For most villages in Essex the most easily visible sight is that of the church spire – not Great Baddow. For miles all around the first sight of Baddow is its tower. But, what is it?
The Great Baddow Tower / Mast is the remains of Britain’s early warning defence network from WW2. A series of masts formed a line along the British coast in what was called the “Chain Home” and these detected enemy air craft as they approached across the North Sea and English Channel.
This is the only complete radar tower left, there are four other partial ones in the UK. It was moved to Great Baddow in 1954 and used by the Marconi Company to further develop radar.
The tower is 110 metres tall (360 feet) and consists of six cantilevered platforms with observation platforms.
The Marconi Research Centre, now BAE Systems, was opened in 1939, just in time for WWII.
Radars prevented German air victory
If it was not for the chain home towers the RAF would probably not have been able to effective repel the German forces. At the time radar was unknown outside of the UK and the Germans believed that our air force was immense as we were able to consistently meet attacking aircraft over the North Sea and English Channel.
However, the reality was that the British air force was rapidly being destroyed as we were far inferior in numbers than the Germans. Fortunately the German command decided to abandon an air invasion of the UK. In short, these towers helped to stop a German victory (note, I am recalling something I read or saw on the tele years ago, facts have not been checked). See the Wikipedia page Radar in World War II for more on this.
The mast is directly opposite Great Baddow Lawn Cemetery, which is where it is best viewed from.
It is not shown on Google Maps, but is one the grey patch to the east of the cemetery.
The Great Baddow Mast (pdf) by Chelmsford City Council.
Wartime radar system anniversary marked at Great Baddow (News item from 8 March 2010)