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Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) Chertsey chert_map_small.gif

RARDE Chertsey was one of a large number of MoD Research Establishments which were legacies of the Second World War.

In a rural location not far from the village of Chobham with the M3 roaring past close at hand, RARDE was where composite rolled steel armour plating , as fitted to the Challenger tank was developed.

The Chertsey site was originally known as the Military Vehicle Experimental Establishment (MVEE)


The Government acquired the site in 1941 for the Department of Tank Design (DTD) and the Fighting Vehicles Proving Establishment (FVPE), and in 1942 Longcross Railway Station opened.

For almost 60 years the site has been a source of significant employment in the area. At its peak, thousands of staff were employed here as military officers, scientists and engineers with a large supporting network of civilian, clerical and administrative officers, as well as medical and emergency services staff.

Between 1941 and 2005 the site was used by various government military agencies until it became the Defence Evaluation & Research Agency site (DERA) and finally the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) Chertsey.

The most recent use of the site was for the testing, evaluation and certification of the full range of British Army vehicles. It is also well known as the location where Chobham Armour was developed.

From Wikipedia here

]In the 1980s, RARDE was amalgamated with the Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE) – formerly the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) – with sites at Chertsey and Christchurch, and the Propellants, Explosives and Rocket Motor Establishment based at Waltham Abbey and Westcott.

[edit] Evolution to DERA On 1 April 1991, the Defence Research Agency (DRA) was set up by bringing together Royal Aerospace Establishment (RAE), Admiralty Research Establishment (ARE), RARDE, and the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE). It was an executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence. Four years later, DRA was itself merged to form the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA)

[Author's note:I joined DRA in 1991 and went to DTEO in 1995 - just in time for it to be swallowed up by DRA .]

The Thatcherite mantra 'private good, public bad' was followed up when DERA was subsequently privatised and the profitable bits were turned into a private research organisation called QinetiQ.

The less profitable and problematic bits , such as Porton Down and the Centre for Defence Analysis, were left in Government hands to form the Defence Scientific & Technical Laboratories (DSTL). qv The fact that Porton Down has >7,000 acres of highly contaminated rural Wiltshire on its asset sheet (which at some point will require hugely costly remediation work to return to its former state) had of course absolutely nothing to do with this purely pragmatic decision........

When QinetiQ was floated on the stock exchange, the Chief Executive who had presided over the whole sell-off of Britain's military research capability from 1991 onwards, Sir John Chisholm, personally netted an estimated £140M.

He was subsequently responsible for allowing a controlling share in QinetiQ to be sold to an American private equity organisation called the Carlyle Group.This sale was personally approved by the then PM, one Tony Blair Esq.

As far as the former research site at RARDE Chertsey was concerned, it was sold off by HMG in 2005.

Since then, part of the site has been used as 'Longcross Film studios' and recent productions shot there include ' Clash of the Titans' and the upcoming Martin Scorsese children's film ' The Invention of Hugo Cabret' which finished filming December 2010.

A development company is seeking permission to turn it into a 'Business Park'