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Report - Royal Naval Armament Depot Ditton Priors - Jan 2014

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by Bighed, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. Bighed

    Bighed 28DL Full Member
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    I was quite excited when me and a long time lurker and new member Jockey Wheel decided to visit here. Its a site quite close to my heart as my nan, great uncles, granddad, and great grandad all worked here as they were born and bred in Ditton priors.

    All my internet searches came up saying there were only 25 munition magazines. The pics below will show a lot more than 25..

    Anyway, A brief history of the site.

    The depot, which had 25 magazines and four stores for naval mines, opened in 1941 around Brown Clee Hill. The buildings were camouflaged and served by rail sidings. Trains and their dangerous cargo could then be loaded and unloaded inside.

    The line had two locomotives, both 0-6-0 saddle tanks built by Manning Wardle and these became GWR numbers 28 and 29. They were rebuilt by the GWR with new boilers and pannier tanks, after which they bore a strong resemblance to the GWR 1366 Class. Other locomotives used on the line included GWR 2021 Class nos. 2101 and 2144 and GWR 1600 Class no. 1661.

    Following the opening of the RNAD at Ditton Priors, the steam locomotives were fitted with spark arrestors but, after the arrival of RNAD diesel locomotives, they did not enter the armaments depot. The steam locomotive was taken off the goods train at Cleobury North (just south of Ditton Priors) and the wagons were drawn into the depot by an RNAD diesel locomotive.

    Three "flameproof" diesel locomotives of 165 bhp were supplied to RNAD Ditton Priors by Ruston and Hornsby between 1952 and 1955. A similar machine Francis Baily of Thatcham (ex-RAF Welford) is preserved at Southall Railway Centre. Before the Rustons, a Planet diesel locomotive is believed to have been used but its dates of arrival and departure are not known.

    In 1960 the railway line was finally closed but the Royal Navy continued to use Ditton Priors until 1965. The following year the depot was taken over by US forces that had left France following the French withdrawal from NATO's military structure.

    Parts of the site are now occupied by an industrial estate and fireworks factory. Many of the original buildings have new uses.

    Land adjacent to the defunct railway line was sold off by the MOD in 1971.

    This is an aerial view of the whole site from google maps.

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    Aerial views from an airplane.

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    As with my previous report, please accept my apologies for the quality of the photos. The day we visited it was pouring with rain and I'm still not "into" it enough to lay out for a proper camera yet.

    Onto the report...

    There were obviously lots of these around the site and they had 2 of their own fire appliances.
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    What looks like pegs for jackets on the side of the old engine shed.

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    Somehow a Bedford Rascal has ended up sideways and the greenery has been let loose

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    A few of the magazines had these around them on 3 sides. left and right sides had brick wall finishers on the track side. I can only assume they were a sort of blast defense in case of an accident or one got his by an enemy plane etc.

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    #1 Bighed, Jan 3, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015

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  2. Bighed

    Bighed 28DL Full Member
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    This was a weird one. There were never any children at the depot. The only Britannia high school that was any where close is the now defunct one in Rowley Regis. I can only assume that Viscount Boyne used to let the school spend nights and days out locally and base their selves at Loughton bank cottage.

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    Back onto random pics...

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    Oh right........ok.
    Did look like someone was trying to keep something secure in this one though as they had gone to the trouble of putting bars on the windows too..

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    Then we found these fresh looking shotgun cartridges on the floor.

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    Mix them with the shooting we could hear and assumed it was a distance away, the massive dog shits we had nearly just worn, and the car parked up by a magazine in the distance, we decided to do a strategic retreat and get out the compound.

    I took a few pics on the way out..

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    I'm not exactly sure what these are. If anyone knows please let me know. It looks like it would take about 4 to do a full circle.

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    While I was talking to good old mummy about going here, she showed me the old Guards house on google maps which is about 3/4 of a mile from the main depot entrance. This was just used as general accommodation when they wasn't at the depot.
    I managed to find this and get some pics. Again, not the best quality but it was pitch black inside. It wont be here long as its been sold and planning permission has been granted for 5 homes.


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    Just down the road and again, out of the depot is the building where my nan worked. Here they "tested" the weapons. How they did this I do not know. The lady who would of been able to tell me a thousand stories (my nan) unfortunately died 2 years ago.
    The building is now an education centre..

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    Heres a pic showing the old "testing" facility in red and the Guards accommodation in blue.

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    I intend to update this as and when I get new information.

    Thanks for reading
     
    #2 Bighed, Jan 3, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  3. Bighed

    Bighed 28DL Full Member
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  4. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    Re: Royal Naval Armament Depot Ditton Priors SO616886 Jan 2014

    You've certainly been busy, that's quite an extensive report you have there, good effort :thumb Sounds like it was a good blast from the past.
     
  5. lucan

    lucan 28DL Full Member
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    one of those places that look better in winter , with less trees , i think those items may be air raid shelter parts
    also on the clee hill there are crators and shrapnel where they blew up the contents of the site when it closed (there was a lot )
     
  6. jockey_wheel

    jockey_wheel 28DL Member
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    It was a good Trek, plenty more hours could of been spent there, however we were worried that the main gate that lead us on to the Industrial estate would be closed due to it being a Sat but there is plenty to see here.
     
  7. spaceman

    spaceman 28DL Member
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    Weird coincidence, I've just spent this afternoon wandering around the Depot and came back and found this thread on Google. By chance my Gran lives in the house between the testing facility and the Guard's house! She may well ever know your relatives as she's been living here for over 40 years. I've spent ages when I was younger exploring the depot, there really is quite a lot of stuff down there.
     
  8. Bighed

    Bighed 28DL Full Member
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    My family is the Morris's. What's your nans name?

    Anyway, Ive come back here as I have been given a 126 page book on Ditton of which there is a couple of pages on the "Depot" They read

    By 1939, the government began searching for storage sites for the vast quantities of armaments that were being produced. Ditton priors proved to be an ideal site as it was located in the countryside and had good rail access. The quarry had closed a few years before, but the concrete plant was still working, as was the tar plant by the station, although both had closed by 1942. The Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Railway still carried freight but had closed to passengers on September 24th 1938. A square mile of land besides the station was compulsory purchased from landowners, the principal of whom was lord Boyne, and work began building a large complex of buildings and roads. By 1941, The Royal Naval Armaments Depot, Ditton Priors was open for business. The work produced by the building and the staffing of the depot gave work to local men recently made redundant by the quarry business and to men and women for miles around. For many years more than 30 buses a day ferried workers into what they called the "arms dump" or just "The dump"

    The depot was of strategic importance and several searchlight batteries and decoys were situated in the hills around to deceive enemy aircraft. Smith and Beddoes report that Ditton Priors was important enough to be mentioned by Lord Haw Haw on the German wartime radio broadcasts. Heavily laden ammunition trains came into the depot almost continuously, but apart from a German plane crash on Brown Clee Hill and a few bombs dropped near Cleobury Mortimer, Ditton Priors, the line and the depot came through the war unscathed.

    Although the passenger train service had closed in 1938, on Good Friday 1965 a special train carrying many railway enthusiasts steamed along the Ditton Priors to Cleobury Mortimer line to mark the final closing of the railway. The end of the RNAD came in the same year although its demise must have been in sight for some time as a thorough survey by the Admiralty in 1958 can only have been undertaken with a view to sale and dispersal of the assets. In the summer of 1966 the ministry of Defence began negotiations with the previous owners of the land at the original price paid by the government. Lord Boyne began his negotiations for the return of his land and also expressed interest in buying another 140 acres at Ditton priors. Negotiations were well advanced with the District Valuer and a date of 17th January 1967 had been made for parties to agree a final figure for sale. Unknown to the section within the Ministry of Defence that was negotiating with lord Boyne and other land owners, another section of the same ministry had given permission for Ditton Priors to be a base for the U.S Army as part of N.A.T.O who had been given short notice to quit France. A letter, dated 1st February 1967 to the Prime Minister from Patrick Neane, Minister of Defence, made it clear that the Minister of defence (Administration) Mr G.W. Reynolds had publicly apologised for the inconvenience caused to Lord Boyne in the house, on BBC TV, Midlands Local News Service and by a personal visit to Lord Boyne at his home in Shropshire. But Lord Boyne and the other landowners had to wait for the return of their land. Indeed a few wlwments of the U.S Army had arrived a few weeks before when the Bridgnorth Journal reported that an "Advance guard" of 200 men with huge military vehicles rumbled through Bridgnorth on their way to their new quarters.

    The 233 men of the 608th Ordnance Company of the U.S Army arrived in January 1967, but by April only a few remained. Their main task had been to prepare the base in order to store 22,000 tons of ammunition that had to be moved from their French base. Once thiswas done and the ammunition stored, the majority of the soldiers left for their base at Fort Benning in Georgia, leaving only a few personnel and civilian staff. At this time, the First Sergeant Lawrence Patchen wrote to the Bridgnorth Journal:-

    As First Sergeant in charge of the company and a professional soldier, my tours of duty have taken me round the world, and it has been very refreshing and enjoyable to know that people from two different countries can meet on common ground without the friction and strife that seems to dominate the world today. So from the bottom of our hearts we, the N.C.O's and men of 608 company want to say Thank You.

    The remaining American soldiers stayed in Ditton Priors for about another 15 months, but it is remembered as a time of great excitement. About 100 local people found work on the site, including Cecil Bradley, who worked as a security man on the base. The soldiers went out of their way to woo the local people, opening their social clubs to villagers and organising many shows and fetes to entertain the locals. It was with much regret that, in June 1968, the Americans departed and Cecil Bradley lowered the flag for the last time.

    Below are some random pictures I have come across in the books I have received..

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    I hope the small extras prove interesting to someone.

    Thanks for looking
     
  9. Dragon's Lair

    Dragon's Lair 28DL Full Member
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    Thanks for the update Bighed,
    This has been fascinating.
    I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with my son a few years ago tracing the route of this railway.

    Dragon's lair
     
  10. Bighed

    Bighed 28DL Full Member
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    I'd be interested to know what you found.

    I have these 2 books which are really good....


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