Secret base opens for Ray

A PENSIONER who helped to sink the German battleship Bismarck during the Second World War has been allowed to visit the top secret communications base at Irton Moor on the outskirts of Scarborough.

Ray Whittaker, 92, of Whin Bank, was given a special tour of the GCHQ Scarborough base where he had worked more than 50 years ago.

He visited the museum at the base and among the collection was a shortwave HRO receiver which was used to intercept general radio traffic.

It was the same type of equipment Mr Whittaker had himself used in the 1930s and 1940s.

"It was marvellous," said Mr Whittaker. "There was nothing like this when I was here, but the trip brought back a lot of memories."

Before the base at Irton Moor was opened there was a signals station in Sandybed Lane on what is now the site of St Augustine's School.

The Evening News reported earlier this year how while going on watch one day in 1941 Mr Whittaker had been told that a message had been received from Prime Minister Winston Churchill to thank them for helping to trace and sink the Bismarck.

Workers at the Sandybed station had picked up a 20-minute message to Berlin from the captain of the Bismarck.

The Sandybed station had been opened in 1914 and it tracked the ships which were used in the December 1914 bombardment of Scarborough.

A shell from one of the German ships landed near the station, but it is unlikely the base was being targeted.

The new Irton Moor station opened on March 1 1943, on the site of the old Scarborough racecourse.

The new buildings were replaced in 1974 with more modern facilities.

Ian Dent, officer in charge of GCHQ Scarborough, said: "When we saw Mr Whittaker's picture in the Evening News we were delighted to hear of his exploits during the war when the Bismarck was very much at the top of the British government's 'most wanted list'.

"Although we do not normally allow the general public to come insides the station I was only too happy to bring Mr Whittaker in and show him our museum.