Heavy Anti-aircraft battery on Arne Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 97084 88121

Reasons for Designation

Although of comparatively recent date, 20th century military sites are increasingly seen as historic survivals representing a defining episode in the history of warfare and of the century in general; as such they merit careful record and, in some cases, preservation. One of the more significant developments in the evolution of warfare during this period was the emergence of strategic bombing in World War II, and this significance was reflected by the resources invested in defence, both in terms of personnel and the sites on which they served. During the war, the number of people in Anti-aircraft Command reached a peak of 274,900 men, additional to the women soldiers of the ATS who served on gunsites from summer 1941, and the Home Guard who manned many sites later in the war. A national survey of England's Anti-aircraft provision, based on archive sources, has produced a detailed record of how many sites there were, where they were and what they looked like. It is also now known from a survey of aerial photographs how many of these survive. Anti-aircraft gunsites divide into three main types: those for heavy guns (HAA), light guns (LAA) and batteries for firing primitive unguided rockets (so called ZAA sites). In addition to gunsites, decoy targets were employed to deceive enemy bombers, while fighter command played a complementary and significant role. Following the end of World War II, 192 HAA sites were selected for post-war use as the Nucleus Force, which was finally closed in 1955. The HAA sites contained big guns with the function of engaging high flying strategic bombers, hence their location around the south and east coasts, and close to large cities and industrial and military targets. Of all the gunsites, these were the most substantially built. There were three main types: those for static guns (mostly 4.5 and 3.7 inch); those for 3.7 inch mobile guns; and sites accommodating 5.25 inch weapons. These were all distinct in fabric, though they could all occupy the same position at different dates, or simultaneously by accretion. As well as the four or eight gun emplacements, with their holdfast mountings for the guns, components will generally include operational buildings such as a command post, radar structures including the radar platform, on-site magazines for storing reserve ammunition, gun stores and generating huts, usually one of the standard Nissen hut designs. Domestic sites were also a feature of HAA gunsites, with huts, ablutions blocks, offices, stores and amenities drawn from a common pool of approved structures. Sites were often also provided with structures for their close defence; pillboxes are the most common survivals, though earthwork emplacements were also present. The layout of HAA gunsites was distinctive, but changed over time, for example to accommodate the introduction of radar from December 1940, women soldiers from summer 1941, and eight gun layouts from late 1942. Nearly 1,000 gunsites were built during World War II, and less than 200 of these have some remains surviving. However, at only around 60 sites are these remains thought sufficient to provide an understanding of their original form and function. This includes 30 of the 192 examples which continued in use until 1955. Surviving examples are therefore sufficiently rare to suggest that all 60 well preserved examples are of national importance.

The Heavy Anti-aircraft battery on Arne Hill is well-preserved and includes surviving remains of the associated domestic structures. The site represents the only survival of a HAA battery within the group which originally served the RNCF at Holton Heath and it also represents one of very few examples of this class of site known to survive within Dorset.


The monument includes a Heavy Anti-aircraft (HAA) battery located on Arne Hill, a ridge on a peninsular situated on the south western edge of Poole Harbour. The HAA battery represents part of a group of five similar sites which were designed to provide defence against airborne attack for the Royal Naval Cordite Factory (RNCF) at Holton Heath (situated approximately 3km to the north west) during World War II. Three of the HAA batteries were situated on the Arne peninsular, while the remainder were situated to the north west and north east of the factory site. The battery consisted of a central control block, aligned north west by south east, built of brick elevations with a reinforced concrete roof. It was flanked by four gun emplacements to the south east; these were arranged in a semicircle and faced Poole Harbour. The emplacements, which are built of reinforced concrete, are hexagonal in plan. Each has inbuilt lockers and ammunition stores and access was by means of a single entrance. A gun was mounted in the central area of each emplacement. The guns were removed after the war, but iron mounts and runner tracks are still visible within each emplacement. Records indicate that the battery was operational between 1940 and 1944, when it was manned by 328 Battalion from 104 Regiment, and that the battery was installed with two 3 inch guns in 1941. However, the presence of four gun emplacements indicates that the battery was remodelled after 1941, when it is likely that four 3.7 inch guns were then installed as surviving records indicate was the case at other HAA sites within the Holton Heath group, such as at Slepe (near Wareham) and Upton (near Poole). To the north of the control block are a series of artificial terraces. These are likely to mark the sites of Nissen Huts and associated structures which served the domestic needs of the occupying unit. This area may also have supported the radar equipment which is known from records to have been installed at this site.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Mention, Anderson M, Anti-aircraft gunsites (MPP Report), (1999)
Mention, Dobinson C, Anti-aircraft gunsites (MPP Report), (1999)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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