RAF Eastcote

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RAF Eastcote
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Eastcote, Middlesex, England
Aerial photograph of the site
The site photographed in 1945
Coordinates 51°34′56″N 000°24′21″W / 51.58222°N 0.40583°W / 51.58222; -0.40583 (RAF Eastcote)Coordinates: 51°34′56″N 000°24′21″W / 51.58222°N 0.40583°W / 51.58222; -0.40583 (RAF Eastcote)
Type Military accommodation, welfare, armoury, communications
Site information
Condition Demolished
Site history
Built c.1943
Garrison information
Occupants GCHQ, General Post Office, United States Air Force

RAF Eastcote, also known over time as RAF Lime Grove, HMS Pembroke V and Outstation Eastcote,[1] was a Ministry of Defence site in Eastcote, within the London Borough of Hillingdon.

The British Government first used the site during the Second World War, constructing a military hospital in preparation for casualties from the D-Day landings. They were not required for the purpose and later became an outstation of the Bletchley Park codebreaking operations. During this time, Royal Air Force technicians and Navy Wrens supported the operations. The outstation closed soon after the end of the war, though became the first headquarters of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), when the Bletchley Park codebreaking operations, including two Colossus computers,[2] were moved there and renamed in 1946. These remained at Eastcote until 1954 when the new agency moved to its purpose-built headquarters in Cheltenham.

Other buildings on the site were used by the General Post Office and to support the United States Air Forces in Europe's (USAFE) Third Air Force and 7th Air Division (SAC) activities at RAF South Ruislip.

As part of the Ministry of Defence's Project MoDEL, the site became surplus to military requirements and was sold in 2007 to be redeveloped for new housing. The site was cleared in 2008 and a total of 385 new homes were approved for construction. The name for the development, Pembroke Park, was chosen to reflect the heritage of the site.

History[edit]

Entrance gate and guard huts
Entrance to the site from Lime Grove

Before coming under the ownership of the British Government, the land the site was built on was mainly open fields. A public footpath dating from around 1565 crossed the area from Eastcote High Road to Field End Road. In 1911, cricket matches were played on the field by the Eastcote Institute.[3]

During the Second World War, the land was requisitioned by the Government from the owners, Telling Brothers. The first buildings on the site were constructed for use as a military hospital in preparation for military casualties from the Normandy landings. Subsequently, it became clear they would not be required for that purpose and became barracks for Navy Wrens.[3] Bletchley Park established an outpost at the Eastcote site, known during the Second World War as HMS Pembroke V, to house some of the Bombe codebreaker machines used to decode German Enigma messages.[4] A total of 100 machines were operated at Eastcote, controlled by 800 Wrens and 100 RAF technicians.[5] A detachment of American personnel were stationed in a separate area, operating their own Bombe machines.[6]

The site was split into two blocks: A and B. Block A was sited near Lime Grove and housed personnel accommodation and administrative services, while Block B was protected by brick walls and military police since it contained the codebreaking computers. The public footpath passed between the two blocks.[7] The level of security meant that support staff in the administrative block did not know of the activities in Block B, nor did local residents.[6]

At the end of the war in 1945, the Bombes were dismantled by the Wrens to be recycled, maintaining the secrecy of the operations.[8] The operations at Bletchley Park under the name "Government Code and Cypher School" (GCCS) moved to Eastcote on 1 April 1946.[9] The Crown purchased the estate in 1947.[3] Eastcote's proximity to Whitehall meant staff were not far from London, and the site became known as the "London Signals Intelligence Centre".[10] Six years later, in July 1952, GCCS became "Government Communications Headquarters" (GCHQ) and began to move from Eastcote to new purpose-built buildings in Cheltenham.[8] The move was completed in February 1954.[11]

Aside from the GCCS operations, the General Post Office (GPO) established a training school, and a women's teacher training college was opened in 1948. The Ministry of Aviation also opened the Navaid training school on part of the site. The GPO had blocks built in the south-east area of the site, and other blocks were adapted from their original conditions for new uses. The CTS division of GCHQ remained on the site within Blocks C and D until 1987. Aerial masts which had been erected by the division became unusable after the nearby train line was electrified, and were removed the year CTS left.[12]

In 1949 the United States Air Force established a non-flying base at RAF South Ruislip to coordinate the USAFE's Third Air Force and 7th Air Division (SAC) activities in Great Britain with the British Government.[13] A school for the children of American service personnel was established on the Eastcote site in the 1950s. In the 1960s, this was joined by veterinary, dental, and mental health clinics, and also by a morgue.[3]

The United States military continued to use buildings on the site until the closure in 2007.[14]

Redevelopment[edit]

Houses under construction
New housing under construction on the site

The 19-acre (77,000 m2) site was the first to be sold as part of the Ministry of Defence's Project MoDEL (Ministry of Defence Estates London), a programme to reduce the number of military sites in the Greater London area.[15] George Wimpey purchased the site in 2007, planning to build 385 new homes.[16] The entire site was cleared in 2008 and building commenced.[4]

George Wimpey became Taylor Wimpey through a corporate merger and submitted an application in 2010 to build a further 15 homes on the site. A report by the London Borough of Hillingdon's planning department rejected the proposal in December that year on the grounds that the site was already overdeveloped.[17] Local residents had raised this concern in November that year, which the leader of the council explained was out of the council's control due to planning laws.[18]

As of May 2011 the new development has not been completed entirely, although residents began to move into the first of the newly built houses in December 2009.[19] The development has been named "Pembroke Park" in recognition of the heritage of the site; roads and the play area also received names related to the wartime codebreaking that went on there.[20]

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ "RAF Eastcote". English Heritage. Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  2. ^ "Bletchley Park, Station X - Memories of a Colossus Operator". IEEE Global History Network. 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Eastcote MOD". Ruislip Online. 1985. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Eastcote". Uxbridge Gazette. 15 March 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "Local History". Eastcote Residents' Association. 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Toms 2005, p.27
  7. ^ Toms 2005, p.26
  8. ^ a b Toms 2005, p.28
  9. ^ "Operational Selection Policy OSP28". National Archives. January 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "Eastcote". University of Warwick. 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  11. ^ "GCHQ: Britain's Most Secret Intelligence Agency". University of Warwick. 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "Urban design document". Milton Keynes Council. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  13. ^ Bowlt 1996, pp.137—138
  14. ^ "RAF West Ruislip". London Borough of Hillingdon. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  15. ^ Morrison, Doug (12 January 2007). "Chocks away". Property Week. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  16. ^ "RAF Eastcote". VSM Estates. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  17. ^ Cracknell, James (2 December 2010). "Report slams developer's bid to expand RAF Eastcote housing scheme". Uxbridge Gazette. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  18. ^ Cracknell, James (11 November 2010). "Fears over future of Eastcote community site allayed". Uxbridge Gazette. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "Pembroke Park (Formerly RAF Eastcote) Progress Report May 2011". Eastcote Residents' Association. 13 May 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  20. ^ "Pembroke Park". Pembroke Park Residents Association. 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
Bibliography
  • Bowlt, Eileen. M. (1996) Ickenham And Harefield Past. London: Historical Publications ISBN 0-948667-36-2
  • Copeland, B. Jack. (2006) Colossus: the secrets of Bletchley Park's codebreaking computers. Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-284055-4
  • Toms, Susan. (2005) Enigma and the Eastcote connection, in Eastwood, Jessica; Spink, Karen; Toms, Susan. (2007) The Home Front: Ruislip, Northwood and Eastcote in wartime. Ruislip, Northwood and Eastcote Local History Society ISBN 978-0-9507154-5-2

External links[edit]