Secret Bases & Hidden Places

Sopley Radar Base

The 'Happidrome'

Underground Radar Base

Per Ardua Ad Astra

The Royal Air Force.

I became aware of the this 'Secret' Radar Base as a young child (1960's), our family used to camp each summer in the New Forest at the nearby Holmsley Campsite, which was the old Holmsley Airfield, and then later at the 'Roundhill' camp near Brockenhurst, which was once used as a wartime prisoner of war camp amongst other things.


During his National Service, my Father was in the Royal Air Force, and apart from time spent at the Suez Canal in Egypt, he was stationed at RAF Sopley. It became almost a family tradition to drive past the site where he would point out the buildings he had been located in.


Really there was not much to see even back then, apart from the typical long square military style (Maycrete / Nissen) buildings common at any military base, government sites or even some old schools. But there was a good reason for this, Sopley was built underground, the working parts of the base hidden and safe in a complex of a deep underground complex.

RAF Sopley was known under various names, 'Starlight' in 1942, and later referred to as 'The Happidrome'.

Above Ground - The Visible Sopley

Sopley started small

The Hidden Underground at RAF Sopley


Key to above photograph

Cut-away plan of Sopley Base

Plans of the Happidrome

The Camp in the 1990's

Key to above photograph

The 100ft deep underground tunnels are still in operation today, being used by the government to transfer and sort magnetic media over to digital media. This project is named 'Iron Mountain'.

The above ground area and buildings have been classed as unsafe and no longer used, although a Paint-balling adventure company do use the surrounding areas for 'war-games'.


The wartime airfield at Holmsley has been used as a public campsite for many years, Caravans park on the concrete circular aircraft turning bays and Tents surround them on the grassland. Holmsley although not the 'Official' airstrip for the Sopley Base, was the home of the 'Standby Set House', purposely distanced from the main camp in case the station was bombed. The old standby set house still remains but the buildings are in poor and dangerous condition.

Holmsley Camping Site