At the end of World War II in 1945 the world entered seamlessly into a new conflict that was to last 45 years – the ‘Cold War’. As the defences for the United Kingdom were reorganised with fewer but more advanced radars to meet the new Soviet air threat, RAF Neatishead continued to play an increasingly important role in the nation’s air defence.

An Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent

Following the end of WW II in 1945, it became clear than any harmony between the Western occupying powers (the Americans, French and the British) and their Eastern “ally”, the Soviet Union, was illusionary. Stalin, the Soviet leader, systematically set out to establish communism as a dominant force in Eastern Europe through a policy of occupation and repression. 

Attempts by the West to establish a planned route to a free Europe at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 proved futile and, by 1946, the battlelines were being drawn for the next major War, the Cold War – a war of ideologies (Capitalism vs Communism) which was to last until the disintegration of the Communist Bloc and the Soviet Union from 1991.

The ‘Cold War’ would develop into the largest and most expensive arms race in history. The terminology, Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD would become a common phrase used to describe this very tense and dangerous period in modern history.  

The Iron Curtain is a term that received prominence after Winston Churchill’s speech in which he said that an “iron curtain has descended” across Europe. He was referring to the boundary line that divided Europe in two different political areas, Western Europe had political freedom, while Eastern Europe was under communist Soviet rule. The term also symbolized the way in which the Soviet Union blocked its territories from open contact with the West.

QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) film from the 1960s

The Neatishead Bunker

In 1953, as part of the upgraded ‘ROTOR’ system, operations were relocated from the wartime ‘Happidrome’ building to a new three storey bunker, deep underground, designed to withstand a nuclear attack.    The bunker was destroyed by fire in 1966 and for 8 years Neatishead took on a limited operational role and became a trials unit for the next generation of search radars, the Type 84 & 85

The bunker is not located within the land boundaries of the Museum, nor is owned by the Museum.  Bunker tours are operated by group of separate volunteers who raise funds from giving tours of the bunker on the second Saturday of each month commencing March 2020.  You will need to contact the organiser direct to book a tour.

In 1974 Neatishead once again became fully operational as a Sector Operations Centre (SOC) and as a Control & Reporting Centre (CRC).  Operating from the old ‘Happidrome’ building, but with a new standalone computerised command and control system (Standby Local Early Warning & Control System) the unit became a key element of the UK Air Defence Ground Environment. 

CRC Neatishead task was to track and identify all aircraft within the southern sector of the UK and to conduct the NATO air policing of the airspace. Neatishead’s sister station, RAF Buchan, Aberdeenshire, was similarly tasked to cover the northern section of the UK.  Both units were supported by remote radars in the Hebrides, the Shetlands, in Cornwall and North Yorkshire and by CRC Boulmer, Northumberland.

Together all units helped protect the UK from a Soviet air threat up until the end of the ‘Cold War’ in 1991.

Cold War Era dome