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Report - East Weares Rifle Range - Portland - March 2014

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by floyjoy, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. floyjoy

    floyjoy 28DL Full Member
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    The East Weares Rifle Range, also known as the Naval Rifle Range, is located on the Isle of Portland in Dorset - now disused and on private land. Having done a lot of Wikipedia pages on various sites of interest on Portland, this is still one that needs to be done as I've found limited history on the range itself so far. Within the area known as East Weares, this part of the island is left to nature now, with a coastal path running through the area up to the boundary of private Portland Port. Within the public regions of East Weares are a few historical relics such as Folly Pier Waterworks, Folly Pier and King's Pier. The range is owned by Portland Port, who also have some other incredible historical sites unopened to the public such as the three harbour Breakwater Forts, East Weare Gun Battery and DISTEX Site, and an underground Naval Headquarters and communications centre.

    The East Weares Rifle Range was built between 1889 and 1903 for the Victorian military to train its sharpshooters. Aside from Portland Harbour being a major naval base, the Verne Citadel nearby held soldiers too. By the 1920s the range's stop butt had been built. I'm not sure exactly when the range fell into disuse, but as a complete guess perhaps 1960s or a bit later. A smaller rifle range was once located along the coastline beyond King's Pier but this appears to have been demolished sometime later than the mid-1980s, whilst a pistol firing range is nearby too, in the same region as the rifle range, further past a small scattering of ex-MOD buildings once used for the HMS Osprey Shore Establishment. These few buildings escaped demolition unlike the main establishment buildings back in 2004. In recent decades the high nature conservation valued scrub of East Weares had started to encroach on other important wildlife habitats within the area. It was decided in 2007 to release ten British Primitive goats into the area to control the scrub, and these are still in there today - often seen within the range's area, sometimes actually sitting on the stop butt.

    The range's stop butt structure, built of Portland Stone, stands out from the clifftop road alongside HM Prison Portland (YOI):
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Heading down to the bottom coast path:
    [​IMG]

    The side of the range:
    [​IMG]

    Note the abandoned telephone post which would serve the firing range:
    [​IMG]

    A couple of these sentry posts remain, where lookouts would warn away walkers whenever the range was in use:
    [​IMG]

    And next to the range lookout post is a World War II pillbox, constructed in 1940-41. It has a six sided plan and is built of reinforced concrete and stone. Now all overgrown, the entrance has been sealed but you can just about peak through to see the interior:
    [​IMG]

    The Marker's Gallery shows the remaining system of pulleys and cables:
    [​IMG]

    And the target mechanism which raised and lowered the range targets. When the session was completed, the personnel within the gallery would use a stick to point at where the bullets had hit the target, and the shooter would check these from his position via binoculars. The shooter's aim would be adjusted if it was necessary:
    [​IMG]

    A remaining old rifle rack:
    [​IMG]

    Some old seat still remain too for those tasked with handling the targets:
    [​IMG]

    The back stop banking of the structure - the receiving end, where shots were fired into the bank:
    [​IMG]

    Top of the structure:
    [​IMG]

    Naturally there are plenty of fired bullets lying around on the back stop:
    [​IMG]

    Looking back to the original sentry post from the top of the range structure:
    [​IMG]

    And right below is the second of two World War II pillboxes within the range's region. Again it was constructed in 1940-41, built of reinforced concrete, and is six-sided in plan. This one though is open and pretty clean inside, even if overgrown on the outside:
    [​IMG]

    Looking past the marker's gallery towards Portland Harbour. Although the majority have been greatly damaged or lost, there were a number of large mounds built of earth and stone spaced out across the land where soldiers would fire from different distances:
    [​IMG]

    By far the best remaining example is the closest mound to the butt structure:
    [​IMG]

    The back stop section seen clearly here:
    [​IMG]

    The other side - the stop butt - with the latter overgrown pillbox on the left:
    [​IMG]

    And finally further south, heading away from the harbour, is the second of two sentry posts for the range, with another old telegraph pole. Can you spot the face that nature has carved into the cliff?
    [​IMG]
     

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  2. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Nice report that is. Haven't explored Portland since the rotor bunker, osprey, the RNAS and the breakwater forts. I know that's quite a lot but the list kept growing.
     
  3. floyjoy

    floyjoy 28DL Full Member
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    Thanks Oxygen Thief - I still have yet to see the ROTOR Bunker and the Breakwater Forts. There's so much history on Portland to be found.
     
  4. propaintballa

    propaintballa 28DL Member
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    A friend and I actually went down there today, was a nice little walk, shame there isn't more there, but interesting none the less!
     
  5. pigdog

    pigdog 28DL Regular User
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    some thing different
     
  6. pauln

    pauln too old to be reckless
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    Excellent report and good descriptions of what the pictures show for those of us that don't know what bits are what.
     
  7. Shatners

    Shatners Silly Bugger
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    Nice that mate, comprehensive
     
  8. Coxieboy

    Coxieboy 28DL Full Member
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    That's a cracking report with the photos. Really good. Thanks.
     
  9. Ordnance

    Ordnance Moderator
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    The range looks to be built on the Hythe pattern of covered Markers' Gallery and manual controlled target frames with rear Stop Butts dating from the earliest to pre WW1, with the back stop probably being re-built post WW2 with the design of concrete buttresses? The watch post also look to be new features (1960's)

    This is the most common mid to late 20th Century Rifle Range you will find in the UK, many on land used as ranges far earlier!

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploa...data/file/138233/JSP403_Vol2_Chap15_DLRSC.pdf

    as far as I know the ranges closed in the 1980's ??? but needs to be confirmed.
     
    #9 Ordnance, Apr 19, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2014
  10. floyjoy

    floyjoy 28DL Full Member
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    Thanks for the comments all, I'm glad the report is being enjoyed.

    Thanks for the observations too Ordnance, you are probably right about the dates/periods. The sentry posts do look more recent. I have heard from those who remember on Portland that the range was still in use during the 1970s, so it probably would have ceased activity around the 1980s. The navy moved out of Portland Harbour in the mid-1990s.
     
  11. markymark

    markymark The shadow
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    Perhaps you should venture down into the port one night. There's a few things to be seen in there :)
     
  12. Ninja

    Ninja 28DL Full Member
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    Nice pics and good clear information :thumb
     
  13. Southside UE

    Southside UE 28DL Regular User
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    Good work, great write up and lovely photos.
     
  14. Dookie

    Dookie 28DL Member
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    I went to the range today. Very easy to access and a great place to visit. Love seeing all the mechanism for the targets. There were a few goats wondering around too
     
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