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SAM Missile & Bloodhound Sites in Lincolnshire

The Surface-to-Air Missiles in Lincolnshire
A brief overview and look at the history of the SAM programme - Bloodhound Missiles in Lincolnshire . . .

We’ve done a great deal on the World War II Anti-Aircraft sites here in Bomber County and now it’s time to look at the Cold War period.
The AA system was meant to protect the country from aerial attack and was under army command. As this became outdated the responsibility for Air Defence in the UK passed to the Royal Air Force.
image wikipedia royalty freeThe RAF set about overhauling the whole system.
A whole new network was put together of Surface-to-Air missile sites.

Known as SAM sites they stretched across the country and were equipped with the Bloodhound Missile.
This whole system and network had to have a test site, that test site was at North Coates here in Lincolnshire - a village which has a long history of military service.

There were also sites at Dunholme lodge and Woodhall Spa and these sites had 2 or 3 firing units.
Targets were identified by long range radar and tracked until they came within the SAM sites own radar the Yellow River, about 55 miles effective.
One or two missiles would have then been launched and a computer guidance system plotted the point of interception.

The sites had a series of buildings for support and staff although I believe that general accommodation was off-site.
These Bloodhound I sites were in operation from 19598 to 1964.
Then came the Bloodhound II system which remained in operation up until 1991 when it was stood down.

We’ve been very lucky in the past when dealing with the Military History of Lincolnshire to have some great input from people who actually served at various sites and also some very knowledgeable comments - I hope we can do much the same here and get into greater detail in comment form.
If you know anything about the SAM Missile sites in Lincolnshire then please do leave a comment.

All the best
Rod

30 Comments »

  1. Jon S said,

    January 7, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

    Back in 1987 or 1988 I visited an operational Bloodhound squadron as a wide-eyed Air Cadet; it wasn’t in Lincs, but they were all set up along similar lines, I think. I’m sure someone else with direct operating experience will post in more detail, but I particularly remember:

    1. The ‘control centre’ was something like a cross between a shipping container and a Portakabin - it struck me as being a very cramped and uninspiring place to work.

    2. There were a large number of missile launchers, possibly a dozen, all on individual pads making an array of missiles…and, perhaps unsurprisingly, all were pointing east.

    3. Each missile launcher was connected to the control cabin by a series of black cables; the whole site seemed (from memory) to be covered in these snaking cables that were tie-wrapped together in a large-scale version of how the back of my desktop PC is kept ‘tidy’!

    4. The Warrant Officer who showed us around explained that the Bloodhound was designed around a proximity system and did not need to hit its target. It had an explosive warhead that was surrounded by metal bars to create a shrapnel effect; when the missile was within range of its target the explosive charge would detonate, sending out a screen of very high velocity metal that would ruin the target pilot’s day.

    The North Coates Bloodhound launch pad complex stands out very clearly on GE if you click on the clock icon and move the cursor back to the 2003 photo which was obviously taken before the concrete was removed (it still occasionally shows up as faint cropmarks).

    Jon

  2. Jack said,

    January 8, 2013 @ 10:41 am

    Rod,
    this link should help a bit
    Jack

  3. Rod said,

    January 8, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    Thanks Jack, I’ve seen that
    Best
    Rod

  4. Rod said,

    January 8, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

    Jon,
    superb! Many thanks.
    There’s some great information there, I especialy like the fact they were all pointing east - I’d not consdiered that point, it makes sense of course and very important in terms of understanding the time and the Cold War.
    Best
    Rod

  5. The Saxman said,

    January 10, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    NOT SAMS BUT ICBM’s !
    Has anyone heard the rumours? about mobile ICBM platforms being deployed at Caisor Top areas around the mid late 1980’s? Seems people of Caistor area know about this.
    The Saxman.

  6. Rod said,

    January 10, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

    Saxman,
    you’re on fire - cracking this.
    Could I ask if anybody does know anything then to email me as this has special article written all over it
    Thanks and regards
    Rod

  7. Jon S said,

    January 11, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

    Mobile ICBMs (InterContinental Ballistic Missiles) at Caistor? Not heard that one. Perhaps the rumours are confusing mobile ICBMs with the fixed-base Thor ICBMs that were at RAF Caistor (and Ludford Magna, and plenty of other sites in Lincs) in the early 1960s? The launch pads are still clearly visible, by the way, but are on private land.

  8. Chris Keyworth said,

    January 11, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

    Jon
    Yes ICBM’s Caistor where the Duck Breeders are on the old air field, they where also at Ludford, Kirton Lindsey, Waddington and Hemswell. Hemswell was the Strategic command for the area, there was also a storage site for the whole of our sector for Nuclear Bombs at the former RAF Faldingworth near Mkt Rasen
    Regards
    Chris…

  9. Jon S said,

    January 12, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

    Rod - apologies for the slight missile-specific thread drift!

    Chris, I’m not aware of any history of Thor being based at either Waddington or Kirton. Waddington was the home of nuclear-armed Vulcans during the Thor period, while Kirton was host to 7 School of Technical Training and a glider school. As far as I’m aware, Lincs Thor units comprised Hemswell, Bardney, Caistor, Coleby Grange (A15 south of Lincoln) and Ludford Magna.

    Back on the Bloodhound thread, I understand that Lincolnshire Bloodhound bases included Barkston Heath (near Cranwell), Dunholme Lodge (about 5 miles NE of Lincoln) and Woodhall Spa, as well as North Coates. Bloodhound squadrons were 25, 112, 141, 222 and 264, though not all at the same time.

    Jon

  10. Gordon Luck said,

    January 12, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

    Project Emily Thor IRBM and the RAF by John Boyes ISBN: 978-0-75524-4611-0 is the definitive book on the subject. I have a copy and it mentions Kirmington as a potential base in the original planning stages.

    Regarding mobile ICBM’s at Caistor Top, the only things I can think of are the deployment of Rapier (anti-aircraft) missile batteries in the field when Binbrook was on exercise, or perhaps Cruise Missile convoys?

  11. Jon S said,

    January 12, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

    Deployed Rapier certainly sounds like a strong possibility, Gordon, especially given the ‘mid late 1980s’ timeline. ‘Mobile ICBM platforms’ suggests a self-propelled launcher, so perhaps Tracked Rapier systems or even MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) on exercise, both of which look fairly sinister. To the uninitiated, especially around the time of international tensions surrounding Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ plans, I suppose they could easily have been construed as ‘nuclear weapons’.

  12. option911 said,

    January 13, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

    Hello Rod,
    As a former RAF Aircraft Engineer I had my own experience of Bloodhound. I was Posted to HQ Bloodhound, 85 Sqn A flight, RAF West Raynham Fakenham, Norfolk in 1984. The RAF considered the Bloodhound Missile as an Aircraft with its own log book and maintenance programme, lucky old me was posted from lightnings to bloodhound, with the promise that once at West Raynham I would have to serve a minimum of 3 years.

    I was sent to RAF Newton (Nottingham) to complete my Bloodhound Missile Q course QB2AA where i learnt all about the hydraulic systems, cooling sytem and refridgerant within the Missile as well as information on the passive radar system and warhead. Upon my return to West Raynham, I found I had been posted to 85 Sqn ‘B’ Flt at RAF North Coates, to be more precise Missile support flight MOTES (missile overall test equipment section) where I spent the next 2 years servicing these cold war leviathans.

    Most of the work consisted of drilling out magnesium corrosion with dental burrs. With the proximity to the lovely salt water attmosphere, the missiles almost fized as the salt water and magnesium set up a galvanic reaction almost similar to a small battery.

    Personally, I hated my time on Bloodhound, it was without doubt my worst tour in over 30 years.
    One of the people I hated most during my time, went on to murder his girlfriend and her mother in Immingham; I wish I had been a character reference at his trial, maybe they would have brought back hanging.

    A few interesting facts: Bloodhound when launched would accelerate to 1300MPH in the length of the launcher. Once a target was aquired, it was a dead cert for a kill such was it’s speed and acceleration. It was said that if Concorde passed overhead flying at max speed, it would just be able to outrun Bloodhound before the missile ran out of fuel. The close proximity fuse would detonate close to target, throwing out a 180ft loop of metal rods to cut apart any aircraft within the area. The Missile had 4 solid fuel boost motors to initiate acceleration until the 2 ramjet engines took over.

    They would continue to accelerate eventually dropping the 4 boost motors to fall off. The Ramjet engine had no moving parts, relying on airspeed, fuel and combustion through a shaped tube to create the thrust neccesary. The best bit for me, taking a Bloodhound to two F1 GP’s and meeting drivers and Murray Walker as well as lunch with James Hunt! Bloodhound 11 were based at North Coates, Barkston Heath, Bawdsey, West Raynham, Wattisham, Singapore and Sweden.

  13. Rod said,

    January 13, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

    Option,
    that’s absolutely wonderful, just the kind of thing I love and had hoped to get on record.
    I especially love the standard maintenance and problems you mention, that’s the history I love - as well as the connection to the Immingham case.

    Really appreciate this first-hand account Option, very valuable to get on record
    All the best
    Rod

  14. Brian said,

    January 17, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

    Perhaps Option 911 could give me a few tips where mangesium corrosion w as most prominent on the Bloodhound.
    I am inspecting a Bloodhound Mk 1 soon with a view to it eventually going on display and need to know where to look and probe. If it passes muster have you any tips how to treat corrosion both preventative and remedial measures.

  15. option911 said,

    January 18, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

    Hello Brian,
    The main wing support casting was made from magnesium as where the support frame rings spread along the fuselage. The wing motor casting corroded around the appature for the wing spigots. and at the forward and rear lower faces.

    As the missile sat on the launcher or ready use stand, water and condensation collected collected inside the fuselage and pooled where the outer skin meets the magnesium castings, this was more prominant on the aft fuselage frames.

    The 2 wings have magnesium leading edges the skin of the wings is alluminium and the core of the wing structure is made from wood. Differential metal corrosion occurs along the leading edge seam and if water has ingressed into the wing structure, the wood swells and opens up the seam to allow more water to get in.

    We dressed out the corrosion with dental burs and micromesh sticks, same as ladies use to buff their nails; my old girlfriend loved them as she was a manacurist. Once corrosion was removed, we treated with chromic acid and painted the structure, any good etch primer should do the job before painting.

    If we had deep pits, they were filled with a mixture of araldite and mica powder. I suggest just the araldite would be fine.
    Hope this helps, somewhere I still have all my course notes from my ‘Q’ course.

  16. option911 said,

    January 18, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

    Inside of the missile and outside the radome where treated with a solution that was basically waxoyl.

  17. Rod said,

    January 18, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

    Option,
    this is absolutely wonderful, not only for Brian but for the site.
    A fascinating insight and a matter of pride for me to see such content on here
    Appreciatively yours,
    Rod

  18. snowdrop said,

    January 20, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

    Thor sites,there used to be one at RAF folkingham between Sleaford and Bourne it was uder control from luffenham which is just over the border in leistershire,i remember convoys comming through bourne and crews on shift change.Previously the camp in the war was the yanks with dakotas and p38 lightnings,there was a lot of paras in the area and a lot from here left for arnhem.great site by the way.

  19. Rod said,

    January 20, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

    Snowdrop,
    thanks for the comment, much appreciated and welcome to the site
    Regards
    Rod

  20. Brian said,

    January 20, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

    Thanks for the info Option 911 that certainly gives me something to look for. Hopefully the inspection will live it a clean bill of health and if, as I suspect you live in the Grimsby area your experience may well be required this year. Cannot say too much at the moment but keep your eyes on the local press before the winter is out

  21. option911 said,

    January 23, 2013 @ 12:02 am

    Brian, I live in Waltham. I am also one of the Armed Forces events team, who organise the Armed Forces Day, Remembrance Day and last year Military Tattoo. If you wanted to get in contact, Rod will forward an e-mail I’m sure, then I can reply directly.

  22. brian stafford said,

    January 23, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

    OK option 911, that would be appreciated, I could do with as much info as I can get with this little beastie. I am currently waiting for the weather to clear up before I can examine it properly, it is a long way off. If it has survived the onslaught of the weather and the years then arrangements will be made to bring it back to the only place it should be going back — North Coates. Initial reports suggest it is in reasonable condititon and photos I have seem to confirm this,but it is looking a little tatty and is minus its boosters and tail feathers but I think I can source those. Being a MK 1 it is rare as a set of hens teeth and at least 50 year old so really valuable from a historic point of view

  23. FRED CLIFFORD said,

    January 27, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

    Intersting to read about the Bloodhound Mk2 association with Newton. I attended the Mk2 airframe course there in late 63 early 64 before being posted to Seletar on 65 Squadron. On return in 66 I was posted to North Coates before being offered the airframe instructors course at Newton in the summer of 67, the previous instructor, Ned Kelly being invalided out. Eventually I taught something like a total of15 entries of Q-B2-A (airframe fitters courses) over a period of 10 years (up to demob in Nov. 77) - a total of around 100 airframe fitters in all.

    For my sins I was also lumbered with instructing gen fitters of the Bloodhound T.86 and T.87 radars. The gen fitts were resposible for the klystron cooling systems. Its now over 35 years since I taught the missile, launcher hydraulic and air systems, warhead and also the test equipment (MOTE etc) and I reckon that with a quick 15 minute refresher I could still make a reasonable stab at teaching it today its so vividly stamped in!
    my memory. I lived in 3 different married quarters during my stay, (wonder if they are still standing) before buying a house in nearby Bingham.

  24. Rod said,

    January 27, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

    Fred,
    many thanks for sharing, really interesting and really appreciated - welcome to the site
    All the best
    Rod

  25. Brian said,

    January 31, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

    Newark Air Museum have one of those radars you mentioned and are looking for people with the right know how to help them to restore it. Bingham is not that far from Newark if thats where you currently reside

  26. Chris G said,

    March 19, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

    Dear Rod
    A great site. I was very interested in reading Fred Cliffords comments. I was probably one of the gen fitters he was lumbered with in August 1967 at RAF Newton. During the course we went on a trip to RAF North Coates to look at an operational Bloodhound site. I never served on the missiles in the UK but had 2 great years (1968/70) on Bloodhounds with 33 Sqdn at the Aussie Air Force Base at Butterworth in North Malaya. Even today after 43 years I could still work on the Klystron cooling system on the Type 87 Radar so Fred must have done a good job.

  27. Rod said,

    March 20, 2013 @ 7:21 am

    Chris,
    many thanks indeed and welcome to the site.All the best
    Rod

  28. Brian said,

    April 4, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

    North Coates was the first Bloodhound SAM site, The Bloodhound MK 1 was replaced by the MK 2 in 1963
    Fifty years later on March 25th the MK 1 returned. This particular example one of only seven known to exist in the UK was discovered on the Isle of White by North Coates Flying Club and is currently on display as a gate guardian.
    It is not in the best of condition and many parts are missing but the club is hoping that these can be found or fabricated to bring the Bloodhound back to its former glory.
    It is intended to eventually display it in an overall white colour scheme with a yellow nose cone, the colours in which the Bloodound was originally painted

  29. Ken apps said,

    December 5, 2016 @ 7:23 am

    I worked for feranti ltd installing mark one.first at n Coates. Worked on all the bases with test and inspection.they were then turned over to RAF.started work 1959 till 1964.there were nine bases with some next to Thor bases.sites were from e yorks to Suffolk. Interesting times.

  30. Rod said,

    December 5, 2016 @ 7:24 am

    Ken,
    That’s fascinating stuff, many thanks and welcome to the site.
    Regards,
    Rod

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