World War II air traffic control building 400m north west of Seckington Cross, on the former airfield of RAF Winkleigh


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020765

Date first listed: 03-Sep-2002


Ordnance survey map of World War II air traffic control building 400m north west of Seckington Cross, on the former airfield of RAF Winkleigh
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: Torridge (District Authority)

Parish: Winkleigh

National Grid Reference: SS 62454 09253


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Each airfield included a watch office, or control tower, from which air traffic control staff operated. Given its significant role in recording aircraft movements, it typically occupied a central strategic position on the flying field. There are some eighteen types of watch office, some reflecting evolving techniques and technology associated with reporting and observation, and some a combination of roles, for example, with the incorporation of a meteorological (`Met') office within the building. There are also differences between the types of watch office found on fighter and bomber stations, while some individual structures display evidence for their adaptation as the station's role evolved or changed. During the war years the watch office had one or two storeys: in the two storey examples, the bottom level housed the Met office, while air traffic control was confined to the upper level. At the start of World War II there were no air traffic control or operations (`Ops') staff working in the watch office, and only operational aircraft had radio. At this stage the duty pilot would log aircraft movements manually. It was only as the skies became busier that air traffic control and operations personnel were employed, and that radio became more widely used. Of the 500 or so examples originally built, some 220 watch offices survive, all of which constitute significant and symbolic structures. However, examples are considered to be of particular importance where they have an obvious and visual relationship with the flying field and other contemporary structures and buildings, such as hangars; where they survive as good examples of their type, perhaps with original fixtures; or where the station has operational significance, such as an association with the Battle of Britain.

The control tower at Winkleigh still stands to its full height close to a modern road. It is highly visible and serves as a graphic reminder of major conflicts in the mid-20th century. In addition, it stands in close proximity to the memorial to those who served at RAF Winkleigh, this memorial having been erected in 1995.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the air traffic control building which stands on a disused section of the former RAF Winkleigh. The control building was sited beyond the eastern end of the runways on an airfield which was sited on flat ground just to the north east of the village of Winkleigh and approximately midway between the two contemporary World War II airfields of Exeter and Chivenor. The airfield was originally planned in 1939 to be a satellite of Chivenor Coastal Command but work did not commence until 1940. In the event, the ground conditions at Winkleigh were found to be unsuitable due to poor drainage and construction work continued only intermittently with the responsibility for the station subsequently passing to Fighter Command and its parent unit at RAF Exeter. When visited by representatives from the Exeter base in 1941 the site was under several inches of water and much remedial work was required before the airfield was finally accepted by Fighter Command on 1st January 1943; the first RAF personnel arrived in February of that year. The control tower, by virtue of its design characteristics, was almost certainly constructed in early 1943 as it conforms closely to a specification which became standard from March 1943. An earlier control tower or watch office may have functioned previously but there is no record of this building or of any aircraft in place at the station before April 1943. The control tower comprises a two-storey building connected internally by a concrete staircase. It is slightly more rectangular than square in plan with ground dimensions of 11m by 9m and with a height of around 6m. The outer walls are constructed in brick and are about 0.4m thick; all exterior surfaces are rendered in cement. Situated on the ground floor of the building were the meteorological office, the duty pilot's rest room, the watch office, and the switch room; some of the original electrical trunking serving these rooms survives, as does some plasterwork. The exterior north wall of the building has a large opening with no direct access to the interior within which there are the remains of pipework and concrete floor mountings; this room may have housed a generator. The roof and first floor are constructed of slab concrete supported on hollow concrete beams. On the first floor were the signals office, the controller's rest room, and the control room; three apertures in the rear wall of the control room appear to be original and if so these would have allowed messages to be passed from the main control room into the signals room which was divided into three cubicles. A concrete observer's balcony is located on the exterior of the building at first floor level. This balcony runs the full length of the front of the control tower and overlooks the airfield runways to the west. The balcony also extends around the building for a few metres on either side where access from the first floor was possible from the doorways provided. The balcony is 1.5m wide and it would have been fronted by a tubular steel railing which does not survive. On the northern side of the building a steel stairway would have given access from the balcony to the roof but this has collapsed. The front of the control tower was provided with two large steel framed windows at first floor level and two smaller windows on the ground floor; these survive with very little if any of their original framing intact. The large windows at the front were supplemented by two large windows, one on either side of the building at first floor level, which were again matched by smaller windows on the ground floor. There are further small windows situated around all sides of the building. The main entrance was by a doorway at the rear of the building. Without a definite role to play the airfield was only employed for a small number of exercises until April 1944 when it was chosen to provide an operational base for the night fighters of 406 Squadron manned by the Royal Canadian Air Force, although it is believed to have been used secretly for Lysanders dropping Special Operations Executive agents into Western France. At the end of the war the airfield became a displaced persons camp and it was used for exercises in preparation for the invasion of Suez in 1956 before being sold off in 1958.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 33053

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
'Ace Archaeology Club' in Winkleigh Airfield, (1999)

End of official listing