BUILDING 124 (OPERATIONS BLOCK)
List Entry Summary
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
Name: BUILDING 124 (OPERATIONS BLOCK)
List entry Number: 1392055
BUILDING 124 (OPERATIONS BLOCK), MARNE BARRACKS
The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: North Yorkshire
District Type: District Authority
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first listed: 01-Dec-2005
Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.
Legacy System Information
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System: LBS
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Summary of Building
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Reasons for Designation
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This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 18/01/2016
CATTERICK, MARNE BARRACKS (FORMER RAF CATTERICK), Building 124 (Operations Block)
(Formerly listed as Building 24 (Operations Block))
Sector operations block. 1938, built to designs of J.H. Binge of Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings (drawing no. 5000/137). Reinforced concrete with Flemish bond brickwork cladding; thick-section concrete subroof slab supported by 20 large-scale rolled steel joists, with sand and shingle in the 4ft 6in space between this and the thin-section concrete upper roof, which is covered in asphalt. PLAN: Plotting room occupies major space in projecting taller block, other rooms including operations room, meteorological office, battery room, ventilating plant room, searchlight room, teleprinter room, traffic office and receiving room. EXTERIOR: the surrounding 9ft high reinforced concrete traverse wall has a maximum thickness of 17ft to its angled earth bank. Two angled entrances with shuttered concrete lining. Casements to N blocked in, and Cast-iron rainwater goods, and ladder stairs to roof . INTERIOR: original joinery including doors to message hatches, twin safes in Code Room, cast-iron furniture to timber doors, electrical face plates, and ducting and grilles to air filtration plant. Steel outer doors. Raised platform along one side of plotting room, providing a view of the centre of the room, where radio cross-bearings of Sector aircraft were translated into a map position and then passed to the operations room. Shuttered openings between operations room and wireless cabinets whose operators maintained contact with sector fighters and on demand switched the radio-telephone through to the controllers or his assistants. HISTORICAL NOTE: Operations blocks, for the executive control of aircraft within fighter sectors or bomber groups, first appeared in the mid 1920s. They assumed especial importance in the Second World War. In contrast to the hipped-roofed single-storey operations block of the 1920s, the new designs of 1936 (of which this and that at Debden in Essex - recommended at II* - are examples) were protected against bomb blast with a surrounding concrete wall and earth bank. This is the key operational building on this important site, relating to the complex infrastructure put in place for Fighter Command before 1940. The exterior was partly rebuilt to counter nuclear flash and fall out as a War Room in the 1950s.
Sector controllers working from these buildings retained executive authority over the aircraft they despatched until they returned to base. From September 1939 Catterick played a vital role in the defence of the north east and of convoys in the North Sea. During 11 Group's front-line role in the Battle of Britain, Catterick - which had played its part during the early stages of the battle - was used as a rest station for fighter squadrons returning from the south east. Catterick is the only fighter station in the north of England which retains fabric recommended for listing as a consequence of the thematic survey of military aviation sites and structures by English Heritage.
The operational infrastructure which was being put in place by Sir Hugh Dowding - in command of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain - from March 1936, which had its origins in his earlier position on the Air Council as Member for Research and Development. The infrastructure put in place by Dowding provided the key to the incisive and economic marshalling of fighter squadrons which guaranteed Fighter Command's survival in the Battle of Britain of 1940. The essence of this relationship of technology to command and control has become familiar to students of the Battle. It saw the system of Chain Home radar stations (the first five of which became operational in 1938, further to development work at Bawdsey) and Observor Corps posts linked by telephone and teleprinter to the Filter Room at Fighter Command Headquarters (Bentley Priory), where the plots were checked with those of adjacent stations before decisions concerning deployment and attack could be made. Operations rooms controlled the Groups into which Dowding had subdivided the country. Air Vice Marshall Keith Park commanded the deployment of squadrons within 11 Group, based at Uxbridge. Finally, within each Group, were those operations rooms on the principal sector airfields which controlled the fighter squadrons In his detailed description of the 11 Group operations bunker at Uxbridge, Churchill (1949: 293-7) wrote: 'All the ascendancy of the Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been fruitless but for this system of underground control centres and telegraph cables, which had been devised and built before the war under Dowding's advice and impulse', wrote Churchill. As a consequence of their historical importance, surviving examples of sector operations rooms within 11 Group (at Debden and Northolt) have been recommended for statutory protection, as well as the all-important Uxbridge bunker and two sector operations blocks on key stations in 12 and 13 Group to the north (Catterick and Duxford).
For further notes on Catterick, see description for Building 31 (Officers' Mess and Quarters)
PRO AIR 2/252; Bruce Barrymore Halpenny, Military Airfields of Yorkshire, Action Stations 4 (Wellingborough, 1982), pp. 45-53; Operations Record Books, PRO AIR 28/141; Churchill, W. The Second World War. Volume II: Their Finest Hour (London, 1949); Lake, J. and Schofield, J., 'Conservation and the Battle of Britain'. In The Burning Blue. A New History of the Battle of Britain, Addison, P. and Crang, J. (eds), 229-242 (London, 2000); Wood, D. and Dempster, D. The Narrow Margin (London, 1969)
Books and journals
Addison, P, Crang, J, The Burning Blue: A New History of the Battle of Britain, (2000), 229-242
Barrymore Halpenny, B, Action Stations 4: Military Airfields of Yorkshire, (1982), 45-53
Churchill, W, The Second World War, Volume 2: Their Finest Hour, (1949)
Wood, D, Dempster, D, The Narrow Margin, (1969)
'Operations Record Books' in PRO AIR 28/141, ()
National Grid Reference: SE 24432 97301
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