Steamer Point – MoD Signals Research and Development Establishment
Located just to the south-east of the Steamer Point Car Park, there are three concrete bases, one large and two smaller, and a large boulder which bears an informative plaque.
From the early days of the Second World War through until 1980, this area was the trials ground for the Ministry of Defence Signals Research and Development Establishment (SRDE), and the nearby concrete plinth was the foundation on which stood the first British military communication satellite station. On it was placed an aerial dish of 40 feet diameter which received and transmitted signals from the first launched British military satellite. It also tracked foreign satellites. Over the dish was a weatherproof covering called RADOME (shaped like a beehive) and the whole structure became a landmark for mariners for miles around.
Two similar structures were subsequently built and installed in Cyprus and Singapore and formed the beginning of the world-wide defence communication called Skynet.
In the early days of the Second World War this site also saw secret radar developments for the Army and some twenty years later much of the early research on night vision was also done here. The Establishment was actively involved in the research into optical fibres for communication purposes – which have since produced profound benefits for world-wide telephone systems.
SRDE finally moved to Malvern in Worcestershire in 1980 and joined forces with the Royal Radar Establishment.On site plaque
For More Information:
The fascinating story of the work done by the SRDE is told at https://www.srdeuk.com/ .
A short film can be viewed on the British Pathé website at https://www.britishpathe.com/asset/87431/ or on the British Pathé YouTube channel https://youtu.be/JZofmt2zgW8 which includes an inflatable RADOME and some of the equipment inside it.
The SRDE also get a brief mention at http://www.users.freenetname.co.uk/~bgwells/BAEXCHSite/xchsite.htm “History of the BAE Systems Christchurch Site”, and includes an aerial photograph from 1970 with the RADOME clearly visible on the coast.