Mystery installation, North Africa?

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Pember, Sep 27, 2020.

  1. Pember

    Pember Junior Member

    Can anyone help to identify what kind of installation this was? The photo belonged to someone who evidently served in Libya during WW2.


    I assume that it was something to do with radio communication, given the masts. I realise that it may possibly not fall under the 'Top Secret' banner, as perhaps Army signals set-up, but am hoping that those 'in the know' regarding communication and signals shall be able to help.

    Any insights welcome!
  2. Blutto

    Blutto Banned

    I'd suggest an HF base station, possibly with some form of directional 'curtain array' aerial system.
  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Could it be Italian? - a number were captured intact in 1941
  4. Pember

    Pember Junior Member

    Herewith a clearer picture...

  5. 8RB

    8RB Well-Known Member

    Lybia... oil?
  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The first successful well in Libya was not brought in until 1955. There had been some desultory prospecting from 1935 but this had stopped in 1940 with no finds.
    8RB likes this.
  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Examining the second photo there are signs this was a permanent base: bottom right a line of Y fence posts, so probably with a wire fence topped with barbed wire; beside the building with windows (?) there appears to a twin-engine aircraft and on the left is the tail of aircraft.
  8. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    I wonder if it is the aerial array for an AMES Type 4 (Chain Overseas) radar station, or at least the receiving part of it. Unfortunately I can't find any photos to confim that but they were installed all around the world as the war went on. These, along with other radar types employed, were often described as Mobile Radio Units or Transportable Radio Units.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
    Pember likes this.
  9. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The Italian radio stations were often co-located with air bases, hence my previous question.
  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Radio station masts could follow the same construction pattern, that caveat aside below is an Italian radio mast abandoned on Leros, Greece (it was an Italian island 1912-1943 and returned to Greece by the UK in 1948).


    Below is a Chain Home photo, the receiving towers are wooden.


    From: Chain Home - Wikipedia

    I note the original photo in Post 4 indicates a building in the middle of the four towers. Would Chain Home stations have a barbed wire fence, I think so.
    Looking at another photo of Chain Home wooden masts they have a double X structure at the base, so might be excluded?
    See photo on this (scroll down): A History of RAF Saxa Vord: A History of RAF Skaw (AMES No. 56) - Part 4 - CH Transmitters and Receivers
    Pember likes this.
  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Libya was an Italian colony before the war and as David, #10,has stated the towers look like radio masts which I would associate with a permanent airfield.It points to it being a captured Italian airfield or El Adem a British laid down airfield

    From there I would say the towers are part of the ground to air wireless system which at the time would be on HF for aircraft operating out of the area. There was a similar tower on the site of the former Great War airfield at Kirton Lindsey (north of the village) for the Second World War airfield south of the village.It was dismantled about 10 years or so after RAF Kirton Lindsey was rundown after its transfer back to the RAF from the Army who were residents for a considerable time at Kirton

    (Postwar,RAF No 1 Group had a similar VHF transmitter site at Normanby just off the A15 to provide aircraft communication services for RAF Hemswell and RAF Scampton.It had its own dedicated 11kv supply for the site and was manned by Hemswell technicians ....wireless fitters and mechanics, numbering about 12 who were permanently based there on shifts with accommodation on site drawing their pay and rations from their parent unit at Hemswell. Sold off a few years ago,the field is arable but must have the best security for an arable field having retained its RAF security fence.)

    In Libya the principal permanent airfield laid by the Italians prewar as a hub for its African colonies was Castel Benito (Idris to celebrate King Idris from 1951) It was captured by the British in 1943 and used by the RAF. Post war the airfield was used as a staging post in the 1950s for the ME and FE until 1970 when the British presence ceased on the Gaddafi revolution.In 1945 the USAF occupied Mellaha airfield which was another main Italian Air Force airfield. It was then renamed Wheelus Field (after a USAAF aircrew officer) and was in use until 1970 when the Americans as the British had to leave Libya.

    Another contender could be El Adem which was laid down by the RAF in late 1942 and in use until 1970.Apparently the Libyans used it as a military airfield during Gaddafi's rule.

    As regards the location of the airfield it would probably be one of these airfields that were converted into permanent's a question of recognising the geophysical features of airfield particularity the high ground in the back drop to identify the location of the airfield.
    Pember and Osborne2 like this.
  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The Italians had an advantage over the RAF in that more of their airfields were all weather (ie had concrete runways). In general they were much more permanent establishments in terms of buildings and fixed facilities (workshops etc). This advantage turned into a problem during the British advance in 1941 as the Italians were unable to evacuate material and personnel quickly resulting in much being captured and giving the Regina Aeronautica long term support problems. Radio stations were often co located at the airfields as it was easier to include them in the guarded perimeter.
    The Italians had increased the use of radio as a communications media in the colony during the 30s in part because the physical infrastructure for wire or cable based networks was lacking and in any case subject to predation by dissident locals particularly in Cyrenaica. Radio stations would need significant security even before the war
    The Italians initially had no radar and the first set was introduced into Libya to support the Luftwaffe. Indeed it has been pointed out that nobody in the RA had even heard of radar until Luftwaffe liaison officers informed them in 1940 so that training up Italian operators would take some time.
    British radar stations in 1940/41 were limited in theatre to Malta, Alexandria, Aden and a short lived one on Crete
    Pember and Osborne2 like this.

Share This Page