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Nuclear missile launch site in Northamptonshire given listed status

RAF Harrington, one of two Cold War missile sites readied for use when the world came to the brink of nuclear war, has been given listed status.

RAF Harrington, one of two Cold War missile sites readied for use when the world came to the brink of nuclear war, has been given listed status.

 

A Cold War missile site in Northamptonshire readied for use when the world came to the brink of nuclear war has been given listed status.

The site at the former RAF Harrington base, between Kelmarsh and Kettering, has been listed at Grade II as a reminder of the “knife-edge moment in history” the world faced during the Cuban missile crisis.

The site at the former RAF North Luffenham base in Rutland has also been given a Grade II listing,

The two sites are the most intact examples of Thor missile bases in England, with concrete launch pads and blast walls still remaining, along with mounting bolts for the platforms that would raise the missiles into a vertical firing position.

The Government made the announcement that the sites were being protected on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, which saw the two bases put on alert and their Thor missiles readied for a possible launch on the Soviet Union.

The listing comes on the advice of English Heritage and is part of an ongoing project to ensure the best Cold War structures are preserved.

A total of 60 Thor missiles, developed by the US, were deployed at 20 sites in the east of England from 1958 under the codename Project Emily.

They were manned by the RAF, but their warheads remained under US control, and the decision to launch them would have been made jointly by the two countries.

Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “The remains of the Cold War are fading from view faster than those of the world wars.

“Our Cold War heritage is a complicated and not always easily loved collection of concrete bunkers and silos. But they are the castles and forts of the second half of the 20th century and we want to ensure that the best examples survive.

“These two missile sites are among the few physical reminders in this country of the Cuban missile crisis. They deserve to be protected to remind present and future generations of this knife-edge moment in history.”

The crisis, in October 1962, saw the Soviet Union and the US on the brink of nuclear conflict after the Soviets sited armed nuclear weapons in Cuba.

A deal was struck in which the Soviets would remove the weapons and America would not invade Cuba.

The above picture, from the Chron’s archives, shows CND protestors outside the Harrington site before the launch pads were installed.

 

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