RAF Sopley

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RAF Sopley
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Located near Sopley in Hampshire
RAF Sopley is located in Hampshire
RAF Sopley
RAF Sopley
Coordinates 50°46′44″N 1°46′16″W / 50.779°N 1.771°W / 50.779; -1.771
Type Radar Centre
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Controlled by Royal Air Force
Site history
Built 1942 (1942)
In use 1943-1974

RAF Sopley was a WWII airbase, codenamed Starlight, near the village of Sopley in Hampshire. The Radar Station was opened in December 1940. In 1959 it became an air traffic control radar station, and finally closed on 27 September 1974. Nearby Sopley Camp was built in the early 50's as a domestic site for the radar station and is probably best known as the initial home of the Vietnamese Boat People, in 1979. The camp was sold in 1993 to a local partnership under the name Merryfield Park.


The barracks at RAF Sopley, in 2007

The site started out as a Ground Controlled Interception (GCI) radar station. Its purpose to detect, locate and track enemy aircraft and provide inland radar coverage for Britain. Initially a mobile station, by 1943 it was a permanent fixture with rotating ariel array, transmitter equipment stored in an underground bunker, operations block, emergency back up power supply and guard hut.

In 1943 an Advanced Landing Ground called RAF Winkton was constructed to the southeast of the radar station.[1] RAF Winkton operated for less than a year and was officially closed in January 1945.[2]

In 1946 RAF Sopley was re-classified as a master GCI station and reserve Sector Operations Centre. As part of the UK's programme to update its air defences, Sopley underwent much modernisation during the 1950s including a new guardhouse providing access to a two storey underground operations centre. It was also in the early 50's that the domestic camp was built near Bransgore. In 1958 the School of Fighter Control moved in and from 1959 an Air Traffic Control Research Unit was established. The Fighter Control School disbanded in 1960 and the station taken over by Air Traffic Control. RAF Sopley fulfilled a number of other roles before closing in September 1974. The two level operations bunker was modernised in the 1970s when it was occupied by a Royal Signals unit from Signals Research and Development Establishment at Christchurch. The entire site transferred to the army soon after and for the duration of the Cold War was used by 2 Signals Brigade from the UK Land Forces at Wilton. The only surviving surface features of the site are the guardhouse, which has been refurbished, the generator building and a small blockhouse that doubles as an emergency exit for the bunker. The bunker too remains intact and is used by a private company for data storage.[3]


  1. ^ Starlight, Southern Radar and RAF Sopley
  2. ^ Winkton Advanced Landing Ground
  3. ^ "RAF Sopley". PastScapes. English Heritage. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 

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