Britain’s first Cold War Nuclear Attack Warning Station at Jodrell Bank (327)

Cold War Conversations


The Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire in the UK played a significant secret role during the Cold War. It was established in 1945 by Bernard Lovell, a radio astronomer at the university, to investigate cosmic rays after his work on radar in the Second World War.

We hear some intriguing details of the site’s Cold War roles including being Britain’s first nuclear attack early warning station and its signals intelligence collaboration with GCHQ, the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters.

Even more surprisingly it’s also revealed how Soviet Scientists also worked at the site and that the Soviets attempted to get Bernard Lovell to defect during a visit to the Soviet Union.

I’m given a tour of the non-public areas by Tim O’Brien who is a Professor of Astrophysics.

Do make sure you check out the extensive photos I took at https://coldwarconversations.com/episode327/

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0:00 Introduction to the podcast

1:00 Jodrell Bank Observatory’s role in the Cold War and its establishment

10:08 The birth and evolution of radio astronomy

15:50 The construction and purpose of the world’s biggest radio telescope

32:46 The telescope’s role during the Cuban missile crisis and its implications

51:05 The mission of GCHQ at Jodrell Bank and intercepting signals from the Soviet Union

1:04:21 Touring the secret tunnel and discussing its potential uses

1:14:51 Recounting the Soviet Luna 15 mission during the American moon landing and the role of Jodrell Bank

1:29:18 Episode extras and thanking financial supporters

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