World War II fighter pens and defences, and other associated remains, at the airfield formerly known as RAF Perranporth, Trevellas


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020556

Date first listed: 07-Mar-2002


Ordnance survey map of World War II fighter pens and defences, and other associated remains, at the airfield formerly known as RAF Perranporth, Trevellas
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Perranzabuloe

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Agnes

National Grid Reference: SW 73275 51989, SW 73303 52636, SW 73402 52642, SW 73430 52690, SW 73545 52671, SW 73830 52850, SW 74211 53276, SW 74432 53389


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The importance of defending airfields against attack was realised before the outbreak of World War II and a strategy evolved as the war went on. Initially based on the principle of defence against air attack, anti-aircraft guns, air raid shelters and dispersed layouts, with fighter or `blast' pens to protect dispersed aircraft, are characteristics of this early phase. With time, however, the capture of the airfield became a more significant threat, and it was in this phase that the majority of surviving defence structures were constructed, mostly in the form of pillboxes and other types of machine gun post. The scale of airfield defence depended on the likelihood of attack, with those airfields in south or east England, and those close to navigable rivers, ports and dockyards being more heavily defended. But the types of structure used were fairly standard. For defence against air attack there were anti-aircraft gun positions, either small machine gun posts or more substantial towers for Bofors guns; air raid shelters were common, with many examples on each airfield; and for aircraft, widely dispersed to reduce the potential effects of attack, fighter pens were provided. These were groups together, usually in threes, and took the form of `E' shaped earthworks with shelter for ground crew. Night fighter stations also had sleep shelters where the crew could rest. For defence against capture, pillboxes were provided. These fortified gun positions took many forms, from standard ministry designs used throughout Britain and in all contexts, to designs specifically for airfield defence. Three Pickett-Hamilton forts were issued to many airfields and located on the flying field itself. Normally level with the ground, these forts were occupied by two persons who entered through the roof before raising the structure by a pneumatic mechanism to bring fire on the invading force. Other types of gun position include the Seagull trench, a complex linear defensive position, and rounded `Mushroom' pillboxes, while fighter pens were often protected by defended walls. Finally, airfield defence was co-ordinated from a Battle Headquarters, a heavily built structure of which under and above ground examples are known. Defences survive on a number of airfields, though few in anything like the original form or configuration, or with their Battle Headquarters. Examples are considered to be of particular importance where the defence provision is near complete, or where a portion of the airfield represents the nature of airfield defence that existed more widely across the site. Surviving structures will often be given coherence and context by surviving lengths of perimeter track and the concrete dispersal pads. In addition, some types of defence structure are rare survivals nationally, and all examples of Pickett- Hamilton forts, fighter pens and their associated sleep shelters, gun positions and Battle Headquarters closely associated with defence structures, are of national importance.

Despite limited modification and some ploughing and rabbit damage, the World War II fighter pens and defences and other associated remains at the airfield formerly known as RAF Perranporth, Trevellas are outstandingly well-preserved. The associated structures providing for crewing, maintenance, and organisation are all represented and some are substantially intact. They include fighter pens, sleep shelters (one near complete), and a defended locality with gun positions and Battle Headquarters, all rare nationally. The survival, almost undisturbed, of the original layouts of all the various structures in their complexes, with tracks linking them and giving access to the runways, is exceptional. These remains represent well the development of airfield design in response to the intense and changing pressures of a critical period in the history of Britain. In particular, they provide a very good example of the provision for fighter units, having been built for this purpose and used as such throughout the War. They supported flying missions which contributed to critical phases of the nation's defensive and offensive action. The association of accommodation for airfield personnel with technical and defensive installations also illustrates the wide and profound impact of World War II on individuals.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The scheduling includes World War II fighter pens and defences, with accommodation and other associated remains, at the airfield formerly known as RAF Perranporth, Trevellas. The location is a level coastal plateau, with steep cliffs to the north west, lying south west of Perranporth. The scheduling is divided into eight separate areas of protection. RAF Perranporth was built in response to the threat of German naval and aerial control of Britain's Western Approaches, as part of the rapid development of airfields in the early years of World War II. The airfield, constructed on recently enclosed farmland, opened on 28th April 1941 as a satellite for RAF Portreath, some 9km to the south west. It was originally known as Trevellas. The station was intended for one squadron (12 aircraft) of Spitfire fighters, but was soon used by two, and then by three. The airfield continued to be used by Spitfires from a total of 21 squadrons crewed by different nationalities until April 1944, their missions including offensive sweeps over France and providing bomber escorts, as well as shipping and coastal defence. It was then used by three squadrons of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA), to attack German E-boats (motor torpedo boats) and shipping in the period around D-Day (6th June 1944), when Allied forces landed in France. The FAA units were equipped with rocket firing Swordfish biplanes, and Avenger torpedo bombers. The station was run on a Care and Maintenance basis from 1st September 1944, interrupted by a period of reuse from 23rd November to 1st May 1945 as a base for RAF units awaiting transfer to former enemy airfields. The airfield conforms to Air Ministry specifications for a night fighter station of 1941, having a perimeter track around which aircaft were to be dispersed to minimise damage in the event of attack, giving access to three tarmac runways laid in an A-shaped plan, and standardised buildings and structures. The airfield remains in the scheduling are broadly of two types: fighter pen complexes, and defensive works. A base consisting of a linked pair of fighter pen complexes was provided for each squadron, each complex supporting one of the squadron's two flights (six aircraft). The complexes contain fighter pens, hangars, and standings for the dispersed protection and maintenance of aircraft, with accommodation and other facilites for personnel, technical operations and organisation, and perimeter track linking these elements to each other and to the runways. The two squadron bases lie at either end of the main runway. Each flight complex has three intact or near intact fighter pens, designed to protect aircraft from blasting by enemy aerial bombing. The pens are E-shaped in plan, comprising a pair of tarmac floors which each held one single-engine fighter, a bank separating them, a more massive bank in an arc around the rear, and a central air raid shelter for crews. They have features including tie-down bars for anchoring aircraft, and variations reflecting development over time, the earliest pens being on the north east side. The four hangars in the scheduling, now represented by surface remains, were of the blister type, roofed with arched steel ribs clad with corrugated iron. They have tarmac bases with remains of ironwork. Two hangars have arcs of pegsaround their ends, used to secure the lower edges of canvas coverings. The north east and south west flight complexes also have tarmac aircraft standings adjoining the perimeter track; the other two have standings with approaches, known as pan dispersals from their plan. Tie-down bars can be seen on both types. Associated buildings for flight personnel are shown and identified on a plan of 1945. They survive as concrete bases reflecting their layout and plan form, some with traces of their superstructures. The latter included Nissen, Laing, and Handcraft types, built of concrete, brick, corrugated iron, and asbestos. All the fighter pen complexes have latrines and three have drying rooms. Those on the north east side of the airfield, more distant from the accommodation sited south of the main airfield, have crew rest rooms, and night sleeping shelters to allow rapid scrambling or emergency deployment of crew. The night shelter on the north west side is near intact. It has block and reinforced concrete walls and roof, blast walls at each end, and galvanised protective doors. Three complexes have the concrete base of a flight office, used in organising operations and as an officers' mess. The fourth office, on the south east side, is standing. It has concrete block walls and butresses and asbestos roofing. The interior has remains of fittings, and graffiti including a representation of a fighter aircraft. Flights also had magazines for ammunition and other storage provision, again visible as bases with remains of their superstructures. The perimeter track in the scheduling, which links the two groups of fighter pens, has its original tarmac surface, as do the spur tracks connecting it with their various components. On the north side, segments of the main runway and runway three are included where the linking track intersects with them, providing wide turning areas suitable for marshalling aircraft. Airfield defences and command are represented in the scheduling by a battle headquarters (BHQ) with its own shield of defences, positioned roughly in the centre towards the cliffs, and other defensive sites near the airfield perimeter on the north east side. The BHQ was intended for use in the event of an attack to coordinate the airfield's defence. It has an underground control room, and an observation post with a horizontal viewing slit. The structure is of block and reinforced concrete with iron fittings. A defended locality around the BHQ is defined by three complete or near-complete pillboxes, small defence posts with reinforced walls and flat roofs. They are octagonal in plan, and built of concrete and brick, but each is topped with an earth mound extending up to 2m beyond its walls. It is possible that they were capped with earth during the War for camouflage. A similar pillbox stands near the station's boundary on the north east side of the airfield. A virtually intact gunpit for an anti-aircraft machine gun is located in each of these areas with pillboxes, one north east of the BHQ, and one near the north east boundary. These are keyhole shaped in plan, having a small below-ground shelter opening from a rounded pit, and built of brick and concrete. Each pit has an iron access ladder and central gun mounting, and ammunition storage built into its revetting wall. The airfield remains described above are associated with others beyond this scheduling including the runways and control tower. The modern fencing, gates, doors, and their fittings, farming and building equipment and materials, water pipe and drinking trough, drainage goods, yard for livestock, fuel tank, aircraft, vehicles, and boats are excluded from the scheduling, although the structures or ground beneath them are included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 32957

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Andrew, F R, The history of RAF Perranporth, 1941-1945, (2000), 1-9
Andrew, F R, The history of RAF Perranporth, 1941-1945, (2000), 1-9
Lowry, B (ed), Twentieth Century defences in Britain. An introductory guide, (1995), 82-83
Lowry, B (ed), Twentieth Century defences in Britain. An introductory guide, (1995), 123
Lowry, B (ed), Twentieth Century defences in Britain. An introductory guide, (1995), 82, 83
Smith, G, Devon and Cornwall Airfields in the Second World War, (2000), 152
Walford, E, War over the West, (1989), 118
Andrew, FR, Defence of Britain Project Site Report, 1999, Unpublished MS at CAU
Francis, P, Unknown, 2000, Unpublished report
PRN 53682, Young, A, CAU SMR, (2000)
PRN 53682, Young, A, Cornwall SMR, (2000)
Title: Air Ministry Perranporth 1:2500 Record Site Plan Source Date: 1945 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Airfield Plan No 88 at RAF Museum
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1908 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing