Following the development of radar during the mid 1930's, the Air Ministry established a programme of building radar stations around the British coast to provide warning of air attack on Great Britain. A survey was undertaken in 1938 to assess the suitability of local terrain for Air Defence Radar operations around the British Isles with the first of these new stations coming on line by the end of the year. This network was to form the basis of a chain of radar stations called Chain Home. Chain Home was to be the first radar to be organised into a complete air defence system and the first such system to be used in wartime operations.
These stations consisted of two main types; East Coast stations and West Coast stations. The East Coast stations were similar in design to the experimental station set up at Bawdsey in 1936. In their final form these stations were designed to have equipment housed in protected buildings with transmitter aerials suspended from 350' steel towers and receiver aerials mounted on 240' timber towers.
The West Coast stations differed in layout and relied on dispersal instead of protected buildings for defence. Thus the West Coast stations had two transmitter and receiver blocks with duplicate equipment in each. Transmitter aerials were mounted on 325' guyed steel masts with the receiver aerial mounted on 240' timber towers.
Most Chain Home stations were also provided with reserve equipment, either buried or stored remotely. Buried reserves consisted of underground transmitter and receiver blocks, each with three entrance hatches (two for plant and one for personnel) set on steel rollers. Nearby were the emergency exit hatch, ventilation shafts and wooden tower carrying the aerials.
The majority of stations were powered from the National Grid but they were also provided with backup generators to cover interruptions in the mains electricity supply. These were likely to be located in another protected building known as a stand-by set house. These set houses would have been similar in design to the transmitter and receiver block and were of a brick construction, surrounded by earth banks for blast protection.
An east coast Chain Home Station was constructed at Schoolhill at the onset of World War II, was opened around 1940 and remained operational through the war. There is little recorded operational history about the station but in mid 1942 two of the 350 foot steel towers were taken down and replaced by 325 foot guyed masts which were more familiar on west coast Chain Stations.
It was said that the Schoolhill station gave Fraserburgh and Peterhead (“hellfire corner”) some early warning when enemy aircraft were approaching on bombing missions, even allowing aircraft to be deployed from Longside Aerodrome to combat and intercept the “Hun”.
At the end of the war RAF Schoolhill was placed on care and maintenance and was later selected as one of 15 stations promoted to a 'readiness chain home'. The station was equipped with Type 1 radar and two channels, as part of the first phase of the rotor programme. With introduction of Type 80 radar in 1955 RAF Schoohill became redundant.
In 1964 the transmitter block was acquired by the Home Office to provide a temporary location for the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation's (UKWMO) Caledonian Sector Control. The UKWMO remained at Schoolhilll until 1976 when it was relocated to the ROC Group Headquarters at Craigiebarns in Dundee.
The site of RAF Schoolhill became the property of Grampian Fire Brigade in 1978 and although some of the original site and buildings have been cleared away or demolished, the old transmitter block, some pillboxes, many aerial mast bases, a few huts and a further brick building still stand on the original site. Additionally there are two buried reserves within 30 yards of each other on farmland 100 yards east of the transmitter block. There is also a further Type 27 pillbox located on Portlethen Golf course, approximately half a mile southeast of the main radar station.
Armistice ceremony at Portlethen Church War Memorial, with Rev Dunn officiating. This photo is possibly post war 1940's or early 1950's. The fascinating object of this particular photograph isn't the ceremony itself but the sight of the towering masts of RAF Schoolhill on the horizon (top left).
A Nissan hut at RAF Schoolhill, Portlethen. The man in the picture is Edward Martin, an American who worked for the Civilian Technical Corps (CTC) during the war, and was based at Schoolhill, Portlethen for a few months in the early part of 1942.
Its April 1942 and some Civilian Technical Corps (CTC) based at the station at RAF Schoolhill enjoy some leisure time near Muckle Shore, midway between Portlethen and Findon Village.