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East Pitcorthie Direction Finding Control Rooms

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World War II DF control, 2009
World War II DF control rooms
© James Allan

East Pitcorthie direction finding control rooms were installed in two Nissen huts near East Pitcorthie, Fife, now used as farm sheds.

Story accompanying the Nissan hut photographs:

These have quite a distinguished history. They were erected during WW2 by Naval Intelligence and were the control centre for a group of five secret direction finding wireless stations in the surrounding fields. The task of the naval signals officers and WRENS in these huts was to obtain accurate “fixes” on U-boats and enemy surface vessels from their radio transmissions. There were two similar d/f installations stations, one near Dunmow in Essex and another at Goonhavern in Cornwall. When a transmission was detected, all three groups were alerted and they provided bearings which pinpointed the location of the source of the transmission. (There were many other secret listening and d/f stations around the UK but only at these three sites were groups of five stations used for maximum accuracy.) The Nissen huts in the photograph were manned 24 hours a day. The naval staff co-ordinated the incoming requests and fed back the results to their central command using teleprinters over secure telephone lines. There is still an identical pair of Nissen control huts near Dunmow and traces of the d/f stations are still visible in the fields around Goonhavern.

Since this description was written a fourth DF group has been identified at Bowermadden. It operated on the same basis as the East Pitcoththie stations. Further groups of 5 DF stations were added around the same time (1944) in Iceland, Nova Scotia and Jamaica. The principle involved was that a mean bearing was taken from each group to produce higher accuracy. Unfortunately the anticipated improvements were not realised and it was some time before more sophisticated treatment of the data produced improvements. Ford End and Goonhavern continued to be operational until around 1973 under the composite signals organisation (GCHQ).

World War II DF control rooms, 2009
World War II DF control
© James Allan


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