Cold War

Revealing The Cold War Mysteries Of RAF Fylingdales

The Cold War artefacts found at the North Yorkshire station could be loaned out to museums in the future.

Historians have been given access to an RAF base in North Yorkshire to discover some of its Cold War secrets.

For years people have questioned what RAF Fylingdales was used for - rumours have circled of it holding nuclear weapons or even spying on extra-terrestrial life. 

Today, RAF Fylingdales is a key base for British defence.

It is a crucial link in the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System - monitoring the world's airspace alongside American military personnel based in Alaska and Greenland.

Now, researchers are trying to uncover the truth of this mysterious base at a time when secrecy was at the forefront of military tactics.

Dr Michael Mulvihill, from the University of Newcastle, is one of the researchers on the project, she said:

"It's quite a large task," Dr Mulvihill said.

"When I was first invited up, I massively underestimated the scale of the archive. 

"I think my expectation had been sort-of an archive of newspaper clippings, some photographs, so it was quite overwhelming to see the machinery that literally ran the radar.

"There are thousands of photographs of the site being constructed, there's training manuals, hundreds of maintenance manuals."

The project won a grant of nearly £1 million, which was awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to work in partnership with RAF Fylingdales and English Heritage.

Radome at RAF Fylingdales 230120 CREDIT BFBS
Radome at RAF Fylingdales.

One item under investigation is a machine that was used to counter attempts to jam radar by Soviet trawler boats in the North Sea.

It was built by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) - better known as the record label that produced the sounds of David Bowie and ABBA.

It was even built in the same factory, at the same time, as the modern synthesizer was developed.

"It seems possible that this crossed over with RCA's very first music synthesizer which derived from the same radio jamming technologies," said Dr Mulvihill.

"So, we're going to see if there's any crossovers between who worked on the machines, whether there was the same design team."

Cold War era anti jamming machine at RAF Fylingdales 220120 CREDIT BFBS
The anti-jamming radar machine found at RAF Fylingdales.

Elsewhere, the team have discovered the original radome from 1963.

With a honeycomb design, its inside is just stuffed with cardboard which at the time was "state-of-the-art technology", according to Flight Lieutenant Rich Weeks.

Other stories discovered included when racing pigeons were found on the site exhausted, in 1965, causing their owners to anxiously ask for their return. 

The high security at RAF Fylingdales means it is impossible to create an onsite museum but it's hoped some of the items discovered will be loaned out to museums elsewhere and be available for the public to engage with through virtual exhibitions.