Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite 330m south east of Lowfield Farm
- 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.
- Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SE 46341 02382
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
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 gunsite 330m south east of Lowfield Farm is a well- preserved example of an early to mid-World War II gunsite. It retains the functional core of the station, the command post, gun emplacements, gun holdfasts, Nissen magazine and the service track.
The monument includes the standing, buried and earthwork remains of a World
War II Heavy Anti-aircraft (HAA) gunsite known as Station H17. The site
includes four gun emplacements, a command post, a Nissen magazine and part of
the service track. The site is situated to the east of Bolton Upon Dearne and
200m north of the River Dearne.
It is unclear exactly when Station H17 was established but it is known to have
been unarmed in June 1942 when the site is mentioned in an Anti-aircraft
Command letter. Guns were often moved from one site to another during the war
and the fact that a site was unarmed at any particular time does not
necessarily mean it had been totally abandoned. A book of signatures from Her
Majesty's Forces Rest and Recreation Room at Bolton Upon Dearne camp records
that between 1943 and 1944, the site was staffed by mixed sex batteries known
as 626 (m) HAA Bty and 646 Bty. Women were employed from the Auxiliary
Territorial Service (ATS) to operate radar, communications systems and other
support roles whilst men continued to operate the guns.
The site was probably connected with the defence of Sheffield which lies
approximately 16km to the south west.
The Anti-aircraft (AA) guns were used not only for destroying enemy aircraft
but, more importantly, for preventing accurate bombing and for preventing
enemy aircraft reaching their objectives, particularly at night. The effect of
AA gunfire was, generally speaking, to keep all enemy aircraft at a high
altitude and to deter them from flying on the straight and even course
necessary for accurate bombing. Another important function of AA guns was to
indicate the position of enemy aircraft to their own fighters. Often, when an
enemy plane was out of range, the guns would fire one or two rounds to burst
as near as possible, simply to draw the fighters attention to the enemy.
The monument survives as a series of standing, buried and earthwork remains.
The HAA gun emplacements and command post are constructed out of concrete and
breeze block and broadly follow standard designs. The gun emplacements are
arranged in a semi-circle around the east side of the command post and
incorporate characteristics of both the March 1938 pattern which was
octagonal in plan and had twin axial entrances, and the Directorate of
Fortifications and Works (DFW) 55414 design, which was issued by the DFW on
10th October 1942. This had a single entrance and external ammunition recesses
and shelters. Both types were designed for 3.7in guns although some of the
earlier examples were designed for 4.5in guns. At Bolton Upon Dearne the
emplacements incorporate the twin entrances of the earlier model and the
external ammunition recesses and shelters of the later model. They measure
approximately 8m in diameter with 2m high concrete and breeze block walls. The
surrounding walls form three roofed compartments of which the central one
leads to a shelter at the rear. On one side the shelter was typically used as
a relaxed duty shelter for the gun crew, the other for gun maintenance. The
other recesses were used for stacking ammunition and fuses of different,
preset lengths. The twin axial entrances align directly with the command post.
The gun holdfasts are octagonal concrete pads positioned in the centre of each
gun emplacement. They are set level with the ground surface with a standard
ring of holding down bolts for fixing the gun mounting. Although not all the
holding down bolts survive, their position is evident on the ground in most
The command post is roughly E-shaped in plan, semi-sunken and is constructed
of breeze block and concrete with some metal fittings and pipe work surviving.
The bases of various instrument mountings survive in an area at the front of
the building which is enclosed although open to the sky. In operation these
mountings would have housed an identification telescope, the predictor (a
mechanical computer), and height finder. These fed information to the
plotting room, a long room in the covered part of the command post where the
bearing, elevation and range were calculated and relayed to the guns. Other
rooms in the command post acted as offices, stores and communication rooms.
The building faces to the east so that the Gun Position Officer (GPO), who was
in charge of the command post, could control the firing of the guns, watch the
effects of the fire and take responsibility for the identification of enemy
The Nissen magazine has brick built ends, a curved, corrugated, metal roof,
ventilating facilities, and a double iron door at its southern end. The
magazine was provided for storage of reserve ammunition, beyond the ready for
use supply kept in the recesses within the gun emplacements. The magazine is
situted approximately 100m north east of the Command Post along a narrow
From the summer of 1941, many HAA Regiments used women to operate equipment.
Station H17 was designed to accommodate mixed sex batteries and had a large
domestic camp to the north of the protected area. An aerial photograph taken
in 1979 shows one or two surviving buildings but the structures have now been
removed and the area developed into a housing estate. This area is not
therefore included in the scheduling.
All the buildings and structures are surrounded by earth and turf embankments.
These would not only have reinforced the structures but would also help to
camouflage the site from air attack.
The HAA battery complex would, originally, have included a radar platform but
the exact position of this is unknown.
All modern fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these is included.
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:
Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England, (1996), 112-160
Lowry, B (ed), Twentieth Century defences in Britain. An introductory guide, (1995), 50-57
Held NMR Swindon, MAL/79046/132, (1979)
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