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Report - - The Defence of Plymouth, Devon/Cornwall, July 2018 - July 2020 | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The Defence of Plymouth, Devon/Cornwall, July 2018 - July 2020


HughieD

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Introduction
Had the good fortune to be working in Plymouth a couple of times a year over a four-year stint. Although I was without car it always involved an overnight stay so spare time was spent walking to the many naval sites in the area. Did a number of reports at the time but with no new explores and a bit of time on my hands, thought I’d bring all the places together in one report.

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1. Renney Battery
Renney Point Battery was built upon the cliffs overlooking the eastern approaches to Plymouth Sound. Constructed in 1905, it was equipped with heavy, breach loading weapons capable of engaging armoured battleships. The battery saw service during both World Wars. Fitted with 3 x 9.2inch Breach Loading guns which were specifically designed for engaging armoured battleships, it was secured with anti-personnel defences, including infantry blockhouses and an unclimbable fence as soon as World War I broke out. It remained in service during the inter-war years and two searchlights added in 1933. With the outbreak of World War II, it was fitted with long range mountings which increased its range to a staggering 20 miles. Also fitted with 2 x 60-pounders, one 6-pounder, 2 x anti-aircraft 40mm Bofors and two mortars, post war, it was scaled back to just the 3 x 9.2inch Breach Loading guns, before being completely disarmed in 1957. The site was then retained by the Ministry of Defence as a training establishment until 1991.

Sadly, ran out of time with this place and only managed a few pictures from the periphery:







2. Lentney Gun Battery
Lentney Battery was built in 1905 as one of three 6-inch gun batteries to defend the Eastern approaches to Plymouth Sound, for the defence of the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport, 3.7 miles to the north-east. Lentney and Renney batteries were strategically placed to keep the largest enemy battleships and armoured cruisers of the pre-Dreadnought era out of range from bombarding the dockyard and ships anchored in Plymouth Sound. Originally intended to house 3 guns, only two emplacements were completed for the 6-inch Mark VII breech-loading naval guns. The magazines, ammunition prep areas and barracks were situated below the battery. During the Second World War between 1939 and 1941 the battery was modernised and re-armed with similar guns (but this time the Mk24 guns included splinter boxes over the guns) as before manned by men from 156 Royal Artillery Battery. After the war, the battery was used as one of the practise batteries for the Coast Artillery Training School who were based up the coast at Fort Staddon. The battery remained in usable condition until the dissolution of coast artillery in the United Kingdom in 1956 when it was once again disarmed, and the guns sold for scrap. The site was then released by the military in 1991.

In 1911 the battery was put into reserve, as its role was better fulfilled by the contemporary battery at Watch House. In 1914 a blockhouse and unclimbable fence was added, and the battery was manned by the Devonshire Royal Garrison Artillery who shared accommodation with the nearby Renney Battery to the south. The guns were dismounted after the First World War.

With time at a premium and having no car at my disposal, this was a bit of a logistical challenge getting out here. Utilising Plymouth's fantastic bus service I got as close to Fort Bovisand as I could then walked the rest of the way along the country back-roads. Once at Bovisand I turned left and walked along the coastal path then turned inland to reach the battery. It was a beautiful March day with bright sunlight and blue skies. It was so peaceful and the site itself remains incredibly untouched, bar the odd graff artist that has found their way here. There is still plenty to see here including the original lighting and powder/shell and cartridge hoists, making this a most enjoyable visit.

Full report HERE



















3. Woodland’s Fort
Woodland Fort is one of the Palmerston Forts that form Plymouth's north-eastern defences that were constructed in the late 1800s with the purpose of defending the Royal Dockyard at Devonport from the possibility of a French attack, under the leadership of Napoleon III. Construction commended in 1863 but was delayed when the contractors failed in 1866. It was later completed in 1870 at a total cost of £27,973.

The fort is trapezoidal in shape and incorporates many advanced Victorian fort design innovations from the time. It housed 18 guns in total with two in Haxo casemates. The soldiers' barracks, with room for 100 soldiers, are situated to the north of the parade ground while the now-ruined cookhouse is located down the north-west side. The magazines are to the north east. There is a caponier to the north west covering the west flank and a counterscarp gallery to the north east, which was armed with four 32 pounder SBBL guns as well as serving as extra accommodation for the soldiers. This can be seen from the plan below: This gallery was accessed via a tunnel heading beneath the ditch. The purpose of the gallery was to provide flanking fire along the north and east lengths of the defensive ditch. The gatehouse is at the south of the fort and retains some elements of the fort’s original drawbridge mechanism.

It was apparently disarmed in 1895 and then used mainly for accommodation during World War I. It was then sold off by the MOD in 1920 but re-occupied by the military during World War II. It was then used by Devon County Council as library and community centre. The fort is now largely derelict, although the aforementioned barracks are still in use and maintained by a group of volunteers. However, the rest of the fort suffers from a lack of maintenance and has been subject to extensive vandalism. Both the caponier and counterscarp are inaccessible from within the fort as both access tunnels are now blocked off. When Crownhill Road was enlarged, due south of the fort, the ditch was filled in allowing easy access to the fort on foot, although the site is not open to the public.

Due to my train arriving in Plymouth late and time being tight I caught the bus over to Woodland’s fort as the evening was drawing in. Fortunately, I got there before the sun had gone down and started to explore this fantastic Palmerston Fort. The barracks are still used by a social club, but the rest of the fort is abandoned. By the looks of recent pictures, they have now cleared a lot of the undergrowth off the batteries on three sides of the fort. Sadly, there was no entry point to the caponier (that I could squeeze through!) and I forgot to check the counterscarp gallery out (revisit therefore required). That aside though this was a very pleasant way to spend an hour or so of the remaining daylight.

Full Report HERE



















4. Cremyll Oil Storage Depot
Couldn"t find a whole lot of info on this place. The only thing I did find is that it was a former Royal Navy oil storage depot. It was very easy to find and get to site itself but in terms of looking around, very over-grown in the Summer months. It was hard getting into some of the buildings as I wasn’t in the mood to do battle with the brambles, hence a limited set of pictures. Subsequently found there was a far more impressive place nearby (see no.5) which I made a beeline for next time I was in town.

Full Report HERE













 
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HughieD

28DL Regular User
Regular User
COND.

5. Cremyll Oil Storage Tanks

Located over the Tamar from Plymouth and is actually in Cornwall rather than Devon. Little info out there on the site. It dates back to World War II and has been abandoned for some time. With a bit of research and some OS maps, I managed to locate the four tanks and took the ferry from Plymouth over the Tamar to Cremyll. It was then a mile or so hike to where the path veered off the main road into the woods. It was easy enough to find the mound of tank no.1, although the entrance was a bit concealed. There was a circular portal that you can climb through into the tank, presumably where a pipe would have been. Inside the vast tank was flooded with 7-8” of water. Hence it was a wellies jobbie which I’d thankfully packed in my bag. Inside it was pitch black and very, very echoey. The concrete ceiling was held up by a series of metal pillars while the sides were constructed of iron sheets. In the centre was what appeared to be a spiral heating element – probably to keep the oil pumpable. After a bit of light painting, it was time to squeeze back through the portal and move on to tanks 2 and 3. These were relatively close together. The layout was pretty much identical to tank 1 although, externally, these two still had some of the hatches, pullies, valves, and other bits of ironwork on the top of the tanks. There was also a nice winch outside tank 2. Both were again flooded and looked identical to tank 1 so didn’t go into these. Then it was back on the track and up the hill to tank no.4, the highest tank of the four. Again, a similar lay-out. However, this one was much dryer but also didn't have the circular heating element. Really enjoyed exploring this place.

Full Report HERE





















6. Raleigh Gun Battery
Constructed between March 1890 and August 1894, this costal defence barbette battery cost £4,963 to construct back in the day (about £600,000 in today's money). Originally intended to be a single 17-inch B.L. gun, this counter-bombardment battery, it was constructed between Hawkins battery and due-east of Maker Farm, on sloping land facing the sea. It was fitted out with 2 x 10-inch B.L. guns, one on an Elswick Ordnance Company Barbette mounting, the other on a Royal Carriage Department barbette mounting. They were located here to prevent ships lying at anchor off Cawsand Bay and to support Picklecombe Fort guarding approaches to Plymouth Sound.

The guns were side-by-side, separated by an underground magazine store and linked by a tunnel that sloped down underneath a central earth traverse. There was one magazine to the north of the tunnel and two carriage stores (each with its own serving hatch) to the south. Each gun emplacement had an R.A. store, cartridge recess, a shell recess, and a shelter for the gun crew, all built into the concrete gun-apron. To the right of the right-hand gun emplacement was a water catchment area and tank. The caretaker’s office was on the opposite side which consisted of two bedrooms, a living room, and a scullery. In between both of these were two Depression Range Finders (DRFs). Behind the left-hand battery was an oil store. There were no barracks, and the battery was manned only at times of need.

This was initially only a bit of a side recce as my main targets were Maker Battery and Grenville Battery. They both turned out to be fails and this one the best bit of the day. I’d seen the gun aprons on Google Maps so knew something remained of this two-gun battery and that it was relatively accessible. However, it completely surpassed expectations. Wished I’d had more time to spend there on my first visit so subsequently came back for a revisit.

Full Reports HERE and HERE























 
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HughieD

28DL Regular User
Regular User
COND.

7. Maker Gun Battery

Maker Heights heavy is anti-aircraft battery just over the border in Cornwall, overlooking Plymouth Sound. By the time war was declared in September 1939, there were 12 Heavy Anti-Aircraft batteries (HAAs) defending Plymouth, most on the Cornish side of the Tamar.

This battery was built in the late 1930’s. with 4 x 3.7-inch gun emplacements laid out in a horse-shoe arrangement, each surrounded by an earthwork. Behind there was a rectangular command post building. Later on, on either side of this building, two more gun emplacements were added (most likely in the 1940s during the war), making a total complement of six guns. Due east were huts that provided living accommodation for the 80-or-so soldiers who manned the battery, making use of an eighteenth-century redoubt.

The site had previously been used for military purposes well before then. The outbreak of the War and American Independence in 1775 and the strategic importance of Maker Heights saw the construction of a line of redoubts built to protect Devonport Dockyard in 1782. Shortly afterwards, Maker Barracks were built to accommodate the redoubt’s garrisons between1804-1808. The two-storey block was altered in the mid-19th century when the formerly tile-hung first floor was rebuilt in brick. It is the most complete small garrison barracks from this significant period. The area was further fortified in the late nineteenth century with the addition of Maker, Grenville, Hawkins, and Raleigh Batteries. The barracks were partially repaired and in use as a community art centre and it is now a Grade II listed structure.

Visited on a lovely sunny evening as part of a visit the Raleigh battery and Redoubt No.5.

Full Report HERE



















8. Redoubt No. 5, Maker Heights
Redoubt No.5 is a battery, roughly rectangular in shape, with Royal Commission fortifications. It is situated on the northern side of the prominent ridge on the Rame Peninsula known as Maker Heights which overlooks the Millbrook Lake.

It has stone-faced ramparts with bull-nosed decorated copings and an outer gorge of up to 6m deep. Its interior features including a gatehouse, barracks with bomb-proof roofs. On the eastern side Musketry loops protect the now missing bridge.

The battery was initially built as a temporary structure in earth in 1779 by the 2nd Devon Militia for the War of American Independence. It was intended to protect the four redoubts (No.s 1-4) of the Maker Line. It was made ‘permanent’ in 1782-3 by Dixon & the Duke of Richmond, with the intention of forming a bastion for a much larger fort which never got built. Between 1787-91 the redoubt was strengthened by the addition of the stone revetments, a loop holed barracks along the gorge and gun platforms and renamed 'Redoubt No.5'. Between 1808 to 1811 it had 9 guns in total: 2 on the north flank, 3 on the south and 4 on the west. It was most likely not completely repaired under the Royal Commission proposals and probably abandoned around 1866. In World War II the barrack block was occupied by Plymouth families displaced by the Blitz. The battery was Listed Grade II in June 1972.

Came across this place by chance as I was returning from the Maker Heights anti-aircraft battery. It looked too tempting to walk past in the Summer Sun. The bridge into the fort has completely gone and the only realistic way into the for was using a ladder via the outer gorge. And given said ladder was not available it was externals only.

Full Report HERE

















No. 9 Dead Boats













No. 10 Drakes Island
The jewel in the Plymouth crown. With no boat and no canoe, there was no chance of getting out this this one. A zhame as this place really is the best. So telephoto shots from afar and a sale past on the ferry. To see it in its full glory see @Paradox and their fab report HERE

A few distant pictures:









That’s all folks!
 
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Down and beyond

From the land of the pillar and stall
Regular User
a great report as always I do love the ribs of the boat picture always find them photogenic!
 

HughieD

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Maybe it's time I got in contact with my friend who lives in Plymouth to see if he'd like a weekend visitor when we're allowed out to play again :D
You really should @mookster There's some fab stuff there. Try and get on to Drake's Island as well. That was my biggest regret. The New Palace Theatre is also nice. Access seems to come and go there.
 

Fluffy

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Fantastic report Hughie. Well put together. Plymouth is ace; been a few times myself. Drake's Island is somewhere I'd been very keen to have a look at. I have a little inflatable with a 4hp engine if anyone fancies it one day? :D

The theatre was open when I was last there. Unfortunately myself and the girlfriend chickened out, and made the mistake of phoning a local explorer down there, who promptly told all her little mates, scared us off with horror stories of the place, then went in herself the following day and got the police called out... *eye roll* Sharp lesson learned there - next time we see an entrance hole, keep quiet and don't tell any other fucker, and just get on and use it ourselves! Pfft...

Hey ho. Plymouth Hoe.
 

urbanchemist

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Nice summary of things to see down there. So which of them haven't been done before, as in no pictures of the insides - that battery (redoubt 5)?
 

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Nice compilation there. Some really nice looking batteries & bits of redoubt there. Loving the dead boats too. Woodlands Fort looks an interesting one. Like the reflections in the surround water.
 

lpphevs

Wasteland Wanderer
28DL Full Member
Lovely report there, was down here in the summer last year and had a look at a few of the bits. Great area! I couldnt find the Cremyll underground tank entrance as had to press onto more sites, so nice work!
 

Paradox

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Banging thread that and cracking pics too :) Thanks for the report tag too, gotta say you deffo do need to get your arse out to the island though, its well worth it!
 

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