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Thor missile photos 1963.

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Thor missile photos 1963.

Old 13th Jun 2010, 19:10
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Thor missile photos 1963.

As I am new to the forum I'm not sure how many on here would be interested in Thor missiles.Anyway I was posted to RAF Feltwell in May 1960 after Bridgnorth and Kirton Lindsey.I was a Supplier and worked in the Supply and Movement Squadron.In 1963 the Thor bases - Feltwell,Hemswell,Driffield and North Luffenham plus their associated four satellites were being disbanded and I was seconded to a USAF Sergeant called Ernie Bish (rows of medals and stripes).Our job was to prepare all the documentation for shipment of equipment back to the States and I went all over the place with him - the bases mentioned above plus Lakenheath and Mildenhall.I even got to fly in a C-124 from Mildenhall to North Luffenham and back,the first time I had ever flown.I asked him if there was any chance of some photos "Leave it with me" he said.
These are the result and I think they were taken at either Hemswell or Scampton - Scampton was originally the airhead for the C-124s and C-133s coming in from the USA with the missiles but I always thought Hemswell was used when they were shipped out.

He told me that the only people who were a bit "iffy" about taking pictures were the Douglas Aircraft Corp personell.DAC were the main contractor.The 60 missiles were shipped back to Vandenburg AFB Cal. for launching satellites etc.The warheads were shipped seperately from either Lakenheath or Mildenhall.
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 06:40
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Manxterberg - very interesting and unusual. Thanks for sharing them.
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 08:47
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Once converted, the Thor did become a very useful part of the US Space Programme and because it was, even after being reworked, a cheap option, the availabilty of Thor caused the cancellation of (from memory) at least one launcher/upper stage programme!

I stand corrected on Thor Displays in the UK see later post

Last edited by Opssys; 16th Jun 2010 at 12:22. Reason: Removal of Incorrect UK Thor Display Location
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 08:48
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Those are truly unique, historical photos; thanks for posting them. For obvious reasons, the Thors were usually kept under deep security!
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 10:49
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Yes unique photos I would think.

My father was stationed at Feltwell between 1958 and 1961 and as a 13 year old I was able to cycle on the old taxyway past the three Thor silos. On somedays you would see one raised to on it's launcher but they were usually 'laying down'.
On a couple of occasions however I saw one arrive on it's massive transporter, with the accompanying police escort. Great fun getting those things around the roads in Norfolk.
I always believed that they came into Mildenhall and although I made regular 'plane spotting' visits there don't think I ever saw one being unloaded.

David Taylor.
modern aviation video and 60's archive photos at www.focalplanes.co.uk

Last edited by Postfade; 14th Jun 2010 at 20:37.
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 12:21
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Yes,Mildenhall was the airhead for Feltwell and it's four sites - Shepherds Grove,Tuddenham,Mepal and North Pickenham. I never saw one being off-loaded either as they were all in situ when I was posted to Feltwell in May 1960.I saw plenty being loaded for return to the USA and I also saw plenty on the local roads in Norfolk/Suffolk.
I can't remember where I got this photo from but USAF Studebakers were used to pull the missile trailers in the late 50s until RAF Leyland Hippos were used.

The total length was 90ft including the tractor unit and some site access roads had to be altered to accomodate the vehicles.The trailers had originally rigid rear bogies but were modified in the States into steering axles with two airmen on the back end in contact with the driver.
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 13:16
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59 armed/1(Feltwell) inert Douglas PGM-17C Thor arrived 19/9/58-1/4/60; RAF (HQ) 77 Sqdn formed 1 Sept.58. US launch control to 3/6/60, then RAF-manned/dual launch control. Sqdns. disbanded from 8/1/63, last operational stand-down 15 August,63; last to depart to US: 27/9/63. 4 complexes of 5 sites, each with a Sqdn. of 3 IRBMs.

Complex: Feltwell, HQ Sqdn: 77; Satellites and their Sqdns.: 82 Shepherd’s Grove; 107 Tuddenham; 113 Mepal; 220 N.Pickenham.

Hemswell, 97; 104 Ludford Magna; 106 Bardney; 142 Coleby Grange; 269 Caistor.

Driffield, 98; 150 Carnaby; 226 Catfoss; 240 Breighton; 102 Full Sutton.

N.Luffenham 144; 223 Folkingham; 130 Polebrook; 218 Harrington; 254 Melton Mowbray.

6 officers, 15 SNCOs, 18 NCO/ORs per Sqdn.: life at their sites resembled that advised for soldiers of antiquity: "Let them be constantly employed either in field days or in the inspection of their arms... They should be frequently called by roll and trained to be exact in the observance of every signal." H.Wynn,RAF Nuclear Deterrent Forces, HMSO,1994,P.344.
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 16:09
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I well remember coming out of Oakington one morning whilst trying to learn how to master the Vickers Varsity in early 1962.

As we went past Mepal, one of the three resident Thors was upright and (apparently) ready to go.

My instructor called Oakington ATC and said "Just for your interest, Mepal has an erection this morning"!

The Thor and the Bloodhound sites were wonderful night navigation aids. They both had brilliant yellow/orange sodium security lighting all around them and they stuck out like dog's boll*cks. I'm sure the Russians would have found this feature quite useful.
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 18:00
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Apparantly RAF aircrew looked down at the Thor and called them penguins-"All flap and no fly"
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 20:14
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Priceless humour,great !
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Old 14th Jun 2010, 21:39
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Why are there two black Humbers parked at the end of your road?

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Old 14th Jun 2010, 21:58
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One thing has always puzzled me about missiles. National markings on aircraft are to enable identification of friend or foe. If a missile is fired with "US Air Force" or RAF roundels on it, when it is coming down, who is going to be interested?
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Old 15th Jun 2010, 00:38
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The media.
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Old 15th Jun 2010, 04:27
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The Thor launch pads were made from a specially hard concrete. I once spoke to a chap who got a contract to demolish one. He couldn't! He reckoned they will still be around in ten thousand years.
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Old 15th Jun 2010, 17:42
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I too used to look at them erect while I was flying out of Barkston in 1961-2.

One day I found myself in an RAF Hospital (those were the days) in a bed next to a Thor site RAF engineer who talked to me about fuelling them and how you had to be careful as the fuel was a hypergolic mixture of unsymmetrical di-methyl hydrazine with red fuming nitric acid as the oxidant. His stories impressed the hell out of me so much that I can remember the details of the fuel to this very day.
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Old 15th Jun 2010, 18:00
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Anyone up for the Thor fuelling risk assessment?
Thought not.
Nice wee book on Thor and the RAF here: Project Emily: Thor IRBM and the RAF: Amazon.co.uk: John Boyes: Books
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Old 16th Jun 2010, 10:56
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Thor missiles

As author of 'Project Emily', (signed copies available) I am interested in the various posts to this thread, Small point: don't go to Hendon to see the Thor, it's not there any longer, it's part of the display in the Cold War Museum at Cosford - well worth a visit. There is some reason to believe that it is not in fact one of the RAF's IRBM but has been reconfigured to look like one (info from one of the Sqn COs) but I have not yet managed to research this fully. There is a second Thor as a launch vehicle at the National Space Museum at Leicester. Incidentally, I am writing a second 'Thor' book looking in greater detail at the UK/US aspects of the project. I am keen for any memories, however great or small, from those who were around at that time. So if anyone wants to help, please let me know.

Demolishing the launch pads: One at Feltwell was demolished as golf balls were ricocheting off the blast walls to the danger of fellow golfers. It took three months, so the other two have just had the walls removed and the rest covered up.

RAF roundels: Part of the reason was indeed to emphasise in the public eye and through the media that these were RAF missiles, not USAF ones. Politically this was a sensitive issue at the time. (And if you want to know why they didn't also initially carry yellow trainer bands as well during the work up phase then read my book)!
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Old 17th Jun 2010, 11:01
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One at Feltwell was demolished as golf balls were ricocheting off the blast walls to the danger of fellow golfers
I guess that's what you call a nuclear bunker.
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Old 18th Jun 2010, 18:13
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Possibly not entirely connected to the thread but perhaps the panel could tell me what this is? It was known as the "Blue Streak Cabin" when I first encountered it on site, it was used as a temporary control cabin on one of the experimental areas, I use it as a store for lifting gear, lubricants and general odds n sods.

What's written on the makers Plate.

Douglas Aircraft Co Inc Santa monica Calif USA.
Missile Launching Countdown Group Trailer Mounted
A/M24 A-1A.
part No 5681711.505
serial No 000076
date 02.2.62
Contract No AF04.647.114
WT 14240

Hat ,coat and out the trap door!

Last edited by Windy Militant; 18th Jun 2010 at 23:26.
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Old 18th Jun 2010, 20:09
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Remarkable pictures. Looks a very tight fit into the transport.

Thankyou for showing us.
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