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Burifa Hill Gee Station

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Gun emplacement with station building to rear, 2007
Gun emplacement with
station building to rear
© David Glass

Bufira Hill Gee station was a World War II radio navigation station located near the summit of Bufira Hill, 374 feet, on the peninsula of Dunnet Head, Caithness, on the extreme north coast of Scotland. The site lies adjacent to Easter Head, the most northerly point of mainland Great Britain (not the more popularly quoted John o'Groats).

Dunnet Head Radar Station lay on the headland less than a mile to the north.

Gee and LORAN

The installation was constructed as a master ground station for a Gee, AMES (Air Ministry Experimental Station) Type 7000, radio navigation system as used by Bomber Command during World War II, which allowed bomber crews to navigate at night across the blacked out countries of Europe in order to reach their targets in Germany. Gee was a codename rather than an acronym, and inspired by the virtual grid created by the interaction of the transmitted signals, and was later interchanged with Jay in messages to confuse German intelligence. A master station broadcast a series of reference pulses, while synchronised slave stations would broadcast similar pulses, delayed by a few milliseconds. By analysing the difference in the arrival time of these various pulses, the navigator could determine the position of the aircraft

Slave stations for Burifa were located at:

  • Scousburgh, Shetland Islands
  • Windyhead Hill, Pennan, Aberdeenshire
  • Sango, Durness, Sutherland

The station was later updated with a LORAN, AMES 700, system, a later development of Gee developed by the Americans, which extended the operational range of the system, and was favoured by the United States Navy and the Royal Navy, although the RAF also used the system when missions exceeded the operating range of Gee.

Station

Sewge plant, 2007
Sewage plant
© david glass

Burifa Hill was the master station for the Northern Gee Chain, which had been operational from late 1942 until March 1946, and was one of a number of such stations established around the country in order to provide navigation across occupied Europe. The northern chain took part in hundreds of operation while it was active, and aided minelaying operations in the North Sea and Baltic Sea during September and October 1943. The chain was described as having given "very exceptional performance" on the night of September 3, 1943, when its signals were used by Bomber Command to guide a flight of 316 Avro Lancasters in a raid on Berlin, 620 miles from Burifa Hill, more than double the normal range for Gee reception and a remarkable achievement for the navigators.[1]

The site was visible on RAF photographs taken in 1946, which showed the masts, huts,and engine rooms on the hilltop, with an accommodation camp with Nissen huts at the bottom of the hill. Equipment on the site was housed in Nissen huts enclosed within protective blast walls, and each block of huts was equipped with a light machine gun position. The site was extensive, and the remains still cover a large area extending southwest from the summit of Burifa Hill, and contains a number of hut bases, brick and concrete buildings, and groups of mast bases.

Clearly visible are the remains of the two transmitter blocks and the two receiver blocks, each with an adjacent set of four concrete plinths which would have supported the masts on which the antenna were mounted. The construction of the equipment blocks is described as a set of enclosing walls within which a Nissen hut would have been installed on a concrete base.

The main engine room lies to the west, and the roofless structure contains a number of concrete bases where the motor-generator sets would have been mounted. Along the road to the east of the engine room lies a tight group of hut bases described as containing accommodation, boiler house, incinerator and fuel compound. Presumably this served personnel personnel who were on active duty, as another camp is described just outside the station compound, on the public road to the southeast. The site also had its own small water and sewage treatment plant.

Military camp

Located at the start of the track which leads to the station was a military camp which straddled the B855 road leading to the lighthouse on the point. The camp contained accommodation for RAF and WAAF officers, sergeants and other ranks, dining rooms, and latrines. To the southwest was a fuel store, and to the northeast a pump house for the water supply. All remains of this camp are described as being heavily overgrown.

References

1 Burifa Hill Gee station

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-


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