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Report - Rippon Tor Rifle Range - Dartmoor - February 2014

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

  1. floyjoy

    floyjoy 28DL Full Member
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    Rippon Tor Rifle Range is a rifle range within Dartmoor National Park in Devon, situated close to Rippon Tor, near the village Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, virtually the entire Moor saw renewed activity, as it was commandeered for the use of military training. This training ranged from every description including artillery firing. By this point a large area of 4,451 hectares to the south of Hexworthy was taken over for rifle, machine gun and anti-tank firing. A new rifle range was built near Rippon Tor to train soldiers. The newtake below Rippon Tor was chosen as the site for the firing range, and it was successfully built in 1941. Whenever training took place, red warning flags were hoisted on poles at Cold East Cross, Hemsworthy Gate, Rippon Tor and other points around the site. 800 square metres of the surrounding moor would be closed to public access.

    Following the end of the war, training cadets became the main users of the range. Although most main firing ranges in Dartmoor were closed by the late 1940s/early 1950s, Rippon Tor Rifle Range continued to be fully active until the mid-1960s. The range closed completely in 1977 on the expiry of its lease, although the closure was also pushed by the Dartmoor National Park Committee, who objected to its use on the grounds that it was dangerous for the public walking on the moors. Afterwards further opposition continued from some individuals who wanted the butt destroyed, however the landowner had decided that it should remain as a piece of wartime archaeology. The majority of the site remains in good condition.

    More information can be found on the Wikipedia article I created some time back: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rippon_Tor_Rifle_Range

    The main part of the site features this monumental brick stop butt, estimated to be 55 meters long by 15.5 meters wide and around 9.2 meters high. This structure is supported by nineteen buttresses on the north side and six buttresses on both the east and west sides:
    [​IMG]

    One side of the stop butt is seen here, along with the back stop, which is infilled with earth, gravel and sand to form a sloping bank facing South. This was the receiving end, where shots were fired into the bank:
    [​IMG]

    A closer look at the back stop:
    [​IMG]

    The top of the monumental brick structure, surrounded by the beauty of Dartmoor:
    [​IMG]

    On the opposite butt is the markers' gallery, which still holds the rusting machinery that once operated the raising and lowering of the targets, as well as remains of seat supports. The gallery consists of twelve target frames, (using the Hythe pattern), and associated winding mechanisms, housed in a concrete, earth-covered bunker:
    [​IMG]

    The gallery section was built of cantilevered concrete sections on a brick wall, and allowed the range operators to raise and lower targets, patch shot holes and signal adjustments to firing points, where necessary:
    [​IMG]

    A now-roofless building is located at the eastern side of the gallery which once served as the target store and workshop:
    [​IMG]

    The inside of the store/workshop:
    [​IMG]

    The view overlooking the markers' gallery and store/workshop:
    [​IMG]

    The soldiers would fire at the stop butt from four large earth mounds spaced out across the hillside to the east. These mounds are approximately 91.5 meters apart, and they also still remain today. Here are the furthest ones:
    [​IMG]

    And from the furthest mound, looking back towards the stop butt:
    [​IMG]

    On top of the mounds are the remains of some dug-in concreted pits - two to each mound:
    [​IMG]

    Looking into one of these pits:
    [​IMG]

    Inside the entrance gate of the site, to the south-west of the main site, there are two ancillary buildings. This is a troop shelter with wooden benches where soldiers sat to wait their turn for practice. This is a long building comprising twenty-four bays and is constructed of concrete block with an asbestos roof:
    [​IMG]

    A now-roofless, small room at one end of the structure remains, with a tree growing inside it:
    [​IMG]

    Near to the shelter is another building - the remains of a toilet block with seven cubicles:
    [​IMG]

    The edge of this toilet block with the troop shelter behind:
    [​IMG]

    Across to the far edge of the range, a little way out, are the remains of the range's water storage structure:
    [​IMG]

    Measuring 5.7 meters by 3.8 meters, the structure encloses four galvanised storage tanks:
    [​IMG]

    Finally the view from the structure, back towards the range:
    [​IMG]
     

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  2. Cuuvin

    Cuuvin 28DL Colonial Member
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    Aces! :thumb Very thorough, great pics! Seems the only place not photographed is down the loo!;) (not that I mind, now ...:p:)
     
  3. the126

    the126 Reckless & irresponsible
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    Very nice:thumb

    were there any bullet heads in the mound?
     
  4. floyjoy

    floyjoy 28DL Full Member
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    Thanks guys,

    And yes the126, there were plenty of them lying around on the backstop - perhaps a lot were uncovered from all the miserable weather at the start of this year?
     
  5. Ordnance

    Ordnance Moderator
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    Rippon Tor Range is all that remains of a much larger WW2 training area called 'Haytor Ranges' which had a hutted camp on the other side of the road by the River Ashburton, from where I believe water was pumped up to the header tanks. It included a Mortar Range and I believe an Anti-Tank Range, all but the rifle range was closed in 1946, and if the range had not been so well built, I'm sure it would have closed at the same time as well!

    You can see on Google Maps how desalt the area is

    http://maps.google.com/?ll=50.549558,-3.764706&spn=0.009694,0.01987&t=h&z=16

    I remember using this range once in the 1960's firing ACF .303" Enfields and BREN's, but the ACF used Oakhampton more as it still had a hutted camp attached.
     
    #5 Ordnance, Jul 13, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2014
  6. tadworth

    tadworth 28DL Full Member
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    Often wondered about the quantity of lead and copper sitting in a range backstop, decades of constant fire must add up to a nice weight of metal.
     
  7. Ordnance

    Ordnance Moderator
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    Yes, but it was sifted out at times by range wardens who weighed it in as scrap! Each unit using a range had to police [pick up] the brass cartridge cases, and QM's were expected to backload it via the Regional Ordnance Depot, but a fair few were still left behind here and there!
     
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