Suffolk bid set for TV show final

IT may not be the most picturesque building in the country but the Bawdsey Transmitter Block has captured the imagination of the nation and reached the final of television series Restoration.

IT may not be the most picturesque building in the country but the Bawdsey Transmitter Block has captured the imagination of the nation and reached the final of television series Restoration.

The structure, which was integral to the production of radar and consequently played a pivotal role in the Second World War, was named the best runner-up in the BBC Two series after reaping in the public's votes.

It has joined the winners of the seven regional areas as the eighth finalist in the programme, which is dedicated to the rescue of the country's heritage, and the lines are now open for the ultimate national vote.

People have until Sunday night to register their support for the Bawdsey Transmitter Block and push it to the winning spot, securing its future with the funds raised during the series - including £2.5million set aside by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Mary Wain, chair of the Bawdsey Radar Group, which is behind the bid for the restoration of the block, said last night:"It's a reward for the hard work. We knew that it was a national or even international appeal and it was not just a local project. We knew from the start that our disadvantage would be that locally Suffolk is sparsely populated.

"Its popularity is not down to the building itself. I am sure that there are an awful lot of people out there whose lives it touched in some way or another, not just the wartime generation but their children and grandchildren who have a link to there.

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"My mother and father were both radar operators in the war. I knew about it but I did not appreciate the significance until quite recently."

The grade II* listed structure based in the grounds of Bawdsey Manor was the site of pioneering research on radar by a group of scientists, including the eminent physicist Professor Robert Watson-Watt, with the public only finding out about the secretive work at the station after the war.

The Victorian mansion was bought by the Government and, after trying to develop radio direction-finding technology into a device that could detect enemy aircraft from a great distance, radar was invented.

Bawdsey radar station became operational in 1936 and was the first in a chain of radar bases that surrounded the east of England, which were invaluable during the Battle of Britain.

As a target Bawdsey was bombed at least 12 times but thanks to its reinforced concrete structure it survived.

It was used as a RAF base through the Cold War until the 1990s, but operations were eventually ceased and the station was closed, with the last transmitter mast being dismantled in 2000.

The concrete is now crumbling and it is in desperate need of restoration.

Mrs Wain said the group would only need £250,000 to get the building into a fit state but more funding would be needed for their planned visitors' centre.

She added: "We have been working with no budget and not many people but bags of enthusiasm."

The East Anglian Daily Times joined forces with BBC Radio Suffolk to back the Bawdsey bid.

Presenter Griff Rhys Jones, who lives in Suffolk, and BBC Breakfast News presenter Natasha Kaplinsky will host the live Restoration final being broadcast tomorrow at 9pm.

All the finalists have started with no votes in the concluding national vote, and the number to vote for the Bawdsey Transmitter Block is 09011 322208. A minimum of 35p of every 50p call goes directly to the Restoration fund with lines closing at 10pm tomorrow.

n Today the Transmitter Block will be open from 11am to 4pm in an event run in conjunction with the BBC.

There will be exhibitions in the transmitter hall and Roger Thomas, military support officer for English Heritage, will be giving talks about the history of radar and Bawdsey at 12pm and 2pm. There will also be a barbecue run by the Woodbridge Air Cadets.

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