Y-Stations in the South-West

The results of the study are represented on a Google Map here.

link to interactive map
Interactive map

Each blue pin depicts the location of a Y-Station. Notice how some are clustered in groups, while others seem to be more remotely located and rather ‘out on a limb’. Many stations are on a promontory for obvious reasons. If you click on any of the pins, an information window opens up, describing what I have managed to discover about that particular facility. But the fun part is zooming in on each of the locations to see what remains of each Y-Station today.[3] The quick answer is; it’s variable.

RAF Trelanvean, for example, is intact and an equipped learning centre, while the one at Ventnor (or what is left of it) is a Grade II listed ruin with just the octagonal walls standing. I have the precise location of the Station situated at Strete; a modern house now sits on its site. The one at Chasewater has been extended and modified and is, I believe, currently a Bed and Breakfast establishment. Coverack has an interesting history. Following the war, it became a nuclear bunker for the Cold War era, but today it is home to the Lizard Ales Brewery. Other sites, such as the one at Hartland Quay remain communication establishments to this day.

Having been built on agricultural land, many of the stations are now understandably used as farm storage buildings or barns. The ones that have been left neglected are in differing stages of ruination. Some are still recognisable by their foundation footprints. One, which you can travel alongside in Google Street View, is completely overgrown with ivy but still recognisable as a Y-Station building. Not surprisingly, some stations have vanished without a trace.

The site at Perranporth is now a Youth Hostel Association building. But, if you zoom right in on the Google Map and then move to the cliff-edge, you can just make out a pipe which runs from the facility, down the cliff face and into the water. It actually then continues under the water and was used as an acoustic listening tube, designed to detect the tell-tale sounds of enemy submarines approaching the Channel.

There were five stations at Goonhaven, all in close proximity to each other.[4] They are well preserved, and it is recorded that hundreds of gallons of sea water were transported to the sites and poured into the surrounding soil. This improved the electrical conductivity, enabling better earthing for both equipment and antennas. Now, to the one at Lydford: I really have no idea about this one! It couldn’t be further from the sea, and Lydford’s main claim to fame is its gorge, which I am sure has no bearing with regard to the Y-Station network. The only elevated point in the area is the ruined castle tower, and I suspect that is where the antennas were erected. This is a mystery and a ‘work in progress’ for me.

You will see that there are two Y-Stations near Bridgewater, Stockland and Highbridge. These were both on, or close to, two ‘Stop Lines’; the Taunton Stop Line running roughly north-south, and the GHQ Stop Line running west-east. These were two of about fifty defensive lines designed to compartmentalise the country into protected areas in the event of an invasion. They used a combination of geography and construction to make continuous defensive lines. Pill boxes, gun placements and transportable concrete barriers are still in evidence along these routes. Some of the bridges have niches visible under the arches where explosives could be placed to ‘surprise’ the enemy. The GHQ was the longest and most important of the Stop Lines, as it was created as a last-ditch attempt to protect both the Capital and the industrial north.

The Taunton Stop Line, however, ran for nearly 80km through Somerset, Dorset and Devon. The route roughly went from the coast near Highbridge, along the River Parrett to Bridgewater. Thence along the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal to Taunton. It then followed the railway and the Chard Canal to Ilminster, along the Great Western Railway route to Chard, and along the River Axe to Axminster and, finally, the south coast. So, the whole of the south west could be hived off and discarded, if necessary. Nice to know!

[3] Switching to Google Street View sometimes provides further insight.

[4] Actually, it might be four Stations plus a control room.