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Friday, 4 November 2011

Caravan Catastrophe Brings To Light World War II Gun Emplacement

An aerial photograph taken on 27 April 1942

The breaking news on Tuesday morning (1 November 2011) included a story of near disaster for 15 caravans owners at Porthkerry Leisure Park. However, the aerial footage of the scene taken from the news helicopter had RCAHMW staff member Medwyn Parry considerably intrigued.

Vehicles parked near a distinctive “D” shaped road, immediately identified the location as a former Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery. Suspicions were reinforced by a ground shot that showed boundary fence posts of a military pattern. A search through the aerial photographic collections confirmed the location was indeed a WWII HAA Battery.

A search through the Royal Commission’s aerial photographic collections has since confirmed the location was indeed a wartime HAA Battery. Further research by Medwyn has found that it was manned by units from the Royal Artillery. An aerial photograph taken on 27 April 1942 reveals that ‘D’ shaped track of ‘Camp Bulwarks’ linked four gun pits surrounding a rectangular command post. To the east of the guns, an octagonal grid forms the false horizon for the gun-laying radar set. The information fed to the command post given the height, speed and direction of the target aircraft. The predictor station in the command post then calculated the offset to where the target would be after the shell was fired from the gun, and controlled the firing time. The structures to the west of the gun positions are accommodation huts, magazines, mess huts, and the guardhouse.

Other images in the collections confirm several former military sites around the coast re-used by the landowners as caravan parks or holiday camps.

The Royal Commission holds an extensive archive of historical aerial photographs of Wales, available for access through the National Monuments Record public enquiry service.

To see the full news story and the aerial footage that had Medwyn so intrigued, follow this link:

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