Three target operator bunkers 730m north of Hopehead


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.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 89404 97366, NY 89438 97498, NY 89446 97602

Reasons for Designation

The Army Training Estate Otterburn (ATEO) is one of eight Army Field Training centres in the UK and is the largest single live firing area in the country. It has been operational since 1911 when the War Office acquired about 20000 acres (8094ha) of land in Redesdale, Northumberland to create a seasonal tented camp and artillery range for the training of the newly formed Territorial Forces. The pattern of artillery firing from Easter to October fitted in with local sheep farming practices, and byelaws to control access during live firing periods were introduced in 1916. A period of intense training occurred during World War I to prepare both artillery and infantry units for war, including the construction of a sector of front line trenches at Silloans to practice infantry companies in the routines of defence, control of overhead artillery fire and relief in the line. After World War I the previous pattern of training was restored and continued to 1939, the only change being that from horse drawn to lorry drawn guns in 1938. During World War II, the training area doubled in size with the acquisition and subsequent purchase of a further 20,000 acres (8094ha) to create a second Artillery Range and camp at Otterburn. In 1959 the Ranges were renamed as an All Arms Training Area and five infantry fire and manoeuver areas at Quickeningcote, Wilkwood, Davyshiel, Sills and Heely Dodd were constructed under the Thurlow Plan. From 1969 Otterburn was designated as one of seven Principal Training Areas in the UK and became increasingly used for fire and manoeuver training by infantry units supported by artillery, mortars, guided missiles and air to ground attack aircraft. Developments since 1969 have included the construction of another battle shooting area at Ridleeshope and a moving target railway system at Stone in the Mire for engagement by wire guided anti tank-missiles.

The target operator bunkers 730m north of Hopehead survive well with a range of component features intact. They were constructed as part of a wider group of five bunkers and mark the highly significant change at Otterburn from an Artillery Range to an All Arms Training Area in the late 1950s. They are not thought to be paralleled by similar structures anywhere in the United Kingdom and hence they are an important and highly significant survival. Taken as a group they represent a major phase in the development of the Otterburn ATE.


The monument is situated within the Davyshiel Field Firing Box on the Otterburn Army Training Estate. It includes the upstanding and buried remains of three target operator bunkers. The bunkers, which are contained within three separate areas of protection, are part of a group of five, which formed a small arms training area constructed under the provisions of the Thurlow Plan from 1962 to 1964. The other two target operator bunkers are the subjects of separate schedulings. The bunkers housed a system of cables and levers which military personnel operated manually to raise and lower targets across the firing area. The first bunker operated five remote targets and the second and third bunkers each operated three targets, which were set into rectangular target pits; the target mechanisms and the target pits which partially survive in the vicinity are not included in the scheduling.

The three bunkers are of standard form and dimensions. Oriented north to south, each is visible as a square blockhouse of concrete construction, measuring 2.4m across and about 2.3m high within walls 0.3m thick. A single narrow and wide embrasure measuring 2.1m by 0.2m with vertical metal bars pierces their north sides. The blockhouses are entered from a subterranean passage 0.76m wide, which runs the full length of their eastern sides, through a reinforced metal door. The metal fixings for a second door are visible on the east walls of the bunkers at the other end of the passage. The entrance passage itself is approached from the north by a descending flight of steps, which extend 2.75m to the north, protected by concrete blast walls 0.24m thick. A third projecting blast wall protects the western side of the blockhouse.

Internally, the blockhouses are lined with asbestos sheets and have a wooden shelf and an electricity supply fixed to their south wall. The target apparatus, consisting of a system of levers and cables, used to raise and lower the remote targets is housed in a wooden frame situated against the north wall immediately below the embrasure. The cables leading from this mechanism emerged through a rectangular recess situated immediately below the embrasure and were fed into a wooden distribution box situated some 4m in front of north side of the bunker.

The first bunker, which is contained within the first area of protection, projects above ground level at its north side for 0.75m and has a capping of turf 0.2m high upon its flat roof. Its south, east and west sides are encased in an earthen mound spread 2m wide. The bunker retains its original metal gate at the entrance to the stairway. The concrete base of the distribution box is also visible with the impressions of the metal pickets, which fed the cables in trenches in the direction of the targets, within it. This bunker also retains two metal pulleys inserted into a large concrete block immediately to the west of the stairway. These features in addition to a metal roller inserted into the eastern side of the embrasure are considered to represent later re-use of the bunker, which was modified to control a moving target. The second bunker, which is contained within the second area of protection, projects above ground level at its north side for 0.75m and has a capping of turf upon its roof 0.2m high. Its south, east and west sides are encased in an earthen mound spread to 2m wide. The original bunker number II written in white paint is retained on the north end of the blast wall which flanks the western side of the stairway. The third bunker, which is contained within the third area of protection, projects above ground level on the north side for 0.3m; this bunker has been set into a slope and hence is provided with sufficient natural protection. It retains its original metal gate at the entrance to the stairway, and its original bunker number III written in white paint on the north end of the blast wall which flanks the western side of the stairway.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
The First 80 Years, (1994)
MOD, Thurlow Plan Phase II: Davyshiel Area Tgt Op Bunkers 1, 2 & 3, (1963)
MOD, Thurlow Plan Phase II: Davyshiel Area Tgt Op Bunkers 1, 2 & 3, (1963)


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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