Cold War reminder given listed status
A Cold War missile site in Rutland which was readied for use when the world came to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis has been given listed status.
The Thor missile site at the former RAF North Luffenham has been given a Grade II* listing as a reminder of the "knife-edge moment in history".
The site is one of two of the most intact examples of Thor missile bases in England, the other is at the former RAF Harrington in Northamptonshire – now mainly farmland -– which is Grade II listed.
The concrete launch pads and blast walls still remain at the former Rutland RAF base, along with mounting bolts for the platforms that would raise the missiles into a vertical firing position.
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The base, now called St George's Barracks, is home to 16 Regiment Royal Artillery and 104 Military Working Dog Unit.
RAF North Luffenham was chosen as the main base in the area, with four satellite bases, including one at a derelict Melton airfield, on the outskirts of the town, where little remains apart from remnants of some of the concrete blast walls.
Tony Calladine, English Heritage's designation team leader for the east of England, said: "Melton Mowbray wasn't put on the list because it didn't survive well enough. Only those which have survived most intact were selected.
"The former RAF North Luffenham is the most complete, which is why it has been awarded the higher grade.
"It is still a working military base, so there would be no access to it without strict permission."
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 attack on the Soviet Union.
The listing, which recognises the two sites' architectural and historic importance, comes on the advice of English Heritage and is part of a project to ensure the best Cold War structures are preserved.
Sixty Thor missiles, developed by the US, were deployed at 20 sites in the east of England from 1958 under the code name 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: "These two missile sites are among the few physical reminders in this country of the Cuban missile crisis, a moment when the entire world held its breath.
"They deserve to be protected to remind present and future generations of this knife-edge moment in history."