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RAF Danby Beacon

RAF Danby Beacon was built in 1937 and provided long range early warning for raids approaching the north midlands and the industrial cities of the north of England during the Second World War and the years of the Cold War.

In 1940 the station was responsible for guiding Flight Lieutenant Peter Townsend when he intercepted and shot down the first enemy aircraft to fall on English soil since World War One.

The site closed in 1957.

A group of former personnel – determined that their time at the station and their memories of their special Danby ‘family’ wouldn’t be forgotten – donated a file of photographs and mementos to the North York Moors National Park Authority.

A personal memory

Sue Richmond’s father, Corporal Jim Richmond, served as a military policeman at RAF Danby Beacon. She explained:

Eric Hampson initially contacted my family in 2010, hoping to capture some of Dad’s memories from his time spent at the Beacon. We informed Eric that, sadly, Dad had passed away in 2006, but that I would be glad to pass on the little knowledge I had.

While collating photos to forward to Eric, I realised that Dad had also been in correspondence with Freddie Smith, exchanging pictures and information. I was intrigued to see where Dad had served, and I was delighted to be invited to the tribute ceremony, where the veterans gathered and the modern Danby Beacon torch was lit. This was also marked by an RAF fly past.

My father, Corporal Jim Richmond, was originally conscripted to work down the coal mines as a Bevin Boy. He was happy to do this as he believed he would be close at hand to care for his sick mother, who had already lost two sons serving in the RAF. While working at a mine in Wakefield, Dad was under pressure to sign up for extra years down the pit. This prompted him to seek his mum’s blessing to do his National Service with one of the armed forces, wherever this might take him.

In 1950, at the age of 18, Dad underwent training at the Royal Air Force camp in West Kirby, near Liverpool. From there he was posted to Danby Beacon. When he first arrived, the camp was being reinstated and the military digs were uninhabitable, so he stayed in the nearby village of Castleton, lodging at the Station Master’s detached house with a Mr and Mrs Harry Mead. The Mead family was very hospitable – Mrs Mead was an excellent cook and the rural family home, with its lawned garden and fantastic views, was quite a contrast with Dad’s humble terraced house in Bradford.

Dad spoke fondly of his time at the camp; about how the Military Police were given the nickname ‘Snowdrops’, from the white cover on their caps; and about his ventures to the top of the radar towers, some 350ft high.

Dig deeper

For a taste of life at RAF Danby Beacon in the 1940s and 1950s, view these wonderful photographs, kindly donated by former personnel at the station (pdf).