View Full Version : Blue Streak Silo Discovered?

Windy Militant
29th Sep 2006, 12:30
In the news recently I came across a brief report of a Large Hole being dicovered at Spadeadam during a forestry clearance. The report mentions that this large hole was an excavation for a Blue Streak Silo. They then go on to mention that it was so secret that no documentation refering to said hole exists. What occurs to me is how did they reach the conclusion that said hole is in fact anything other than, well a hole. Was there a sign there saying TOP SECRET Blue Streak Silo coming here soon!
Anybody able to shed some more light on this story as all the reports I've found so far appear to be Cut n Paste's of the original.

29th Sep 2006, 12:51
A coupla links a friend sent me which may be useful... don't know if you've already found them... ;)




Conan the Librarian
29th Sep 2006, 13:48
Try this link. Very good site too.



Windy Militant
29th Sep 2006, 18:48
Thanks Chaps, Already seen those, and I've also read the excellent 'Vertical Empire' by Nicholas Hill.
I'm aware of the Test Stands At Greymare Hills And Priorlancy Rigg. Apparently this is something which has only recently been rediscovered. English Heritage are trying to 'Interpret' this find.
I knew that a start had been made on building a test Silo at Woomera, but that was just a boiler plate for launch testing as all the services were to be above ground. I'm Wondering what they were going to do at Spadeadam? Was it to be a complete prototye of the operational versions or just for test firing?

Conan the Librarian
29th Sep 2006, 19:01
Think it was to be a test item for the operational silo. i am sure that I have read about a BS silo up there that was under construction when BS got the chop.


30th Sep 2006, 09:28
Hmmmm - you'd have thought that if it was so ultra-dultra secret they'd have at least filled the hole in ! I mean, how much can that cost ? :rolleyes:

2nd Oct 2006, 15:50
The story is a little more complicated. Thank you for the mention of 'A Vertical Empire' [I speak as the author!].

We also run an annual conference, and one of our regular attendees is a chap from English Heritage, very much into Cold War archaeology [he is the co-author of a very impressive book on the Cold War sites in the UK]. He discovered the remains of what appears to be a Blue Streak silo, but it would not have been an operational site. To save money, this, like its counterpart at Woomera, would be constructed in the side of a hill - in other words, you wouldn't have to dig a hole in the ground. He has published his findings in the third issue of our journal, Prospero [plug!].

One of the purposes of Spadeadam was to static test the missiles. It is likely that the silo there would have been used for training purposes - in other words, it would be fitted out as if it were operational, but not actually used as such.

By the time of cancellation, no sites had been selected, despite some years of investigation. The water table was a problem at Duxford, which was the first choice for building a silo.

I came across a couple of files in the PRO which I really ought to put onto the site: these were the designs for the silo lid. Two firms drew up designs: the lid was to be 400 tons weight and move back on rails. Although the site was supposed to be proof against a one megaton blast half a mile away, I can't help wondering whether the rails might have buckled in the blast, thus jamming the lid, and rendering the silo useless!

Nicholas Hill

2nd Oct 2006, 20:57
Spadeadam = Pennines = limestone = potholes.
Try Westcott if you want to see a genuine Bluestreak test rig

3rd Oct 2006, 16:48
I think Westcott was only used to test the RZ1 motor on the P1 teststand. After that, engine testing and development moved to Spadeadam. The tank was built at Hatfield.

Windy Militant
4th Oct 2006, 22:36
Thanks Nicholas,
I'll have to have a dig about but I seem to recall reading somewhere That RAF Upavon had been selected for the first operational K11 Site. There's also apparently a model of the SILO design at the Science Museum at Wroughton, which I've not seen on any of the tours I've made over the years.

I've also remembered that one of my Mothers neighbours was an engineer with BOC before he retired. Once while sampling his home brew he mentioned to me that he was involved with the removal of the LOX plant at Spadeadam or rather he was in charge of the site it was being moved to. However he did make a site visit to check on some details. Apparently coincidental to his visit there was a team of American engineers removing components from the test stands and crating them up for shipment to the USA. He apparently remarked to one of the British engineers that this was a bit strange as all the comments in the press seemed to be that the project was a flop and not really worth the effort. The reply was along the lines of that was the official line, but they (at this he made a gesture with his thumb over his shoulder towards the pile of crates) knew better.
I should have listened more and drunk less I reckon. :\

5th Oct 2006, 21:17
That's right - Upavon was to have been the first site, and they were getting ready to do the digging just when the report that killed Blue Streak as a military weapon was being written.

The Wroughton silo model is of an early design - 'lift and fire', as opposed to 'fire in the hole.

If you look at the Titan II, its design is based on the Blue Streak design. Barrie Ricketson, who was effectively responsible for the design, went over to the States in January 1960. You'll notice, for example, that in both cases the tube is octagonal cross section.

Blue Streak was a technical success, but it would have been outdated as a deterrent by the late 60s, which is when it would have been coming into service. The silos would have cost a fortune, and there was nowhere to put them. The other fear was a political one - a premature launch, because we think the UK is being attacked, and so we fire off to prevent the silos being taken out. Aircraft can be recalled.

It's also interesting that what we wanted as a replacement was Skybolt, which would go on the V bombers. A lot of money had already been spent on them. I think there was also a cultural perspective: we were happy with bombers as a result of the wartime experience, whereas I don;t think the politicians and civil servants cared for missiles, which somehow seemed rather alien.

6th Oct 2006, 14:21
Its a fascinating topic. Interesting that the ICBM silo goes onto that list of great British inventions that we never made any use of ourselves.

I enjoyed the English Heritige book (It is on Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cold-War-Building-Nuclear-Confrontation/dp/1873592817/sr=8-1/qid=1160144117/ref=sr_1_1/026-8289612-5635651?ie=UTF8&s=books))

As we are on the topic any suggestions for similar reads. I have a look at the subterranea britannica website every so often. http://www.subbrit.org.uk/

Windy Militant
7th Oct 2006, 17:18
Even more interesting stuff.
CNH where was the model when you saw it? Was it in D3 or D4 which are the hangers I've been into and are generally open to the public at events. Did you make a specific request to view it?

Daysleeper Another good read is ' De Havilland Blue Streak' by Charles H Martin. Its published by the Briish Interplanetary Society so I'm not sure it would be available on the South american river site.

Having grown up nearby, and then spent my apprenticeship at The RAE Range at Aberporth I've always been fascinated by Missiles of all sorts. However it's only when I came across the Space Uk Site that I've found any useful information about Blue Streak. Until then apart from a feature with a few pictures in my 'Peter Fairly TV Times Space Annual 1973' most articles that I came across in the press were inaccurate and dismissive of the project.

8th Oct 2006, 15:18
CNH: Upavon...or Duxford, remind me. Was DX only to be shakedown site, convenient for Stevenage? Your book speaks of geology, E & W of Pennines.

8th Oct 2006, 21:16
The problem they found at Duxford was that the watertable was too high [the hole would be very deep!]. I think Duxford was on the list because it was an active RAF station. The silo would not have taken up that much space, and rather than requisition land, I think they thought it easier to use existing MoD land - and preferably an RAF station, as the silo would have manned by RAF personnel.

However, I think a lot of it was still up in the air at the time of cancellation. Although the cancellation was not announced until April 1960, the silo concept was dead by December 1959.