Hush -hush! Visit a Top Secret wartime radar base in Cornwall.

WAAF servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at a Chain Home Station like RAF Drytree, declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

‘WAAF’ returns to Goonhilly RAF Dry Tree …

GoonhillyEco-trail Day

25 July 2010   The Lizard NNR National Nature Reserve

Our collegues at Ntaural England have fabulous free event to attend:

“Let us bring the inhabitants and history of the heathland to life with our Eco-Trail Challenge.

Plant bingo, making your own paint brush and painting using natural inks, a bird diner and living history you will have a brilliant day of discovery and adventure around the heath and the historical Ministry of Defence Second World War buildings.”

The main WWII stuff is taking place in the Happidrome where there  will be  a storyteller doing a 15 minute piece in costume  throughout the day on the history and natural history of the site.

Atmospheric stuff, a radio receiver lit up in background and someone dressed as a WAAF or WREN, just like the ones from the photograph  and poster from our World War Zoo gardens archive on display.

There will be code cracking challenges, art, bird spotting and storytelling. The event is aimed at children and families as part of the Discovering Places Events (part of the UK countdown to the 2012 Olympics)

Wartime, gardening and outdoor events we're involved in - we've loaned an image and information from our archive of WAAFs in an underground radar station to the Discovering Places Day, Lizard NNR Goonhilly 25th July. Come and meet us as a wartime zoo garden on tour at Trelawney Garden Centre near Wadebridge in Cornwall, along with our minibeasts on 31 July and 1st August 2010.

This is also the opening of the new easy access path providing wheelchair and buggy access allowing everyone to enjoy the incredible wild heath area that characterises the Lizard Peninsula.

Suitable for families there will be something for all ages to enjoy, trail activities all accessible by wheelchairs.

Time: Sunday, 25th July, the trail will be open 11am until 3pm

Meet: Goonhilly Downs Car Park off the B3293 just after Goonhilly Earth Station when coming from Helston

Booking: No need to book just turn up, last opportunity to start trail is at 3pm. For more information contact Claire Scott Community Outreach Adviser at The Lizard NNR, Natural England 01326 240808

Free parking and toilets available (including disabled). This event is free!


There’s a beautiful leaflet about  the history and natural history of the site featuring our photo too. Having worked in the Lizard area, I’ve spotted the anti-glider defences form 1939/40 stone cairns for erecting tall posts to keep this vulnerable area safe from invasion.

RAF Treyew on the cliffs near Newquay Zoo is another example of a Chain Home station Radar complex, now derelict on private farmland but just visible from the road. There’s more about these stations and other wartime underground sites for Home Guard auxilliary units and Observer Corps at the Subterranea Britannica website on  such stations.

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4 Responses to “Hush -hush! Visit a Top Secret wartime radar base in Cornwall.”

  1. Dave Small Says:

    I was a Canadian Corporal Radar Mechanic at Drytree from January 1st to October 24th 1942
    When I took Three light warning units out to Burma.
    Current living in Langley British Columbia Canada.


    • worldwarzoogardener1939 Says:

      Lovely to hear from you. I lived and worked in this area for four or five years before starting working at the Zoo here. I loaned some material to Natural England who manage this part of Goonhilly and former RAF Dry Tree, mainly items from the zoo’s wartime life collection for an Open Spaces Day . I’m sure they’d be fascinated to hear more from you – I can supply contact deatils if you are interested.
      I have a book on Cornwall during the war by Viv Acton which has a chapter in it on Dry Tree which I can copy the relevnt pages (as out of print) if you send me a postal address. I can be contacted at
      You might recognise a few faces! Best wishes


  2. Michael Sculthorp-Wright Says:

    I have only been interested in RAF Sennen and it’s associate Sites of RAF Mark’s Castle, RAF Chapel Carn Brea and RAF Sennen Cove for the past 3 or four months. In that short time I have amassed many letters to and from RAF & WAAF personnel at Sennen. The contents are fantastic. I have been to tea in the still existing WAAF block and Sunday lunch in what was the Officers Mess. A large number of photo’s are now part of my collection as well as original “Top Secret” site drawings and tech details of the transmitters and receivers. A few of the radar girls are still alive and fascinating stories are told. There is a great deal more coming in and it will take a lot more time to collate into a proper archive.

    More than just an old radar site, the privilege of reading personal letters. Learning what the girls thought of the CO and their section Officer. Their affairs and boyfriends. Their connections with Operation Tiger and the preparations for D-Day. Their grief at the loss of friends. And still I haven’t read all the letters.

    It is humbling to have such an insight.



    • worldwarzoogardener1939 Says:

      Dear Michael Thanks for your comment on my post on Cornish radar stations back in 2010. I know the Sennen area a little bit and its wartime traces, the pill boxes at Sennen Cove etc, the still visible German bomber clipped roof of the Sunday School at St Just opposite the St Just Primary School, the interesting collection at Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. Didn’t know about the Sennen station though, although there are few radio masts / radar looking enclosures etc around on hilltops still in the area.

      I have just returned from 6 months sick leave and during this have been transcribing some fairly illegible WAAF and RAF diaries (1940 1944 1945) for what I take to be a radio or radar operator and her mechanic husband out in the Far East, both originally from Newcastle (nothing too explicitly said understandably about jobs), posted all over the place from RAF Hopton (E. Anglia), Cregneash (Isle of Man) and Bamburgh.
      I will at some future point print / publish excerpts of these diaries as fundraising for the World War Zoo Gardens project once I’ve typed them up & done the background research. I will put the publishing information on the blog site. I’ve a bit of a backlog on project work and am working on schools workshops with my colleagues at Paignton Zoo at the moment on how zoos survived wartime (Paignton Zoo was operational throughout the 40s and camped on pre D-Day by GIs. Slapton Ley is also a Paignton Zoo / Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust nature reserve, hence Operation Tiger links).

      Fascinating to read the original thoughts and disrupted everyday lives of now vanished people. Are you going to publish your collection? I’d be interested to hear more about them.

      Other Cornish radar stations
      There was an article in the Newquay Voice or Cornish Guardian a few years ago about RAF Treyew, the remains of which are on private farm land just down the road a mile or two from Newquay Zoo. On the leaflet about RAF Dry Tree Goonhilly (Lizard National Nature Reserve, Natural England) they used one of my archive photos of a WAAF (Chain Home?) radar station somewhere is included. Claire Scott based at Natural England set up a tour & trail leaflet there 2010.


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