Just because everybody knows, doesn’t mean it’s not a secret


My friend Nick – whose unsolicited testimonial to this site (“Love the blog; not sure about the message, in fact I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post, ‘opposition is true friendship'”) I am tempted to put on the sidebar, Pontifications style 🙂 – left a comment that linked to a CND site about the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System at USAF “RAF” Fylingdales in North Yorkshire.

The old “golf balls” (LHS of above photo), now demolished, were a very familiar sight from my childhood: we used to go on holiday regularly to Whitby, and the road to Whitby runs right past the Fylingdales base. I haven’t been up that way since the golf balls were replaced by the new pyramid-style structure that can be seen at the right-hand side of the above photograph (conspiracy theorists will note the resemblance to the pyramid depicted on the US dollar bill…)

Anyway, while I confess to having not read the linked site too attentively, I was interested to see a link to an aerial photograph of Fylingdales here. It’s quite instructive to look at that aerial photograph (or this close-up; sadly Google Maps doesn’t pick this area up at any decent resolution) and then compare it with the Ordnance Survey map of the same area (if you hover over the aerial photograph, the site should superimpose the map over that part of the photo, which is rather clever). Notice anything missing from the map, somewhere around Loose Howe Rigg?

This sort of knee-jerk British secrecy has always baffled me. I once had an argument about this with a friend of mine who worked for the Defence Research Agency, over the issue of why the establishment at which she worked does not appear on any maps (aerial shot; map – note the buildings at the top-centre of the photo). She thought this was perfectly justifiable; I said I could see why some buildings that were, like, actually secret should be kept off the map, but buildings that everyone knew were there – especially buildings that are a world-famous landmark situated 200 yards from the A169 – could conceivably be included.

Anyway, you have to remember that this is the country that still refuses to admit that MI6 exists, let alone that this nondescript and anonymous London office (as seen in a recent James Bond film!) is its headquarters. (The MI6 building does at least appear on OS maps, even if only as “Govt Office”, and can be see in all its Google Maps glory – along with a monster traffic jam on Vauxhall Bridge – here.)

My understanding is that this is very different from how other countries, particularly the US, go about this. Any thoughts on that?

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4 Responses to Just because everybody knows, doesn’t mean it’s not a secret

  1. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Someone once told me that, at one stage, London’s British Telecom Tower (or, as it then was, the Post Office Tower) was a secret… despite being a highly visible part of the London skyline.
    Almost certainly apocryphal… but a nice idea.

  2. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Someone once told me that, at one stage, London’s British Telecom Tower (or, as it then was, the Post Office Tower) was a secret… despite being a highly visible part of the London skyline.
    Almost certainly apocryphal… but a nice idea.

  3. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Someone once told me that, at one stage, London’s British Telecom Tower (or, as it then was, the Post Office Tower) was a secret… despite being a highly visible part of the London skyline.
    Almost certainly apocryphal… but a nice idea.

  4. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Someone once told me that, at one stage, London’s British Telecom Tower (or, as it then was, the Post Office Tower) was a secret… despite being a highly visible part of the London skyline.
    Almost certainly apocryphal… but a nice idea.

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