50 m Ring

Nuclear Test Detection - Chaplain

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A 50m diameter, 1.1m wide, concrete ring was located on Orford Ness, adjacent to the Bomb Ballistics Building (H1) and near to the shingle and the ‘Lighthouse track’.

 

There were a number of concrete ‘anchor’ blocks located inside and outside the Ring. Vertical retaining bolts remain in the top of the concrete ring. A concrete ‘hard standing’ is located just outside the Ring and evidence of an Electrical Power connection stanchion remains.

 

It was not known for many years what the purpose of this concrete was and many visitors, having climbed to the top of the adjacent Bomb Ballistics Building, would ask “what was that ring for?”

 

No correct answers could be given, and in the absence of accurate data many theories existed. Paddy Heazell’s book (Most Secret, The Hidden History of Orford Ness), published in 2010, says: “No oral or documentary evidence has come to light to explain its purpose and it continues to be one of the more tantalising of Orford Ness' mysteries.”

 

So, for nearly 60 years the purpose of the 50m ring had remained a mystery, - a consequence of the difficulty in accessing relevant, perhaps secret, information, of a departmental ‘need-to-know’ policy, and the Official Secrets Act that staff had to work under.

 

During 2013 - 2017 some 60 interviews were conducted with ON ‘Veterans’ (those who worked on or for the military trials that took place on the Ness) by a volunteer and initial information was gathered about what had been built and operated in this area of the Ness.

 

Subsequent research by volunteers acquired additional information, with significant help from AWE Aldermaston, and it was discovered that a US-designed Over The Horizon Radar (OTHR) system, utilising the property of the ionosphere to ‘bend’ radar/radio signals around the curvature of the Earth, had been installed on the Ness in 1965. This system, called ‘Chaplain’ was donated by the US to AWRE on Orford Ness (where it was later renamed ‘Pound Note’).

 

Following successful trials to test the viability of using OTHR to detect atmospheric nuclear explosions over the USSR, Chaplain moved to 24/7 monitoring of Russian test sites for about two years, when it was replaced by other technologies. ‘Chaplain’ (Pound Notes) was used for OTHR research after that, but as yet its purpose remains unknown.

 

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AWRE 19??

AWRE 19??

© Crown Copyright /AWE 2021 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

AWRE 19??

AWRE 19??

© Crown Copyright /AWE 2021 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

 

Photographs - click image to enlarge view  - for full size please contact IRGON

Chaplain

Chaplain

© Crown Copyright /AWE 2021 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

19??

19??

© Crown Copyright /AWE 2021 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

h50-10

h50-10

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Chaplain

Chaplain

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