RAF Chicksands

For the current use of this facility see the Joint Intelligence Training Group
For other ships with the same name, see HMS Ferret.
RAF Chicksands
Near Shefford, Bedfordshire in England
RAF Chicksands
Shown within Bedfordshire
Coordinates 52°02′29″N 000°21′31″W / 52.04139°N 0.35861°W / 52.04139; -0.35861Coordinates: 52°02′29″N 000°21′31″W / 52.04139°N 0.35861°W / 52.04139; -0.35861
Type Royal Air Force station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1936 (1936)
In use 1936-1997 (1997)

Royal Air Force Chicksands or more simply RAF Chicksands is a former Royal Air Force station located 7.7 miles (12.4 km) south east of Bedford, Bedfordshire and 11.6 miles (18.7 km) north east of Luton, Bedfordshire.

It closed in 1997 when responsibility for the camp was taken over by the British Army Intelligence Corps.[1] Near the town of Shefford it is named after Chicksands Priory, a 12th-century Gilbertine monastery located within the perimeter of the camp.[2]

Site history

The Crown Commissioners bought the Chicksands estate on 15 April 1936, later being rented to Gerald Bagshawe, who lived there until it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy. After nine months the RAF took over operations and established a signal intelligence collection (SIGINT) unit there, known as a Y Station.[3]

The site operated as a SIGINT collection site throughout the Second World War, intercepting German traffic and passing the resulting material to the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.[4]

United States Air Force Europe In 1950 the site was subleased to the United States Air Force serving as the base of the 6940th Radio Squadron, responsible for continued communications and SIGINT operation through the Cold War. The RAF continued to act as a host unit for the resident USAF units, including over time the 6950th United States Air Force Security Squadron, later becoming the 6950th Electronic Security Group and the 7274th Air Base Group.[5]

In 1962, a 1,443 feet (440 m) diameter AN/FLR-9 Wullenweber antenna array was constructed at Chicksands to form part of the Iron Horse HF direction finding network. This antenna array, dubbed the Elephant Cage, was dismantled in 1996 when the USAF withdrew from the site, handing it back to the British Armed Forces.[6]

During the annual airshow, on 7 July 1979, Colonel Thomas Thompson piloting an Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II crashed approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of the site and was killed.[7]

Return to British Armed Forces control

In 1997 the Intelligence Corps assumed responsibility for the site, moving the Corps Headquarters from Ashford, Kent along with Intelligence Training.[8]

Current use

Since 1997 the site has been the home of the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre (DISC) and the Headquarters of the Intelligence Corps. In January 2015, the site was renamed as the Joint Intelligence Training Group (JITG).[9]

DISC conducts training for personnel of all three arms of the British Armed Forces, members of the Civil Service and others. Courses are delivered across the range of Intelligence disciplines.

HMS Ferret is a Royal Naval Reserve training centre formed in 1989 at the Intelligence Corps centre in Ashford. The unit transferred with the Corps and the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre in 1997.[10]

See also


  1. Beatty, Gavin (2010). "Bedfordshire Defence Intelligence and Security Centre". Sanctuary. No. 39. Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). p. 67. ISSN 0959-4132.
  2. "MOD". Friends of Chicksands Priory. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  3. "Defence Intelligence and Security Centre". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  4. "History of the Intelligence Corps" (PDF). Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  5. "The Military at Chicksands Priory". Bedford Council. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  6. Klausner, Alexandra (6 September 2014). "Navy's mysterious 'elephant cage' in San Diego will be demolished as secrecy still surrounds what giant antennae discovered in Cold War". Daily Mail. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  7. "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 56116". Aviation Safety Network. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  8. Van Der Bijl, Nick (2013). "The Coalition Years; the 1990s". Sharing the Secret; the history of the Intelligence Corps. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. p. 311. ISBN 9781848844131.
  9. "Bedfordshire - Joint Intelligence Training Group Chicksands". Sanctuary (PDF) (44): 74. 2015. ISSN 0959-4132.
  10. "HMS Ferret". Royal Navy. Retrieved 15 June 2016.

External links

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