Monday, 20 February 2012

Gin Head Radar Research and testing facility...East Lothian

East of North Berwick on the cliffs opposite the Bass Rock Island is the impressive ruins of Tantallon Castle...

Just west to the ruin is a set of buildings and perimeter fence perched above the cliffs at Gin Head, which is largely unrecognised for playing a very important part in WW2 history...

In 1943 scientists and technicians from the Air Ministry and Admiralty research establishments arrived at A.S.E.E. Tantallon and by April of 1944 made new breakthrough radar equipment prior to the D Day Landings in France on 6th June.
It was here that experiments with captured German Wurzburg and Seetaktrader radar sets were used with British radar which would represent other German equipment on a destroyer,  mine sweeper and several other ships offshore in the Firth of Forth and would develop equipment which would block the German radar at Normandy.

Captured German Radar testing on the roof at Gin Head 1944...

After the success of this further equipment was tested at Flamborough Head in Yorkshire which showed up massive movement of ships.
On D Day in June 1944 this equipment was deployed using Stirling and Lancaster bombers of 218 and 617 (the famous Dambusters) and it deceived the German High Command to believe the main Allied invasion was at Pas de Calais and not Normandy where the equipment shielded most of the invasion fleet.
Many Allied soldiers lives were saved due to this equipment, developed and tested here in East Lothian.
Yet there is no recognition to this place or the people who worked here...

Another technique tested and developed at Tantallon was `Window` which was to drop bundles of aluminium strips from an aircraft which reflected the radar signals and jammed the enemy stations.
Calculated amounts dropped at intervals could also deceive the radar into making one bomber appear as a mass of planes or ships.
A Mitchell bomber was used for these experiments flying up and down the Firth of Forth...

After WW2 and the start of the Cold War the now named Ministry of Defence (MOD) site was still busy in radar research...

In the mid 1950s the station was reduced to maintenance level, still MOD property and security staff on site, note the narrow gauge rail tracks that would have been used to wheel equipment to test into the buildings...

In 1984 the site was sold to GEC Ferranti. They continued using it for the same purposes throughout the closing years of the Cold War, testing and developing equipment for the MOD until it closed in 1994, and left it in an abandoned state.The MOD signs were still outside until it`s sale. It is now owned by a property developer awaiting planning consent.

If you want to know whats inside now you will have to watch the film.
That is a Buccaneer nose cone protruding out of the wall you will see in the film, experimental radar was placed inside and beams transmitted out across to a reflector plate on the Bass rock Island...

The property has been privatly owned for several years now and will be getting developed into a private dwelling...
Some films form the website...

 GINHEAD from Claire Lloyd on Vimeo.

 GIN HEAD from Claire Lloyd on Vimeo.

Info on the dream home development here; Gin


  1. I'm pretty sure that Buccaneer nose cone (or its twin) was also built into a wall in the Ferranti building in Robertson Avenue, Edinburgh. That would have been late 70s/early 80's

  2. Thanks for posting Bruce, really interesting. I love reading about this stuff.

  3. Supposedly a launch went to the Bass Rock yearly to clean the reflector plate, because of all the bird poo!

  4. Fascinating. We could see the buildings in the clifftop brush from Tantallon castle and were wondering..? Were on a 4 day hols in Gullane. Thanks for great website history.

    1. Hi Jim,
      Hope you enjoyed your hols here in East Lothian!
      Thanks for your comment,


  5. And I always just thought it was an ugly eyesore ... which it is, but what a fascinating and important part it has played in our history. It's a shame that there is no interpretation at Tantallon Castle to explain it's importance - Historic Scotland have missed an opportunity.

  6. Hi Niall, thanks for your comment,
    Yes an important part of our history largley unrecognised, as for the people that worked there on the progect.


  7. Went up to Gin Head today but was unable to find any access to any of the buildings. Was it entirely boarded up when you made your trip?

  8. Hi. No it was already opened up- obviously it had been broken into. We quickly went in and took pics and left, not having permission to enter.

  9. This was interesting to read and watch thanks. My brother lives in North Berwick and I've been to the beach the other side of Tantallon Castle but I had no idea that this was here, I will have to take a look when I next go up. Thanks again.


  10. Very cool, always quite tempting to explore further.

  11. Hi, the facility is owned by a developer now and is being converted now into a dwelling,
    link here;

  12. Does any one know why it's called Gin Head? Thanks!

  13. Coastkid, thanks for this. Most people don't believe me, but I saw a submarine moored off the rocks below the site sometime after 1979 and before 1985. Spoke to an ancient local and he said it was a re-arming site for subs during the second world war.