Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Gin Head Radar

Yet again, wandering around some other sites of interest brought to light a site we were completely unaware of.

Gin Head lies on the south side of the Firth of Forth, to the east of Dunbar, and in sight of Tantallon Castle.  At its simplest, Gin Head was the site of a Chain Home / Chain Home Low radar station, part of the country’s World War II early warning system that alerted the RAF to incoming enemy aircraft. This system was such a well guarded secret that the Luftwaffe failed to recognise its significance – allowing the RAF to scramble its fighters only where enemy aircraft were actually attacking (much to their repeated irritation, as the RAF always appeared to be in the right place at the right time), rather than flying continuous sorties in the hope of being airborne in the right place at the right time, which quickly have stretched it to breaking point. The Luftwaffe did eventually realise the towers that carried the radar antennae were significant, but too late, and even when they did attack them (down south), although they brought the system down, they broke off the attack too soon, and the damage was quickly repaired, restoring the system. Failing to realise the true significance of the towers they had attacked, the Luftwaffe’s attentions were diverted elsewhere, leaving the system intact.

The radar station was extended in 1943 with the addition of a Research Establishment directly to its east. Although we have little information about the precise nature of the work carried out there, it was definitely used to test and develop radar systems for use by the Royal Navy, and to investigate captured German radar equipment. It played a part in the preparations for the D-Day landings in June 1944, when its facilities were used to test radio countermeasure equipment.

There’s little detailed information about the work carried out there, and it was taken over by Ferranti, now Bae Systems Avionics Ltd, at Crewe Toll, but was abandoned in recent years, and is now the subject of a planning application for conversion to domestic use.

Further detail can be found on our pages for the Gin Head Radar Station, and the Gin Head Research Establishment.


November 30, 2007 - Posted by | Naval, World War II | , ,


  1. In 2005 I carried out an archaeological excavation at Auldhame on a cliff top promintory between Tantallon Castle and Seacliff. The excavations found an ancient grave yard dating from the 7th to the 17th century. Some of the graves had been damaged by modern activity which we belive to be associated with radar activity during the 1950’s. It is recorded in the RCHMS that during the construction of a radar station that gtraves were disturbed and that during the construction of a roadway leading in to the station that further graves were disturbed and were excavated by John Hamilton. However all records of these excavations are missing. If there is anybody out there who can shed light on these excavations together with the precise location I would be greatful


    Comment by Erlend Hindmarch | March 25, 2009

  2. I have some information regarding WWII and Tantallon as my late father spent some time there. I am researching connections to the Radar station because of my father and his work during and post the war working for the MOD. Sadly he is no longer with us but he would be delighted to know that I have been able to find and connection with your information. You can contact via wordpress twitter or facebook if this is of further interest. Whilst I don’t have specific knowledge of the graves disturbance mentioned above. I think we can shed some light on the work that took place there. There are some intriguing connections. Happy to share just let me know if this is of interest to you. Many thanks for your time effort and the photograph its a great connection for me and my brothers. Amanda Moore Twitter @intriguingnw or @intriguingfh


    Comment by intriguingnw | May 7, 2012

  3. Thanks for your comment. We have now located records for the work which was carried out when graves were disturbed by the MOD during the 1950’s which will be incorperated into our final publication.


    Comment by Erlend Hindmarch | May 9, 2012

  4. […] Binning Wood or spot waders like grey heron in Balgone Loch or take a good pair of binoculars to Gin Head to watch 150,000 gannets have a good time careening around Bass Rock (best seen from one of the […]


    Pingback by Pushing the Patch | davidsberry | March 20, 2013

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