Listening to the Skys with RADAR
Ursula Norah Leggatt was born in January 1913. Little is known of her early years other than she was one of three children. Brother Guy went on to become a Captain in the Second World War, serving with the RAOC. Brother William was an accomplished artist..
Ursula (always known as Norah) emigrated to Argentina on 4th August 1935, age 22, aboard the Blue Star ship Afric Star. She was known to have worked for a company Figorifico Anglo in Buenos Aires. The company was British owned and shipped vast quantities of refridgerated beef for the UK market. She resided in a suburb of Buenos Aires.
War had been declared 3rd September 1939. Two years later Norah returned to the UK on the SS Baronesa landing in Liverpool on the 4th January 1942. She was to join the WAAF and become a RADAR Operator. She was one of over 700 Anglos to return to the Mother land and join the call to arms. Her letters, as we can transcribe them will help to put her life in the WAAF into perspective. Sadly all of the letters are written to her and we have none written by her. So as you will understand it will be a little one sided. She served at RAF Mark's Castle and lived in the Sennen Cove Hotel, which had been commandeered to accommodate the WAAF personnel. As I take you through her letters, I shall be able to point out the paths she would have walked and the places she would have been. I only wish I could trace her but she would be 100 years of age this month (Jan 2013). Perhaps I must be content that I do have her letters and that I know sufficient to walk in her foot steps. I have been to tea with my wife Deborah, in the present Sennen Heights Appartments where Norah lived during her time at Mark's Castle.
A recently read letter written in August 1945 comments on Norah's promotion to Sgt. We know that she took a number of courses after becoming a successful radar operator. She went on to become a RADAR Mechanic in 1944, so presume at that time she must have been promoted to Cpl. Searches via Ancestry.com are not showing anything.
Life at Sennen Cove
The Cookhouse viewed from the WAAF accommodation
George "Taffy" Jackson rear right, Philippa "Pippa" Ward far right as viewed with friends on the cliff at Sennen Cove.
The WAAF accommodation, Now Sennen Heights Appartments.
The letter that started the project
Friends Cpl Joan Ostler and Cpl Muriel.. relax on Porthgwarra beach.
Blue sky's are round the corner
Now that this site has become a success I have had quite a few contacts asking me to explain what the Chain Home system was.
Chain Home was the codename for the ring of coastal Early Warning radar stations built by the British before and during the Second World War. The system otherwise known as AMES Type 1 (Air Ministry Experimental Station) consisted of fixed cable array antennae slung between 3 or 4 360 ft steel towers transmitting on the HF band. These systems were known as 'stations' to provide long-range detection of aircraft. This system had shortcomings in not being able to detect aircraft at lower altitudes and thus was used in conjunction with the Chain Home Low system, or AMES Type 2 which could detect aircraft flying at minimum altitude level of 500 ft. This was further refined by the addition of Chain Home Extra Low which gave cover down to 50 ft but at short ranges of only approximately 30 miles. CHEL was in operation by 1943 under the designation Type 13 / 14. CHEL was the first RAF centimetric radar system working on a frequency of 10 cm rather than the 12m HF band Type 1
Duty Watch Operations block
A small part of Norah's letter collection
RAF Mark's Castle situated above Sennen Cove was first constructed in 1940 and a number of men from the Cove worked on it's construction. Mark's Castle was a Chain Home Low CHL 17A Station. The site was heavily extended in 1943/44 in readyness for the D-Day Landings. Some of the letters I have, mention the heavy influx of new personnel and constant new equipment but "everything is so Hush Hush" is one comment.
RAF Sennen situated a couple of miles away towards Skewjack farm was started later than Mark's Castle. It was built with an RAF barracks in it's South West corner which housed the RAF Regiment. The owners of the original Farmhouse on the barracks site were literally given a weekend to leave before their home was demolished on the Monday. RAF Sennen was a Chain Home Station CH 17 and contiued through the early Cold War years until early 1970.
RAF Carn Brae situated near St Just airfield was constructed during late 1943 and 1944. It was Chain Home Extra Low CHEL K169 and manned by WAAF and WRN's from Mark's Castle. WRNS were a small part of the staff as some of the "reporting" was passed to the Royal Navy when it involve shipping. In one letter I read... "these girls who are trained for "K" radar think they are above us"
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I am so pleased to have a copy of this Christmas card
sent to me by Mike Digby. Mike owns the Operations Block
of RAF West Beckham. The card has been signed by Norah Leggatt who was
stationed at West Beckham in 1944. Her signature can
be seen bottom right of the left hand page.