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RAF Base Is Most Secretive Place In The UK As No One Knows What Happens There

Daisy Phillipson

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RAF Base Is Most Secretive Place In The UK As No One Knows What Happens There

Featured Image Credit: A.P.S Alamy

You’d think in a country as small as the UK, it would be pretty difficult to keep any major military operations under wraps - especially if they’d been running for decades. 

However, nestled in the countryside is a secret RAF base and to this day no one other than the people involved truly know what happens there. 

RAF Menwith Hill features distinctive white domes that look like golf balls. Credit: Creative Commons
RAF Menwith Hill features distinctive white domes that look like golf balls. Credit: Creative Commons

You may have driven past RAF Menwith Hill at some point in your life.

It’s hard to miss thanks to its massive white domes - nicknamed ‘golf balls’ for obvious reasons - which are used to shield and protect important radar equipment.

But what is the Yorkshire facility actually for? Little is known about the exact details of its daily operations.

However, previous planning documents submitted to Harrogate Borough Council claimed the site was set up to offer ‘communication intercept and intelligence support’ services to the UK and the US

Menwith Hill first started in 1954 when the British War Office purchased 246 acres of land at Nessfield Farm near Harrogate, which was later increased to 562 acres. 

Access to the land was given to the US Department of Defense (DoD) under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement 1951, providing a key centre for monitoring and intercepting the world’s communications including countries in Europe. 

Construction of the station kicked off in 1956, and today it is considered to be the largest electronic monitoring station in the world, majoritively used by the US National Security Agency (NSA). 

Access to the land was given to the US DoD. Credit: Creative Commons
Access to the land was given to the US DoD. Credit: Creative Commons

Although many suggest that the site was set up primarily as a spy hub during the Cold War, the Soviet Union is no more. Which begs the question - what is it being used for today? 

Although demolition work took place there in 2019, it remains a significant base for the US and the UK.

According to Yorkshire Live, there were even reports of America investing a whopping $40 million on expanding Menwith Hill’s surveillance capabilities. 

Aside from the distinctive radomes, there is also an operations building said to be the size of a football pitch as well as a huge auditorium for briefings. 

The outlet went on to state that up until 2015 there were schools for the children of those who work there to attend, as well as a pool hall, bar, restaurant and shop, as well as a bowling alley and run track. 

While this all sounds pleasant enough, the military base has sparked controversy over the years, with peace campaigners demanding to know what goes on behind its doors. 

The Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign (MHAC) was even set up to bring public awareness and scrutiny to the issue of the presence and roles of the US visiting forces and their agencies at the site. 

Their website states: “MHAC recognises a significant risk to the Yorkshire and wider UK population from the United States surveillance activity at Menwith Hill because it makes a significant military target.”

Whether or not the secrets of Menwith Hill will be brought to light in the near future is yet to be seen, but for now it’s staying put as the most mysterious landmark in the UK. 

Topics: US News, UK News, Army

Daisy Phillipson
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