Ancient Monuments

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World War II air traffic control building 400m north west of Seckington Cross, on the former airfield of RAF Winkleigh

A Scheduled Monument in Winkleigh, Devon

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Latitude: 50.8664 / 50°51'58"N

Longitude: -3.956 / 3°57'21"W

OS Eastings: 262453.809897

OS Northings: 109253.114042

OS Grid: SS624092

Mapcode National: GBR KW.TMNL

Mapcode Global: FRA 26LT.4MQ

Entry Name: World War II air traffic control building 400m north west of Seckington Cross, on the former airfield of RAF Winkleigh

Scheduled Date: 3 September 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020765

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33053

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Winkleigh

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Winkleigh All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes the air traffic control building which stands on a
disused section of the former RAF Winkleigh.
The control building was sited beyond the eastern end of the runways on an
airfield which was sited on flat ground just to the north east of the
village of Winkleigh and approximately midway between the two contemporary
World War II airfields of Exeter and Chivenor. The airfield was originally
planned in 1939 to be a satellite of Chivenor Coastal Command but work did
not commence until 1940. In the event, the ground conditions at Winkleigh
were found to be unsuitable due to poor drainage and construction work
continued only intermittently with the responsibility for the station
subsequently passing to Fighter Command and its parent unit at RAF Exeter.
When visited by representatives from the Exeter base in 1941 the site was
under several inches of water and much remedial work was required before
the airfield was finally accepted by Fighter Command on 1st January 1943;
the first RAF personnel arrived in February of that year.
The control tower, by virtue of its design characteristics, was almost
certainly constructed in early 1943 as it conforms closely to a
specification which became standard from March 1943. An earlier control
tower or watch office may have functioned previously but there is no
record of this building or of any aircraft in place at the station before
April 1943.
The control tower comprises a two-storey building connected internally by
a concrete staircase. It is slightly more rectangular than square in plan
with ground dimensions of 11m by 9m and with a height of around 6m. The
outer walls are constructed in brick and are about 0.4m thick; all
exterior surfaces are rendered in cement. Situated on the ground floor of
the building were the meteorological office, the duty pilot's rest room,
the watch office, and the switch room; some of the original electrical
trunking serving these rooms survives, as does some plasterwork. The
exterior north wall of the building has a large opening with no direct
access to the interior within which there are the remains of pipework and
concrete floor mountings; this room may have housed a generator. The roof
and first floor are constructed of slab concrete supported on hollow
concrete beams. On the first floor were the signals office, the
controller's rest room, and the control room; three apertures in the rear
wall of the control room appear to be original and if so these would have
allowed messages to be passed from the main control room into the signals
room which was divided into three cubicles. A concrete observer's balcony
is located on the exterior of the building at first floor level. This
balcony runs the full length of the front of the control tower and
overlooks the airfield runways to the west. The balcony also extends
around the building for a few metres on either side where access from the
first floor was possible from the doorways provided. The balcony is 1.5m
wide and it would have been fronted by a tubular steel railing which does
not survive. On the northern side of the building a steel stairway would
have given access from the balcony to the roof but this has collapsed. The
front of the control tower was provided with two large steel framed
windows at first floor level and two smaller windows on the ground floor;
these survive with very little if any of their original framing intact.
The large windows at the front were supplemented by two large windows, one
on either side of the building at first floor level, which were again
matched by smaller windows on the ground floor. There are further small
windows situated around all sides of the building. The main entrance was
by a doorway at the rear of the building.
Without a definite role to play the airfield was only employed for a small
number of exercises until April 1944 when it was chosen to provide an
operational base for the night fighters of 406 Squadron manned by the
Royal Canadian Air Force, although it is believed to have been used
secretly for Lysanders dropping Special Operations Executive agents into
Western France. At the end of the war the airfield became a displaced
persons camp and it was used for exercises in preparation for the invasion
of Suez in 1956 before being sold off in 1958.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Each airfield included a watch office, or control tower, from which air
traffic control staff operated. Given its significant role in recording
aircraft movements, it typically occupied a central strategic position on the
flying field.
There are some eighteen types of watch office, some reflecting evolving
techniques and technology associated with reporting and observation, and some
a combination of roles, for example, with the incorporation of a
meteorological (`Met') office within the building. There are also differences
between the types of watch office found on fighter and bomber stations, while
some individual structures display evidence for their adaptation as the
station's role evolved or changed. During the war years the watch office had
one or two storeys: in the two storey examples, the bottom level housed the
Met office, while air traffic control was confined to the upper level.
At the start of World War II there were no air traffic control or operations
(`Ops') staff working in the watch office, and only operational aircraft had
radio. At this stage the duty pilot would log aircraft movements manually. It
was only as the skies became busier that air traffic control and operations
personnel were employed, and that radio became more widely used.
Of the 500 or so examples originally built, some 220 watch offices survive,
all of which constitute significant and symbolic structures. However, examples
are considered to be of particular importance where they have an obvious and
visual relationship with the flying field and other contemporary structures
and buildings, such as hangars; where they survive as good examples of their
type, perhaps with original fixtures; or where the station has operational
significance, such as an association with the Battle of Britain.

The control tower at Winkleigh still stands to its full height close to a
modern road. It is highly visible and serves as a graphic reminder of
major conflicts in the mid-20th century. In addition, it stands in close
proximity to the memorial to those who served at RAF Winkleigh, this
memorial having been erected in 1995.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Ace Archaeology Club' in Winkleigh Airfield, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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