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Report - RNCF Holton Heath - May 2016

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by b3n, May 20, 2016.

  1. b3n

    b3n onehundredandthirtythree
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    The last ferry of the day from the West side of the Isle of Wight and a drive through the dusk brought us to the RNCF at Holton Heath; it had been on my list for a while but we had finally made it happen. As we slowly drove past the fences we took in the lay of the land and checked out access options before finding a nearby car park to get some kip - ready for an early start.

    WARNING HISTORY ALERT

    From Conkers to explosives!

    Cordite was first developed by the UK government in 1889 as a replacement to gunpowder, the propellant in ammunition. Cordite offered one distinct advantage over gunpowder - it was smokeless.
    During World War 1 a shortage of Cordite led to the importation from America of smokeless propellants and Winston Churchill decided it was important for the UK to produce it's own. The one problem was that large amounts of the solvent Acetone was required in the production possess which was in short supply at the time.
    Chaim Weizmann, later to become the first president of Israel, had developed a process to produce Acetone from bacterial fermentation of starch. He was approached by Churchill and given first a Gin distillery, and then the land at Horton Heath near Poole to develop his methods and the Cordite factory. A plentiful supply of the required starch was found in Horse Chestnuts and school children from across the country were sent out to collect Conkers which were then transported by train to RNCF Horton Heath.

    END OF HISTORY BIT

    After breakfast and another look at the maps we set off towards the laboratory part of the site. The fence here looked more imposing but the site seemed to be totally deserted so appeared to be a good place to start. Finding access wasn't too hard, the labs have been trashed by tags and raves, but it's the type of place where you can still see the history poking through. A multitude of buildings gave us a good few hours amusement climbing around on the roofs and discovering hidden rooms. Walking around a corner we spotted some people surveying the site for future sale - tried to hide but it was too late. After a chat about what we were doing and the history of the site we were left to make our own way out (through the parts we hadn't yet seen!)

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    Not too long after this we headed back to the van and prepared to enter the main factory. The factory grounds have been split into two parts, one a well secured industrial estate and the other left to return to nature. We assumed we wouldn't get to see the live site but as we were sat there looking at a map we were approached by the same guy we had been talking to in the labs!

    "Would you like a tour?"

    "Ummm yes!"

    We followed into the main site and were shown the conker storage tanks, old railway lines and the buildings, just as they were when the factory closed in the early 50's. Amazing!

    Conker storage tank:

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    Old pipes on the railway line:

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    After hearing stories of bunkers and tunnels we left for the remaining side of the factory. A short climb led us to the overgrown remains where we spent half a day exploring the rest of the 500 acre site.

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    Reservoir and pump or generator housings:

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    Control trench

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    Pyramids:

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    #1 b3n, May 20, 2016
    Last edited: May 20, 2016
    Jimmy_lee-brown and mw0sec like this.

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  2. mw0sec

    mw0sec 28DL Full Member
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    Just a minor point - the item you show as a 'conker storage tank' was in fact the base of one of the two gas holders. ( The factory had its own gasworks). The fermentation vessels for acetone were the larger round concrete tanks a bit further along.
    Is AB2 (nitroglycerine hill) still accessible?
    You might be interested in: http://www.mw0sec.co.uk/hhintro.html

    Les.
     
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  3. b3n

    b3n onehundredandthirtythree
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    Thanks for the corrections Les, your site is really interesting! The entrance tunnels all looked collapsed and didn't fancy it this time.
     
  4. mw0sec

    mw0sec 28DL Full Member
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    No worries. I've not visited the site for some years now as I am confined to barracks looking after wife - always interested to see the latest. I used to get into AB2 through the main tunnel. Both entrances had been detonated after closure, but there was a climbable gap in the main one. Nothing left in there now, just a large room with glazed white bricks all around and the concrete mounting pillar for the nitrator.
     
  5. Dempsey

    Dempsey The Human Turbine.
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    Why are you blurring people out? lol
     
  6. b3n

    b3n onehundredandthirtythree
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    The guy works there and let us look around when he should have kicked us out, don't want to get him in shit.
     
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