The Anonymous Widower

Shetland Blasts Off Into Space Race As Britain’s First Rocket Launch Pad Skyrora

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Times.

This second paragraph, explains what Skyrora are doing.

Skyrora, a technology company with its headquarters in Edinburgh, has agreed a deal for scores of rocket launches over the next decade from a site on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland islands.

This Google Map shows the most Northerly part of Unst.

There’s not really much there, except birds, trees and the most northerly house in Britain.

Enlarging to the West of the house, gives this second Google Map.

Note the Remote Radar Head Saxa Vord, which has a Wikipedia entry as RAF Saxa Voe.

  • It is now a fully-operational radar station again, after closure in 2006.
  • It is at the same latitude as St. Petersburg and Anchorage.
  • In 1992, it measured a wind speed of 197 mph, before the equipment blew away.

The Wikipedia entry is worth a read, as it gives a deep insight into radar and its tracking of Russian intruders in the Cold War.

This third Google Map shows a 3D closeup of the radar.

No staff are based at Saxa Vord, although maintenance staff do visit.

According to The Times, the space port will be at Lamba Ness, which is to the East of the most northerly house in Britain.

The peninsular in the South-East is marked Lamba Ness.

It may seem a very bleak place, but it could have one thing, that rocketry will need – rocket fuel!

In Do BP And The Germans Have A Cunning Plan For European Energy Domination?, I introduced Project Orion, which is an electrification and hydrogen hub and clean energy project in the Shetland Islands.

The project’s scope is described in this graphic.


  1. Project Orion now has its own web site.
  2. A Space Centre is shown on the Island of Unst.
  3. There is an oxygen pipeline shown dotted in blue from the proposed Sullom Voe H2 Plant to the Fish Farm and on to the Space Centre.
  4. I suspect if required, there could be a hydrogen pipeline.

The Space Centre on Unst could be fuelled by renewable energy.

Who Are Skyrora?

They have a web site, which displays this mission statement.

Represents a new breed of private rocket companies developing the next generation of launch vehicles for the burgeoning small satellite market.

The Times also has this paragraph.

At the end of last year, the company also completed trials of the third stage of its Skyrora XL rocket, including its orbital transfer vehicle which, once in orbit, can refire its engines 15 times to carry out tasks such as acting as a space tug, completing maintenance or removing defunct satellites.

The company seems to have big ambitions driven by innovation and a large range of ideas.


I shall be following this company.


October 12, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Search of Jack Nissenthal

In the web site on the BBC relating the story of Jack Nissenthal, it says that he was born in Cottage Row in Bow.

Yesterday, I decided to find out more.  searching the Internet, showed no trace of Cottage Row in Bow, so I took the bus to my nearest big library; the City of London, library in the Barbican Centre. There displayed in a cabinet was a map of poverty for London and a Cottage Grove could be easily seen in Bow Neighbourhood, but not a Cottage Row. My up-to-date A-Z didn’t show Cottage Grove at all. So the librarian and myself concluded that development had taken place and the street pattern had been changed. Rhondda Grove seemed to occupy the same place as Cottage Grove.

So it was a tube ride to Mile End station via Bethnal Green to see what I could find.

Rhondda Grove/Cottage Grove in Bow

This picture shows the end of Rhondda Grove. Note the Cottage Grove sign with a date of 1823.

It is a pleasant street now with most of the terrace and other houses now fully modernised. 

Rhondda Grove, Bow

There appeared to be not too many spaces or new properties, that would be typical of bomb damage.

So was this the street where Jack Nissenthal grew up?

I then went to Tower Hamlets Archive Centre in Bancroft Road just around the corner.

They did confirm from a 1920s London Street Atlas, that there was only one Cottage Row in London at the time of Jack’s birth and that was in South East London. Cottage Grove had not yet been renamed.  On searching the large scale maps of the area, I did find that the street seemed to have been renamed in the late nineteenth century.  There were also a few mews houses behind the street.  So could one of these been known locally as Cottage Row?

May 11, 2011 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

The Amazing Jack Nissenthal

Jack Nissenthal was a remarkable man, whose tale of heroism in the Second World War is now all but forgotten. I first came across his story, when Radio 4 did a piece about the RAF Sergeant and radar expert who went on the raid at Dieppe to try to find out more about German radar. He was accompanied by eleven Canadian soldiers who were under orders to not let him get captured.  In the end he didn’t meet his objective of dismantling the German radar station at Pourville, but by his quick thinking and his deep knowledge of radar systems, he was able to make the Germans give away enough of their important secrets, so that on D-Day, they were effectively without any useful radar systems.

After the raid he returned with just one of his Canadian escorts.

It is all described on this web site and a book called Green Beach.

A follow up web site tells what happened to him afterwards.

Many including Lord Mountbatten, felt he should have been given a high award for gallantry, if not the highest. He eventually went to live in Canada, where his heroism was very much recognised. This is an extract from the web page.

In August 1967 Jack returned to Pourville for the 25th anniversary of the landings and met many old and decorated friends, including Les Thrussel. Les had always told friends the story of how he had orders to shoot a top British scientist on the raid had he been in danger of capture, but nobody believed him.
Now he met Jack and told him to tell Les’s friends the truth!
In a cafe in Dieppe that evening Jack sat reminiscing with the three VC’s of the raid – Merritt, Porteous and Foote. There was a loud knocking on the door and several young Canadian soldiers serving with NATO walked in. “We heard Jack Nissen was here and we want to shake his hand”. Jack recalled afterward, “There I was sitting with three VC’s and these young men wanted to shake ME by the hand. I was in tears. This was my reward and the highlight of my life”.

But he is not mentioned in any lists of famous people from the East End of London.  He is mentioned in Wikipedia, but doesn’t have a section of his own.

May 8, 2011 Posted by | World | , | 4 Comments

Bawdsey Manor

In the photographs of Felixstowe Ferry, there is a photograph of Bawdsey Manor.

Bawdsey Manor

It is a large house in a very prominent position and was built in the late 1900s by the Quilter family.

But its role in the development of radar just before and during the Second World War has given this house its true fame.  There is a museum on the site.

As a child I remember the three towers which formed part of the Chain Home radar system, that warned of early approach of German aircraft.  This simple radar was very significant in the winning of the Battle of Britain.

It is interesting to note that British radar was actually inferior to German at the time.  This is what Wikipedia says.

The Chain Home system was fairly primitive, since in order to be battle-ready it had been rushed into production by Sir Robert Watson-Watt’s Air Ministry research station near Bawdsey. Watson-Watt, a pragmatic engineer, believed that “third-best” would do if “second-best” would not be available in time and “best” never available at all. Chain Home certainly suffered from glitches and errors in reporting.

It was in many ways technically inferior to German radar developments, but the better German technology proved to be a disadvantage. The Chain Home stations were relatively simple to construct and comprehensive coverage was available by the start of the Battle of Britain.

I like Watson-Watt philosophy, as often something available in double-quick time is many many times better than nothing at all.

The Germans made a big mistake over these radar stations.  Obviously, if they had been destroyed, victory for Britain in the Battle of Britain would have been more difficult. Wikipedia again.

During the battle, Chain Home stations, most notably the one at Ventnor, Isle of Wight, were attacked a number of times between 12 and 18 August, 1940. On one occasion a section of the radar chain in Kent, including the Dover CH, was put out of action by a lucky hit on the power grid. However, though the wooden huts housing the radar equipment were damaged, the towers survived owing to their open steel girder construction. Because the towers were untoppled and the signals soon restored, the Luftwaffe concluded the stations were too difficult to damage by bombing and so left them alone for the rest of the war. Had the Luftwaffe realised just how essential the radar stations were to British air defences, it is likely that they would have gone all out to destroy them.

What also puzzles me is that radar research carried on until the summer of 1940 at Bawdsey.  If the Germans had known, the house would have been an easy target.  Perhaps, it just shows how bad their intelligence was.

December 4, 2009 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment