MEMBERS from the Skipton Branch of the Royal British Legion were fortunate enough to be invited on a tour of the communications and intelligence station at RAF Menwith Hill, known to those familiar with travel along the A59 road to Harrogate as 'the golf balls'.

RBL branch member Keith Wright said: "The tour commenced with a very in depth briefing from the Station Commander, Squadron Leader Antony Beasent who explained the history, purpose and infrastructure of the station.

"The real estate is owned and fully controlled by the His Majesty’s Government (contrary to some media speculation) with the United States Department of Defense being allowed to operate the requirements of the facility by agreement dating back several decades.

"Apart from the station’s prime purpose of operational communication and intelligence gathering it was most interesting to be informed of the social and environmental support given to the local community by the station staff, both British and American. For example, the in-house Station Fire Service responds to emergencies in the same manner as a conventional Regional Fire Station. Environmentally, the protection and sustainment of local wildlife and fauna is worked on proactively by the station.

"When asked why the station was originally sited at Menwith Hill we were told that apart from being well sited to communicate with the extensive satellite network that circles the earth the area is sitting upon a very dense water table which is extremely beneficial for the communication activities.

"After the brief we were taken into one of the iconic ‘golf ball’ communication dish sites for a guided tour by Preston, one of the American communication dish operators. This included a long climb of some 70 feet to the summit of an open stairway which was slightly daunting. Preston went into some considerable depth in explaining how the various systems worked and were backed up in case of any malfunction.

"It was good to hear from Preston that he: ‘loved being in the United Kingdom and specifically the Yorkshire Dales area.’ I think we all learnt quite a bit and would like to convey our thanks to all those who helped make the visit so enjoyable and enlightening, in particular Angela Marquis without whom the visit would not have been possible."

The Skipton branch of the RBL usually meets on the first Friday of every month, in The Three Links Club, in Skipton. For more details please e-mail:

The group also has a growing following on Facebook at: