Unit History: RN Air Station Portreath
’RRH Portreath’ is a ’R’emote ’R’adar ’H’ead operated by the Royal Air Force. It is situated at Nancekuke Common on the clifftops to the north of Portreath beach and southwest of Porthtowan in Cornwall. Its radar (housed in a fibre glass or ’’golf ball’’ protective dome) provides long-range coverage of the south western approaches to the UK.
Called ’RAF Portreath’, the base was built during 1940, opened in March 1941 and had a varied career during World War II, initially as a Fighter Command station, from October 1941 as a ferry stop-over for aircraft bound to/from North Africa and the Middle East, as a temporary stop-over for USAAF and RCAF units, and then as a Coastal Command station. By the end of the war, it had run down and in May 1950 was handed back to the government by the RAF.
It reverted to its local name Nancekuke and became an outstation of CDE Porton Down. Sarin was manufactured here during this time, and Nancekuke became an important factory for stock piling the UK’s Chemical Defences during the Cold War.
The CDE buildings were demolished in 1979-1980, and the RAF re-opened the site as a manned radar station in October 1980, a Control and Reporting Post (CRP) for UK Air Surveillance. In 1986 an underground CRP was built as part of the new UKADGE (United Kingdom Air Defence and Ground Environment) project. New mobile, Marconi Electronic Systems manufactured, radar systems, including a S723 Martello (RAF Type 91), and telecommunication installations were added during the mid-1980s. In the late nineties, the installation became remote operation, and the primary Radar was replaced with the British Areospace (BAe) Type 101. Portreath’s parent station was RAF St. Mawgan for administration but data was routed to RAF Neatishead.