MSO7776 - Exmoor firing range (Monument)

Summary

The World War Two Exmoor firing range. The surface remains consist of areas of disturbance and small hollows which indicate impact areas, notably on the summit ridge of Mill Hill.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 7600 4600. Exmoor Firing Range. Brendon Common was used during World War Two for military training; these activities included infantry tank exercises and artillery practice. Information from the officer responsible for the day to day administration of the ranges indicates that they were initially used by British military personnel, but were later taken over by the US Army primarily for heavy artillery practice [1]. This usually involved the siting of 105 millimetre artillery pieces outside of the designated range area, in locations such as Trentishoe Down and Martinhoe, and firing into the ranges using targets at various locations. The field archaeology supports this general interpretation. Remains indicate infantry exercises, heavy vehicle access and heavy artillery impact areas. Transcription of aerial photographs taken in 1946 clearly shows a concentration of activity on Shilstone Hill apparently representing silt trenches and other features. However, the remains are spread widely over Brendon Common, Malmsmead Hill, Lanacombe, Hoccombe Ridge and eastwards towards Tom's Hill and Larkbarrow. [1, 3, 18] Ranges were initially used by the British and later by US Artillery. Between May 1941 and June 1943 British chemical warfare troops were stationed at South Molton, a chemical warfare group was also based at Lynton, and these units also used the ranges. These chemical warfare troops were engaged in developing projectiles for the delivery of chemical warheads. The livens projector was used on Exmoor and various livens projectiles are still visible on the ranges. Substantial numbers of 5 inch rockets can also be seen. [2] The Exmoor Firing ranges were used during World War Two for both infantry training and artillery practice [1]. They extended over Brendon Common, Malmsmead Hill, Hoccombe Hill, Badgworthy Hill, Lanacombe, Trout Hill and as far east as Toms Hill and Larkbarrow. In the area perambulated the surface remains consist of areas of disturbance and small hollows which indicate impact areas, notably on the summit ridge of Mill Hill (centred about SS 829 453). In places, shrapnel and rocket casings are visible. The latter consist of circular iron tubes some 0.6 metres in length and 0.12 metres to 0.13 metres in diameter, a circular cone projects from the rear end and was associated with the fuel exhaust. The nose cones are usually missing. No survey action was carried out. [4] A representative sample of all impact craters visible on aerial photographs of the immediate post World War Two years has been transcribed. This has allowed the extent of the Exmoor firing range impact-area to be identified with some confidence. The impact area can now be said to be approximately 2278 hectares or 22 square kilometres. However, the activity within this area is not uniform and several foci of more intensive activity have been identified from the aerial photographs. Evidence of particularly dense concentrations of fire can be seen as craters on Brendon Common, Badgworthy Hill, Manor Allotment on South Common, and the area around Larkbarrow Farm and Toms Hill. Three small concrete squares have been identified within or close to some of these concentrations, such as at Stowey Allotment and at Outer Alscott, and these may be firing range markers or targets of some kind. The firing range also saw heavy infantry and motorised training activities. These activities produced distinctive, if poorly understood earthworks and where possible these have been recorded separately. Good examples can be seen on Shilstone Hill, Malmsmead Hill and Porlock Common. It is possible that some of the short lived remains in these areas include temporary field gun emplacements. [5-17] A geophysical survey area was located within the extent of this feature at Hawkcombe Head. This was surveyed using gradiometer and earth resistance equipment in 2011 to inform prior to the undergrounding of a electricity cable. [19] A large area of Exmoor was used as a chemical weapon practice area during World War Two. This was bounded by Scob Hill and Hawkcombe Head to the north, and Blue Gate and Chibbet Post to the south, incorporating all uncultivated land but avoiding interference with agriculture. A contamination area in the centre of the range (Brendon Common or South Common) would be enclosed by a strong sheep proof fence and movable hurdles. The hills and commons were to provide target and firing areas, avoiding the encroaching valleys. Ranges varied from 2500 to 9500 yards and firing and target points included Shilstone Hill, Malmsmead Hill, South Common, Hawkcombe Head, Lucott Cross and Brendon Two Gates, with troops to be billeted in Brendon, Porlock, Lynton and Lynmouth and storage of gas in Nissen Huts and tarpaulin covered dumps at Dry Bridge. The chemical warfare school was moved to Bowness on Windermere in August 1942 to allow Exmoor to become an artillery range, with firing points on Brendon Common and targets at Larkbarrow, Toms Hill and Badgworthy Cottage, which also suffered shelling from much greater distances. [21]

Sources/Archives (21)

  • <1> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. J Edwards, Pinnock's Moor, Tiverton, Devon (former Sergeant involved in administration).
  • <2> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 1995.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 20 April 1994.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 9 November 1995.
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1501 3216-17 (13 May 1946).
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1501 (F20) 3324 (13 May 1946).
  • <7> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1501 (F20) 3359 (13 May 1946).
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 106GUK/1501 4202-4 (F20) (13 May 1946).
  • <9> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1501 (F20) 4207-8 (13 May 1946).
  • <10> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1655 (F20) 3082-4 (11 July 1946).
  • <11> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1655 (F20) 4071-9 (11 July 1946).
  • <12> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1655 (F20) 4080-4 (11 July 1946).
  • <13> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF CPE/1980 4072 (11 April 1947).
  • <14> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/931 (F20) 3001 (8 November 1952).
  • <15> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/931 (F20) 4056-7 (8 November 1952).
  • <16> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/931 (F20) 4064-5 (8 November 1952).
  • <17> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SW. MD002184.
  • <18> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap.
  • <19> Report: Dean, R.. 2011. Hawkcombe Head, Exmoor: Archaeological gradiometer and earth resistance survey.
  • <20> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2012. Archaeological walkover survey on Lucott Moor (LLM12).
  • <21> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 33 (1992), "Chemical weapons on Exmoor", p19-21 (M Reeve-Black).

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred SS 802 437 (10828m by 7503m)
Map sheet SS84SW
Civil Parish BRENDON, NORTH DEVON, DEVON
Civil Parish EXMOOR, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET
Civil Parish OARE, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET
Civil Parish PORLOCK, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (30)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Related Articles (1)

External Links (4)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/532
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/533
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/539
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/541
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/551
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/556
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/557
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS74NE/558
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE11984
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE12600
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO286
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO7094
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO9625
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NE46
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SE110
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NW47
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW133
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW313
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1002147
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1036092
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 870601
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 871490
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 14003
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 14005
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 16674

Record last edited

Jul 30 2019 10:47AM

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