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Noss Hill, Radar Station

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 59.9239 / 59°55'26"N

Longitude: -1.3519 / 1°21'6"W

OS Eastings: 436335

OS Northings: 1115608

OS Grid: HU363156

Mapcode National: GBR R20H.WSP

Mapcode Global: XHD48.STVK

Entry Name: Noss Hill, Radar Station

Scheduled Date: 31 October 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13104

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Radar station

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a Second World War Chain Home radar station. The station is spread over two sites, a main site and a reserve site, with over 80 recorded buildings and structures in total, reflecting its core early warning function and with supporting infrastructure and domestic blocks. This radar complex is located over Noss Hill and on the lower ground to its southeast, which is predominantly used for rough grazing. The radar complex is on the west side of the south Mainland and has extensive views westwards out to the North Atlantic.

The radar complex includes a variety of concrete and brick buildings and structures. The main transmitting and receiving buildings are reinforced with blast walls and earth bunds. The largely intact layout follows a War Office plan indicating: buildings and structures for receiving and transmitting signals; defensive structures built to protect the complex; supporting infrastructure to service the radar function; and domestic buildings to house the military personnel stationed here. The reserve site, southeast of the main complex, comprises the essential components for transmission, reception and defence only. The main complex covers an area of Noss Hill approximately 450m E-W by 300m N-S; the domestic area to the southeast covers an area approximately 200m E-W by 90m N-S; and the reserve site covers an area approximately 250m E-W by 190m N-S.

The area to be scheduled comprises four irregular polygons and includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the scheduled area are the above-ground elements of all modern fencing and boundary features not contemporary with the original monument, all modern fittings relating to animal husbandry and the surface of the metalled access track, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This is a well-preserved complex dating to the early 1940s, whose function was to warn of the position, course and speed of enemy aircraft observed in the radar's transmission area. Most of the technical buildings are located on the hill top, which was a useful high point from which to transmit and receive radar signals. Further down slope lie the remains of the domestic area with accommodation blocks, mess blocks, an air raid shelter and further structures. To the southeast are the substantial remains of the reserve site, containing only the essential buildings required to track and report radar targets should the main site become inoperable. Although only the metal and concrete bases remain, these indicate that substantial masts were erected here (over 300 feet tall according to War Office records). The transmission and receiving blocks are remarkably intact at both sites, with their roofs and blast walls still in place, together with much of their internal fittings, cable trunking and ventilation systems. The support elements required to run and protect the site included fuel and water tanks and pipe work, an armoury, a generator hut, workshops and anti-aircraft positions, among many other surviving structures. These tend to survive less well, but their individual footprints and lower structures are clearly visible. Lastly, the domestic area to the southeast of the main complex survives as a series of concrete pads indicating the footprints of individual buildings.

This is a very coherent monument which has survived as an intact complex. It had a short lifespan during the Second World War and reflects the functional and technical nature of Britain's early warning radar network. Altogether, this is a remarkable set of remains representing the early-warning capability of the Northern Isles.

Contextual characteristics

The radar complex at Noss Hill is part of the wider network of early warning radar stations developed in the 1930s and laid out around the coastline of Britain. By the end of 1945 there were over 300 such sites providing early warning reports for the overall air and sea defence of the nation. Noss Hill was one of the earlier stations to be built (part of the 'Chain Home' system), and one of approximately 17 built in Scotland. It could indicate the position, speed and direction of travel of potentially hostile aircraft over 100 miles away. It could not, however, detect low-flying or seaborne targets: this was a later development (known as Chain Home Low and Coastal Defence Chain Home systems). Together with 10 other radar sites in Shetland, reports from these radar stations allowed the military authorities to observe and intercept enemy craft attempting to cross or penetrate territorial waters, airspace and the coastline.

Following the German invasion of Norway in 1940, this early warning ability was seen as crucial for the defence of the United Kingdom. The development of the network, including the complex at Noss Hill, was brought forward as the perceived threat of invasion from Norway increased. Together with the similar Chain Home station at Skaw on Unst, Noss Hill was an important station because of the strategic position of Shetland between mainland Europe and the Atlantic to the west.

The monument has an important part to play in the story of the defence of the United Kingdom during World War Two. It is a good representative of it class and an important component of the mid 20th-century landscape in Shetland.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the advance of radar technology and the development of an early warning system protecting the sea and airspace around the United Kingdom in the Second World War. It survives in very good condition as a complete example of the technical, support and domestic buildings and structures necessary to provide and early warning reporting function. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the range and scale of the efforts made to defend Britain in the Second World War.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as HU31NE 52. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN4475.

References:

Dobinson, C, 2010, Building Radar. Forging Britain's early-warning chain, 1935-1945. Methuen, London. 404, 410.

Guy, J A, 1995, A survey of the 20th Century Defences of the Shetland Islands. Circulated typescript report.

Redfern, N I, 1998, Twentieth Century fortifications in the United Kingdom. V I, Introduction and Sources.

Redfern, N I, 1998, Twentieth Century fortifications in the United Kingdom. V 4, Site gazetteers: Scotland.

Radar in Shetland (D50/5/11); Communications in connection with Radar (D50/5/12); Communications and control (D50/5/13) - Papers from the Major Rollo Archive held by Shetland Museum and Archives.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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