RAF Chicksands was a Royal Air Force station in Bedfordshire, England, which closed in 1997 when responsibility for the camp was taken over by the British Army Intelligence Corps. Near the town of Shefford it is named for Chicksands Priory, a 12th century Gilbertine monastery located within the perimeter of the camp.
The Crown Commissioners bought the Chicksands estate on 15 April 1936, later being rented to Gerald Bagshawe, who lived there until it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy. After nine months the RAF took over operations and established a signal intelligence collection unit there, known as a Y Station.
The site operated as a SIGINT collection site throughout World War II, intercepting German traffic and passing the resulting material to the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.
In 1950 the site was subleased to the United States Air Force serving as the base of the 6940th radio Squadron, responsible for continued communications and SIGINT operation through the Cold War. The RAF continued to act as a host unit for the resident USAF units, including over time the 6950th Electronic Security Group and the 7274th Air Base Group.
In 1962, a huge FLR-9 Wullenweber antenna array was constructed at Chicksands to form part of the Iron Horse HF direction finding network. This Elephant Cage array was dismantled in 1996 when the USAF withdrew from the site, handing it back to the British Armed Forces.
In 1997 the Intelligence Corps assumed responsibility for the site, moving the Corps Headquarters from Ashford, Kent along with Intelligence Training
Memories of RAF Chicksands
(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)
RAF Chicksands in 2002
Written by Peter Scott
I went to a seminar on aerial photography at RAF Chicksands. During a break we were shown the RAF museum of Photgraphy. I noticed a photo of a film processing machine taken at RAF Nuneham Courtney near Oxford. The curator asked if I knew anything about laying aerial photo mosaics. Luckily I was able to demonstrate the technique by scoring along the contour lines then separating the backing from the emulsion. the image was then overlayed onto another photo. The process when completed was then given to the interpreters. I was laying these mosaics during the Suez crises.