THE WORK AT SRDE
SRDE was a government research and development establishment producing ground-breaking work on military communications from 1948 to 1980. Much of the technology invented here is being used today for world-wide communications. The picture on the left shows the Radomes (beehive structures) at Friars Cliff, where part of SRDE was based overlooking Christchurch beach. On the cliff tops at Friars Cliff there is a plaque dedicated to the pioneering work carried out at SRDE between 1948-1980. The plaque, pictured below, is situated where a radome used to stand. This is what it reads...
"From the early days of the Second World War through until 1980, this area was the trial ground for the Ministry of Defence Signals, Research and Development Establishment (SRDE) and the nearby concrete plinth was the foundation on which stood the first British military communication satellite station. On it was placed an aerial dish of 40 feet diameter which received and transmitted signals from the first launched British military satellite. It also tracked foreign satellites. Over the dish was a weatherproof covering called a RADOME (shaped like a beehive) and the whole structure became a landmark for mariners for miles around.
Two similar structures were subsequently built and installed in Cyprus and Singapore and formed the beginning of the world-wide defence communication network called Skynet.
In the early days of the Second World War this site also saw secret radar developments for the army and some twenty years later much of the early research on night vision was also done here. The Establishment was actively involved in the research into optical fibres for communication purposes – which have since produced profound benefits for world-wide telephone systems. SRDE finally moved to Malvern in Worcestershire in 1980 and joined forces with the Royal Radar Establishment."
This website will be continuously updated with personal recollections of engineers and scientists working at SRDE at both of its sites in Somerford and Steamer Point, as well as including technical information.
Friends of SRDE have collaborated with the Red House Museum and Gardens, Christchurch, Dorset, to carry out this project.