Cold War Memories – Bomber Box

Recollections from Headquarters 1 Group RAF Bawtry Hall, RAF Finningley and the Bomber Box.

Although I worked for the General Post Office (GPO) or BT as it became, most of my working life was spent on attachment to the RAF, working at HQ 1 Group RAF Bawtry, RAF Finningley, RAF Lindholm and RAF Northern Radar. Part of my work involved maintaining the “Bomber Box” as we called it; I think the RAF knew it as “Telescramble”.

The ‘Telescramble’ connection with the two pin connection socket in the middle.

This system comprised of two ring circuits. One started at Strike Command HQ at RAF High Wycombe and went all the way round the country to 1Gp HQ RAF Bawtry Hall and finished up back at Strike, the other circuit Started At RAF Bawtry and likewise all around the country to Strike and back to Bawtry. The two rings were collectively known as PW (Private Wire) 7892.

Each Bomber station in the UK had two feeds into it, one from the Bawtry loop and one from Strike loop. These feeds were monitored by a carrier tone and if one of the circuits failed it automatically changed over to the other loop, also either Strike or Bawtry operations could take over as Bomber Controller. My two feeds at Finningley were PW 7892/28 and PW 7892/128.

The ‘Bomber Box’ system at Finningley was distributed to control boxes in Station Ops, COC (Combined Operations Centre) Ops, ATC and the four Vulcan dispersal Ops situated around the airfield. There was a feed from control boxes at these dispersal Ops, out onto the associated pans via “Goosenecks”; rubber connectors situated on the grass between the pans. The “V” bombers were connected via a flexible cable plugged into the underside rear of the aircraft (See picture, middle plug), which then put the aircraft online into the system. Any broadcast from Strike Command or Bawtry came directly to the pilot and crew via their headsets; the local Ops could speak forwards to the aircraft on their dispersal pans but not back into the system. In this way aircraft could be brought to readiness.

Vulcans on their stands at RAF Finningley in 1964.

At the side of the threshold of runway 20 at Finningley was the ORP; Operational Readiness Platform. This is where up to four aircraft were parked ready to take off. The aircraft were also plugged into the “Bomber Box” system but the lead connecting the line to the aircraft was tethered to the ground by a chain, and when the spine chilling command “Finningley Vulcans scramble, scramble, scramble” came over the system to the crews headsets, the aircraft throttled up and one at a time they taxied directly on to the runway to depart to their designated targets with a body shaking roar. As they did so, the connection unplugged from the aircraft and dropped to the ground. The crew of the aircraft departed Finningley not knowing whether they would ever return; or if they did what would be awaiting them. This of course, took place at all the “V” bomber airfields around the country.

Should the system go out of action nationally due to enemy action, the bomber controllers at Bawtry or Strike Ops could talk to the individual station Ops by radio and then the relevant Station Ops could scramble their aircraft.

This maintenance of the “Bomber Box” and other equipment on the RAF stations I looked after was my small contribution to keeping the peace during the latter part of the “Cold War”.

Derek Frost GPO/BT engineer retired.

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