The Last Days

Closure of RAF Sopley 27th September 1974

100 feet underground, this is the  final parade and closing ceremony.

Details of the arrangements for the final parade are reproduced below from the parade programme produced by Southern Radar Operations Squadron.

reproduced courtesy of Phil Godfrey


SOP/802/12/3/0rg                                                Southern Radar

                                                                RAF Sopley

                                                                Bransgore 72783 ext 200

All Attending 11 Sep 74


1. To mark the closure of Southern Radar a short ceremony will be held on the car park at the Operations Site, RAF Sopley, on 27 Sep 74, together with a flypast by a Spitfire and a Concorde. The salute, at the last lowering of the Unit Ensign, will be taken by Air Cdre W H Pope, OBE, AOC MATO. The dress will be No 1 Home Dress with medals for Service personnel.

2. After the parade and flypast, weather permitting, the Spitfire will return to over-head the Operations Site and give a short flying display. The parade will be followed by a closure cocktail party in the Officers Mess, RAF Sopley, terminating at 1845 hours.

3. Should the weather be inclement the ensign-lowering ceremony will be conducted in the "Well' inside the Operations Building. The timing of the 'wet-weather' ceremony will be similar to that published for the 'dry-weather' Closure Ceremony Programme. Guests will be escorted into the Operations Building which, for the uninitiated, is the entrance to an underground Joint Air Traffic Control Radar Unit. Personnel entering the building will be issued with a 'fire-tag' which is purely to ensure that everyone can be accounted for should there be the need for an emergency exodus. For the prevention of fire, and for the sake of safety, smoking is prohibited inside the Operations Block.

                                                                             D GRAHAM

                                                                             Sqn Ldr




  1. On Christmas Day, 1940, a top secret convoy of vehicles arrived in Sopley village and positioned themselves in the field where the R3 building is sited today. This was a mobile Ground Controlled Interception (GCI) Unit: the first of many radar installations at Sopley.
  2. The GCI station operated throughout the second world war and gave radar assistance and control to many squadrons, including:

604 Squadron (Cat's eyes Cunningham)

406 Canadian AF Squadron

465 Squadron

151 Squadron and

125 Squadron

The Squadrons operated originally from RAF Middle Wallop; then eventually 151 and 125 Squadrons moved to Hurn. Sopley was also responsible for the control of No 456 Squadron RAAF from RAF Tangmere, towards the latter part of the war. The Squadrons claimed many 'kills' throughout the 1940-45 period; a lot of this success was attributable to the radar control that the night fighter squadrons received, and Sopley became the only GCI to claim more than 100 'radar kills.'

3. By the end of the war the mobile equipment had been replaced by more permanent installations and Sopley continued to operate as a GCI station, becoming the Sector Operations Centre of Southern England in 1950. In 1951, with the commencement of the 'Cold War' and the danger of new hostilities, Sopley became part of a vast reconstruction programme involving the whole of the UK radar network. An underground operations block was constructed,

fitted with new radar, and became operational in the summer of 1954. A new domestic site, situated in its present day position near Bransgore village, was completed at the same time.

4. In 1956 the installation of the Type 80 radar had been completed and the Station continued to operate in the Air Defence Role as a Fighter Control Unit. Eventually in 1958, the School of Fighter Control moved from Hope Cove to Sopley and the era of Sopley trainees commenced. In January 1958, with the expansion of the Air Traffic Control system in the UK, a Squadron Leader OC ATCRU plus a few controllers were installed at Sopley to set up an ATCRU Area Radar Service over the South of England; Southern Radar was formally established on 1 April 1959. Thereafter, in July 1959 the Air Defence reporting element of the Unit was removed to Wartling thereby releasing extra radar facilities for the ATCRU use; moreover, on 1 November 1959 the ATCRURU took over from Air Defence the responsibility for the Special Tasks cell.

5. Eventually, in April 1960, the School of Fighter Control left Sopley and the station was handed over to the ATCRU; the Unit then had a direct responsibility to HQ United Kingdom Air Traffic Control Services (UKATS) which had been previously established at Kestrel Grove. By 1 July 1960 the fighter control training facilities had been modified and the training of military Area Radar Controllers commenced, and moreover, in September 1960 the Joint Air Traffic Control Area Radar School (JATCARS) was formed. Subsequently, in January 1961,2 radar control positions in the Operations Room were allocated to the Ministry of Aviation for the control of civilian air traffic transitting the Southern Radar area on the newly formed Upper Air Routes. The unit now functioned as a Joint Air Traffic Control Radar Unit (JATCRU.

6. Development in radar design between 1958 and 1966 led to the installation of new height-finding equipment and the Type 264 Radar. Southern Radar was now a Military Air Traffic Operations (MATO) Unit; UKATS having been renamed.

7. In 1969 the civil side of the Area Radar School departed for Hurn and JATCARS became the Military Air Traffic Control Area Radar School (MATCARS), continuing to train Military Area Radar controllers until its closure and subsequent move to RAF Shawbury, in August 1972. From 1959 to 1972 Southern Radar had provided Operational Control to Air Traffic over the whole of the South of England. With the implementation in 1972 of the Mediator plan for centralised Air Traffic Control Services, Southern Radar's Area of Responsibility was gradually reduced, leading to today's final handover of Southern Radar services to London Air Traffic Control Centre, West Drayton. At this point Southern Radar will pass into history having provided service to some 450,000 aircraft during its lifetime; a record which all personnel who have served, or are presently serving, may be justifiably proud.

8. The Unit has handled a very large cross section of both military and civil traffic. In the military field the American 3rd Air Force in "Air to Air" refuelling exercises have availed themselves of the services provided by Southern Radar. The Unit has provided a climb out and recovery service to RAF Lyneham, and has given a radar recovery service to aircraft operating from Hurn, Dunsfold , RAF Thorney Island, RAF St Mawgan, RAF Chivenor, and RNAS Yeovilton. Apart from the normal day to day tasks of the Unit, flights have been handled as special tasks, for example: Concorde, Boscombe Down R & D and ETPS aircraft, Fleet Requirement Air Direction Unit RNAS Yeovilton aircraft and Admiralty Surface Weapons Establisment aircraft, to mention but a few.

In the civil field, the civilian controllers have provided service for aircraft proceeding to and from the Oceanic Area, to and from the London Airports, and to and from the European Continent.

                                                                             D GRAHAM

                                                                             Sqn Ldr





1. The Closure Ceremony is to consist of a flying and ground phase.

Flying Phase

2. The object of the flying phase is to enable the Air Officer Commanding

Military Air Traffic Operations to be a passenger in the last aircraft provided with a radar service by Southern Radar so that he can transmit a farewell message on the Unit.

The schedule is as follows:

AOC MATO arrives at Operations RAF Northolt.

Aircraft c/s MATO departs RAF Northolt for Hurn Airport.

1550 (approx) AOC MATQ transmits farewell message to Officer Commanding MATCSR

at Southern Radar, who is controlling the flight.

1605 (approx) AOC’s ac lands at Hurn Airport.

1610 Doors open. AOC deplanes and proceeds to RAF Sopley by road.

Ground Phase

3. The cessation of radar services from Southern Radar will be symbolised by the lowering of the RAFEnsign at the Operations Site RAF Sopley. The timing of this ceremony is at 1700 hours. The schedule of events is as follows:

1615 Parade assembles on the road adjacent to the Fire Section.

1620 (approx) AOC arrives at RAF Sopley SHQ to en-sword.

1630 Guests to be seated. Seating placed adjacent to Parade Square at Southern Radar Operations Site.

     Parade marches on to the parade square.

     The WBAF Guard of Honour to take up position.

1640 OC departs SHQ RAF Sopley by car for the Southern Radar Operations Site.

1645 AOC arrives at the Operations Site and is met by OC MATOSR and OC Southern Radar.

     Parade to be brought to attention and guests to stand.

1646 AOC M.TO is escorted to the saluting dais. Attendant officers take up their positions.

1647 Parade Commander approaches dais to request permission to stand parade at ease. Guests sit.

1648 AOC gives closure address.

1656 Padre leads the parade in prayer.

1659 Parade Commander brings the parade to attention. Guests stand.

1700 Parade Commander orders General Salute. Trumpeters sound Last Post.

     RAF Ensign is slowly lowered. Fly past by Spitfire followed by Concorde.

1701 Padre gives the Benediction.

1702 RAF Ensign is escorted from parade.

1703 AOC leaves the dais escorted by OC MATOSR, OC Southern Radar, and the ADC to AOC MATO, and proceeds to the Guest Enclosure.

1704 Parade Commander stands the parade at ease.

     Spitfire returns to give a short firing display.

1710 (approx) AOC leaves Operations Centre escorted by 0C Southern Radar and proceeds to the Officers Mess RAF  Sopley. OC MATOSR proceeds to the Officers Mess RAF Sopley, escorted by Fg Off Grinsted. Guests are requested not to leave before the AOC' s departure.

1715 Parade is dismissed. Unit Officers. Airmen and Airwomen, guests, wives and members of the Press proceed to the Officers Mess, RAF Sopley for Farewell Drinks.

                                                                            D GRAHAM

                                                                            Sqn Ldr

  11 Sep 74                                                                 OC



Air Cdre W H Pope OBE                       AOC MATO

Gp Capt D Newell OBE                        OC MATOSR

Wg Cdr V A Stapley MBE DFC                  NATS

mr W C Woodruff                             DC NATS

Mr A Field OBE                              JFC

Mr S P Leithead OBE                         DCATO

Mr J H Hopkins Managing Director,           Airwork Services Ltd

Mr D W H Davis DFC                          Eurocontrol

Wg Cdr J A Jarvis                           Station Commander, Mar 1960 - Dec 1962

Wg Cdr J H T Pickering                      Station Commander, Jan 1963 - Sep 1965

Gp Capt R D S Orchard, MBE,                 Station Commander, Oct 1965 - Aug 1967

Wg Cdr J A V Short                          Station Commander, Sep 1967 - Dec 1969

Wg Cdr P D Wood                             Station Commander, Mar 1972 - Mar 1974

Chief of Police, Ringwood

Chief of Police, Christchurch

Mr R Goss                                   SATCO, Bournemouth Hurn) Airport

Mr A Town      )

Mr D Schofield )

Mr D Wareham   )                            Airwork Services Ltd )

Mr T P Aldous  )

Mr R Gorton    )

Mr W H Chapnan                             DOE

Sqn Ldr D A Emery                          HQ MATO




Air Cdre W H Pope OBE AOC MATO Reviewing Officer

Gp Capt D Newell OBE OC MATOSR

Sqn Ldr D Graham OC Southern Radar

FIt Lt B C Jones OC Operations Squadron Parade Commander


FIt Lt A Macmillan ( Supernumerary

Flt Lt I Ramsay ( Officers

WO J Webb Parade WO

FS R McKain Ensign Bearer

Sgt Gaunt

Sgt Cook

Sgt Wall

Sgt Waggett

Cpl Mason

Cpl Browne

Cpl Green

Cpl James

Cpl Campbell

Cpl Shannon

Cpl Parkinson

Cpl Povey

Cpl Finter

SAC Lothian

SAC Atton

SAC Knott

LAC Smallman

SAC Oakley

SAC Roberts

SAC Haigh

SAC Sweeney

SAC Ayley


SAC Doyle ( Ensign Escorts

SAC Bridle (


SACW Carr (

SACW Llewellyn (

SACW Oakley (

SACW Pant all (WRAF Guard of Honour

SACW Wright (

SACW Johnson (

LACW Holt (