Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite 330m south east of Lowfield Farm


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


Ordnance survey map of Heavy Anti-aircraft gunsite 330m south east of Lowfield Farm
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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 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 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 cases. 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 aeroplanes. 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 service track. 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

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