powell and was formally geoffrey pallett Ex RAF Bomb Disposal Sqn RAF GOLDSBOROUGH AND FYLINGDALES THANK YOU GEOFFREY…

    Reply
  8. GEOFFREY POWELL  April 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

    please alter my e-mail address , its g337powell@btinternet.com or geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com.. my previous virgin media address does not exist thank you geoffrey powell.formally pallett 5131 bomb disposal sqn raf Goldsborough / Fylingdales thank you..

    Reply
  9. Gill  May 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    The 4 minute warning meant the missile had been picked up and tracked 4 minutes after launch.

    Reply
  10. GEOFFREY POWELL  May 22, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    You will see my submissions on the site but nobody responds to me and I have so many photos of my time at Goldsborough and Fylingdales , Im sure the material I have would be useful..Please pull your finger out and contact me if you want it.. geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com ,I am 72 now and was 20 at the time I was there in 1960s infact I wrote a Monograph about it and my time so if you want this material DO please respond Disappointed no reply… Geoffrey Powell formally Pallett SAC ex 5131 Bomb Disposal Sqn Fylingdales / Goldsborough..

    Reply
    • Real Whitby Webmaster  May 23, 2013 at 11:39 am

      Hi Geoff, I apologise for not getting in touch, its no excuse but time is really so limited for me at the present time with Work, Family, friends etc its very difficult to keep upto date with the site.

      I think my Friend Vanda has contacted you about your information and pictures. I think it would be good for you to meet with her so you can discuss getting your info and pics onto the site.

      I am very keen to get more stuff like this on the site but at present time is the problem. I would really like to get more people who can write and submit finished articles or even put them onto the site themselves.

      Once again my sincere apologies. Please let us know if you do net get Vanda’s email.

      Reply
  11. geoffrey powell  February 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Please Webmaster ,You will find numerous contributions with my email being Virgin.net……….Please would you alter ALL..ALL.. entries and apply new email address.. as follows geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com……..I dont use virgin server anymore.. Thank you Geoffrey Powell .Formally Pallett…….EX 5131 Bomb Disposal Sqn RAF Goldsborough and Fylingdales 1960s..

    Reply
  12. ronald l. laumer  March 31, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    I was stationed at RAF Fylingdales from 1968 until 1972. One day I hope to return to seethe changes Any former US Air Force there at the time get in touch to renew friendships or just relive old times.

    Reply
  13. Steve Wood  April 1, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    Ron Laumer, You are well remembered as is your catch phrase “No sweat”!! Steve Crider (USAF)and I (RAF)are in communication and both living on the West Coast U.S. and would like to hook up with you. We are searching also for Sam Vega and others from the same period. We are also on the Facebook page “I survived RAF Fylingdales” Looking forward to hearing from you!!

    Reply
    • Hazel Watson  August 29, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      Steve I shared my 21st Birthday with a USAF guy in May 1973. Wish I could remember his name. The party was held in the Cellar bar at Sheila’s ? (she was a tiny pretty young lady who worked in Admin at Fylingdales) parent’s house. It was one of those fabulous 4 storey Victorian houses on the street just behind The Royal. It was near to where Barbara Steele, RIP lived in a flat. The family had not lived there long and were originally from Nottingham. I really need to take a trip up to Whitby to check all our old ‘haunts’ out and because I love it there. Last visit was about 4 years ago and I did go look at my little house on Derwent Road, Castle Park and was amazed and delighted to see roses growing in front :)

      Reply
  14. Thomas Fletcher  June 19, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Worked at site during snowstorm of 1963. Airlifted by RAF to Whitby. Radio Corp America. Any image of storm appreciated. Thanks.

    Reply
  15. Jim Evans  November 10, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    The ground work for Fylingdales was started in mid 1961/early 1962. A labour camp (not for nothing was this camp called “The Klondike”) was established near the site entrance to accommodate hundreds of highly paid contractors who arrived from every quarter of Britain.

    By the early winter of 1962 the three radomes were nearing completion and the fitting out trades were busily adding the final touches. How the complex ever got finished on time is a miracle since the winter of 62/63 was the most severe on record with sub-zero temperatures for many weeks.

    The snow plough crews operated by the pool drivers from the MPBW and RCA Ltd did a fantastic job in keeping the roads open as did the drivers from the NRCC with their high speed ex- US army MACs who forged their way through some mighty big snow drifts.

    During the period 1962 to 1973 I was a technician working for RCA and was one of those unfortunate victims of the “white out” that prevented the majority of workers from getting there. I was trapped in for ten days before the roads could be re-opened to traffic. As a key worker, I was not permitted to escape via the snow cats which were used for emergency trips only.
    The station came on-line in May or June of 63. The interior of those Radomes was an eery place, the constant hum and whirr of powerful hydraulic motors added to the drama. When the parabolic dishes were silenced for routine maintenance any conversation was confusing to say the least..The acoustics created echoes that reverberated repeatedly. Like so many others here who remember the “Golf Balls”, I was saddened following their demolition. The somewhat ghostly images set against the often dark, hostile and somewhat intimidating landscape during those uncomfortable cold war years still brings shivers down my spine.

    My unwavering memory of those days still haunts me, during many a night-shift, there was nothing quite so sinister as the sound of loud click over the Tannoy PA system, followed by the strained tones of the station commanders voice …”Confidence report NOW…Confidence report NOW!! …..Most of us working there knew what this meant and I never got used to it…I could have been drawing my last breath for all I knew.

    Reply
    • Real Whitby Webmaster  November 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Hi Jim, Thankyou soo much for such an elaborate contribution. Its relly appreciated.

      Reply
      • Alan Crosby  November 11, 2014 at 3:41 pm

        Hi Jim. My Dad Colin Crosby also worked for RCA. Did you know him?
        Regards.
        Alan

        Reply

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whitby photography by glenn kilpatrick