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Report - RAF West Drayton - Late report - Explored 2009

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by pixman, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. pixman

    pixman 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    RAF West Drayton - Overdue report.

    Hi all, an explore that has taken me roughly a year to report on :banghead

    I've included the history to the place amongst the photos to make the report more interesting. Most of this is from Wikepedia.

    Brief details on the actual explore:

    Massive royal air force station, which was the main centre for military and cival air traffic control in Britan. Naturally its buried in history. A lot of this was still present when I explored the area, but I doubt anything remains now. These photos are from two different visits, and during this time there was clear evidance of demolition and asset stripping taking place.

    I did get caught on site by a contractor who explained that much of the building (windows, chairs, flooring etc) was all been numbered, containerised and shipped to Eygpt where the materials will all be reused - before escourting me off site!

    The place was VERY dark, Very big, and I was by myself. I got lost loads, and kept finding new areas.

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    I had to use the camera flash a few times as there was a lot of ground to cover. I took over 300 photos over the two visits, so these are my favourites.

    The Main room... The home of the Linesman System. Also called the L1.

    RAF West Drayton housed the Linesman System, hence the main Operations Building being known as the L1. The system used Link 1 to exchange Air Defence data between the UK and Europe. There were links to RAF Reitan, RAF Maakeroy, RAF Vaedbek, RAF Niew Milligan, RAF Glons and RAF Doulons.

    The Operators (Aerospace System Operators) (ASOps or Scopies) were responsible for the tracking and identification of every flight - Military and Civil, that entered or left the UK Air Defence Region (UKADR). This was a labour intensive task in the days before automatic initiation and tracking systems, but a big improvement on the Plotting Table and little perspex plaques with the information written on them. The School of Fighter Control was still teaching plotting and writing backwards until 1990.

    Mainly smashed up now. You have to see the place to appreciate the scale of the room, and get a feel of what it must have been like full of workers.

    Notice the plastic plane still flying!
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    Place looked like a bonfire.
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    There was nothing electrical present, apart from cables. All thats smashed up are the old work stations. Massive shame. I assume they are smashed up, ready to be removed by skip.
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    TRAINING CENTRE

    The School of Fighter Control moved to RAF West Drayton from RAF Bawdsey and used to train junior officers to be Fighter Controllers. In addition to teaching RAF Officers, Foreign and Commonwealth students also attended, and there was even one course of Yugoslavian MiG pilots.

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    General Walks around the place

    Some of the place was in darkness, no power or windows. Other parts were pretty well lit.... the miles of internal corridors all looked the same. Rooms been stripped, roofing tiles, plug sockets, skirting - all removed.

    This place was the gatekeeper of important information.
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    Old school electronics. Much has been removed, but i imagine some is totally worthless, hence lying around. Rooms that appeared the size of football pitches were still full of empty computer cabinets
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    Telecommunication Rooms

    There were so many rooms dedicated to telecomunications, patching, and more modern switchboards. The time and dedication it must have taken to install so many cables is crazy - and to then label it all up!

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    Love the style of font here...
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    There was a lot of notices everywhere regarding emergency procedures, and a lot of sophisticated first aid equipment to deal with these possible situations.

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    Large Control Centre

    Totally stripped, this would have once held different floors of operators all overlooking the same screen - which would have been the size of the internal wall of the tower block seen here.

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    As mentioned, the place is now empty - the most stripped part of the whole building. I think all the stuff here might have been transferred to Swanwick when the centre closed in 2007.
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    On site gym and accomodation

    There was still some onsite accomodation when I visited, but much of this had already been demolished and developed into new housing. The large canteen was present, with all the kitchen equipment and seats etc. The weights room (Still equipped) squash courts, tennis courts, gym area etc were all pretty standard. Found a complete sauna and steam room!

    Gym closed.
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    The roof was starting to go here, and on my second visit the demolition team had already started work on the buildings surrounding this place. RAF Strike Command
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    Further Exploring

    Old Stores, complete with random light bulbs and DIY equipment.
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    Lecture room
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    Further stripped office blocks. There was floors and floors of rooms identical to this.
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    Air Traffic Control Investigation Unit

    I thought this might be exciting
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    But it was standard office space.
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    Some rooms still had projection maps in place. This was a clear, plastic map that would have been lit up showing specific areas to operators. The projects from behind had all been removed. - photo from projection hole.
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    Nothing like leaving some personal information behind.
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    RAF West Drayton closed as an official RAF station in the mid 1990s. The area control, responsible for Air Traffic Control outside the London Terminal Control Area moved to Swanwick, Hampshire in 2002, the remaining centre being renamed the London Terminal Control Centre. RAF personnel are still based on the site, since military control functions for the eastern side of England remain. All remaining control functions, both civilian and military moved to Swanwick by Nov 2007 (civil) and Jan 2008 (military), after which the West Drayton site was closed.

    New technology, shrinking budgets, prime land for housing. All reasons that led to the closure of this once important hub that helped defend the UK from attack, and manage the increased commuter traffic as a result of globalisation .

    [​IMG]
     
    #1 pixman, Oct 4, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2010

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  2. Ordnance

    Ordnance Moderator
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    Its always sad to see a base end up like this but with modern techniques it would fit in a portacabin with each student having a laptop or ipad for homework!

    I stayed at RAF Cottismore a few years back, and the mess accommodation rooms were double sized with large work tables for the navigators to work on. Base is now army, and chart table is used as an ironing board!
     
  3. Bertiebassett

    Bertiebassett 28DL Full Member
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    West Drayton was in the process of being built when I was an Aerospace systems operator between 69/74 so I never saw the place. Did a stint at HQ fighter command at Bentley priory and managed a look in the old WW2 plot room. (now open to the public)
    We lived down the road at RAF Stanmore jointly used by the Navy from nearby Northwood.
    (The RAF and Navy took weeks about catering and we RAF prefered the Navy food as it was far better and you got as much fruit as you wanted)
    Would have loved to have seen the inside of West Drayton, it must have been very impressive in its day. Now it is just a few computers in a building at RAF Scampton although i'm sure there must be a main control at HQ Strike Command High Wycombe.
    Great report with some great pictures, cheers.
    PS.... had the lightning gateguard gone by the time of your visit?
     
    #3 Bertiebassett, Jul 26, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
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