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Brief History of the Thor Missile System
by David L. Anderson-Walmsley

The first Thor missiles arrived at Feltwell with No. 77 Squadron, on the 19th of September 1958. By March 1960, the whole deployment of sixty operational missiles in the UK was complete, the weapon being allocated to a total of twenty RAF squadrons.  Four complexes of Thor sites were constructed, based at Feltwell, North Luffenham, Helmswell and Driffield, with each of these main bases controlling four satellite sites, giving a total five sites for each complex. Each of the sites consisted of three launching pads laid out in a triangular pattern behind dense barbed wire that was well illuminated at night, giving another-worldly appearance during the hours of darkness.

Although the missiles were British owned and carried the RAF roundel, the nuclear warheads were American, which meant that at each site there were American custodial officers who held a second key to free the missile for launch. The 1,200 men and women in the Thor force evolved a system of round-the-clock rosters on the isolated and heavily protected sites, with launch control officers of the RAF working in harmony with authentication officers of the USAF.

In January 1963 the Thor missile system was phased out and missiles and warheads sent to the USA. The V-Bomber force continued alone in the role of strategic nuclear deterrence until June 1969 when with the completion of the third Polaris submarine, the Royal Navy adopted the role of nuclear deterrence.

 Photographs published at the time

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