- RAF Locking-

And so we embarked on the final month of our course. We were conducted to the Type 80 Laboratory which was alongside a room marked "Type X". What that room contained we never did find out : the Type 80 was rated as "Top Secret" so the equipment in there must have been exceptionally esoteric, having no name. ( I have been informed recently by Alan Hartley-Smith, an ex fifties instructor at Locking, that Type X was the British version of the early commercial German Enigma machine. It was an encoder and teleprinter combined, somewhat like the German Lorenz which was known as Tunny at Bletchley Park.Wikipedia knows all about it of course. )

The Type 80 Lab contained, surprise surprise, a modulator cabinet and a transmitter cabinet, both very much larger than the Type 13 equivalents. A large grey object looking like a big electric motor stood on a low plinth, and another cabinet contained a huge glass envelope with a dozen curly wires coming out of its top. The walls of the room were covered by huge oversize black & white photographs of external views of the radar, and we were amazed at its size. Again we were disappointed to learn that we would not see the real thing until we arrived at our postings.

The Type 80 we learnt was the last word in surveillance radar: its range and precision were unprecedented and were second to none in the world as the design had only commenced but five years previously under the codename "Green Garlic". This began as an experimental lash-up at the RRE of two Type 14 reflectors bolted end to end! Not that we were ever allowed to see what an operator would see on his console, we just had to take the instructors word for it. But as the various parts were explained to us we realised that it had to be true and we were all astonished at the advances in design over Types 13/14. Who would have thought that a magnetron could be watercooled for instance, as surely water and 32000 volts ought never to come in such close proximity? So, overwhelmingly impressed, we buckled down to getting everything into our heads, somewhat flattered to be entrusted to do so.

To avoid duplication I must ask the reader to use this link for photographs and tecnical descriptions of this amazing machine.

  Type 54

A month later the days for the 'boarding' and theory papers duly arrived and in due course again we found that all of us had passed. That evening we stitched onto our sleeves the single inverted stripe and signals flash which denoted our new exalted status of Junior Technician. Our Locking days were virtually over. That weekend I went home on my motorbike and returned by train and on the Monday we were paraded to hear where we were to be posted. I duly heard that I was to go to Ventnor. As far as I remember not one of us was disatisfied, as surprisingly each was to be just about as close to his home as could be hoped for, although that could mean a hundred miles or more for some. Dave Flux was content to be going to Beachy Head despite that Ventnor would have been very much closer. He told me that Ventnor had Type 52 radars, the 200 foot tower mounted low looking variety of Type 14 but equipped with a dish reflector to give a "pencil" beam, which he said he could see at Ventnor from Southsea promenade, and he was jolly glad that it would be me and not him climbing up to them on a daily basis. None of our group cared to over indulge in drink, but I suppose that we must have had a celebration party of some sort, probably in the NAAFI and probably more of a wake than celebration, and if so it is a memory which I cannot recall. It certainly would have been a sad occasion for me as I had enjoyed the close company of all those in our group and I would miss them and.......all the while the prospect of those wretched 200 foot towers worried me.

After the end of National Service in 1960, the numbers passing through No.1 Radio School were greatly reduced. RAF Locking finally closed in 1998 when Apprentice training was moved to Cosford. In 2003 almost all the buildings were razed. It is to become a Business Park and an "Urban Village" housing an estate of so called "affordable" homes. However in April 2011 a brief visit showed that although the site indeed had been virtually completely cleared, the boarded up remains of the guardroom and the asphalt of the paradeground do remain to be seen. But no building work at all appears to have been even started. A very sad state of affairs. On a brighter note, some excellent pictures of the training blocks as they were shortly before the place closed are to be found here.

Dedicated website for non-apprentice ex Lockingtonians which needs and deserves your support.

Follow our hero to RAF Ventnor

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Text 2007 D.C.Adams