Radar Hike into History

28 Feb 2014 - 15:45

Radar in South Africa celebrates its 75th birthday this year, on the 16th of December 2014.

This records the first detection of targets (the Northcliff hill) by the ‘JB’, built under the guidance of Sir Basil Schonland at the Bernard Price Institute in Johannesburg. The ‘JB’ was an indigenous project, using radio amateur components. This series of radars went on to be very successful, as will be described in upcoming articles. (A fascinating article on The Special Signal Services or SSS can be found here.)

On a pleasantly warm Friday, 28 February 2014, our group met at the northern end of Dido Valley, near Simon’s Town, and followed on foot the overgrown roadway towards the south. With a magnificent view over False Bay, one eventually comes to the World War 2 radar station.

It is almost completely covered by alien vegetation, but is in pretty good condition. All equipment was removed years ago by the SA Navy. It was fitted with a number of radars over the years, mostly imported British and American microwave systems. The local, JB radars were installed earlier, not here, but down at Cape Point, Cape Hangklip, Slangkop and Karbonkelberg.

The Dido Valley radar would have been part of the fire control for the gun batteries around Simon’s Town Naval Base. After exploring the building at Dido Valley, we then moved up to the top of the Red Hill Pass, to see one of these gun emplacements. Some of them have recently been painted by volunteers in the original camouflage and the turrets welded up to protect them from thieves. Sadly, much of the mechanism has already been stolen.

After this, we headed down to Neptune’s Grill at the False Bay Yacht Club for wors (sausage) rolls. The NW wind had been building up all afternoon, and sure enough, as predicted by the forecast, at 17h00 the rain started!

Radar Hike into History