Okehampton Artillery Range: Observation Post 6 and Incline Target Carrier Railway

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1424332
Date first listed:
02-Oct-2015
Location Description:
Okehampton, Devon. Located at NGR SX6029289843.

Map

Ordnance survey map of Okehampton Artillery Range: Observation Post 6 and Incline Target Carrier Railway
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

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

Location Description:
Okehampton, Devon. Located at NGR SX6029289843.
County:
Devon
District:
West Devon (District Authority)
Parish:
Dartmoor Forest
National Park:
DARTMOOR
National Grid Reference:
SX6031689844

Summary

A late-C19 target carrier railway and observation post on Dartmoor.

Reasons for Designation

Observation Post 6 and the incline target railway at Okehampton Artillery Range are scheduled for the following principal reasons:   * Period: the Royal Artillery Training Range at Okehampton played an important role in the advancement of new military techniques and tactics from the late C19 to the present day, and has a strong cultural and historical significance, within both a local and national context; * Survival: the observation post and earthwork features survive well, providing clear evidence of their original construction and the development of artillery tactics and weaponry; * Rarity: as the official summer school of the School of Gunnery, the range at Okehampton became the most important artillery range established in the late-C19, with a set of imaginative, and in some cases unique, practice range features. Late-C19 incline target carrier railways are particularly rare; * Documentation: the features have been documented in historical maps of the range, and a number of landscape and condition surveys throughout the C21; * Group value: the site has strong group value with the other related military training features. The associated camp to the north is of historic significance in itself, particularly the listed late-C19 buildings, and the two sites should not be seen in isolation of each other. The Okehampton bunkhouses and target railways are a key part of a larger multi-phased military landscape that can be seen across Dartmoor.

History

Dartmoor has been used as a defensive location since at least the Bronze Age. There is evidence of Iron Age, Roman, Medieval and Civil War military use in the Okehampton area, indicating the strategic significance of the area as the elevated gateway to the south west of England. Okehampton Artillery Training Range is on the northern edge of Dartmoor, to the south of the associated Camp that lies within the C13 Okehampton Deer Park. Medieval settlements were scattered through the park; the remains of one extends to the north of the range and others lie close by.

The modern military use of the moor dates back to the late C18 when it was used to train the Okehampton Militia. By the early C19, soldiers guarding Dartmoor Prison used the moor for training, and troops garrisoned in the Palmerston Forts in South Devon used Dartmoor by the mid-C19. The Militia also continued training, often on Hay Tor, and in large numbers. Later in the C19, due to improvements in the power of artillery weapons, the Royal Artillery School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness (est. 1859) became unsuitable for training, and Dartmoor was identified as a suitably barren and uninhabited area to become its summer headquarters. Training became formalised into regular summer manoeuvres for the Royal Artillery from 1873, with the permission of the landowner the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1875 a committee was set up under Major-General F Eardley-Wilmot FRS, whose purpose was to look at the problems of providing field artillery training under realistic service conditions, visited the northern part of Dartmoor and once again found it a suitable landscape for battlefield training. The recent provision of a train station at Okehampton was also in its favour. In 1876, the first annual training event took place using the north moor, with a tented camp located at Okehampton.

By the early 1890s the War Office and Royal Artillery resolved to build a permanent camp at Okehampton to provide better protection against the sometimes harsh weather conditions. On 31st December 1892, the War Office secured a 999 year lease for the site of the camp: 94 acres of land on the Okehampton Park Estate. Other artillery training camps were set up at Lydd (1882), Golden Hill, Isle of Wight (1888) and Salisbury Plain (1899).

In 1895 an additional 10,000 acres of High Moorland were leased from the Duchy. From May to September each year, batteries from across England travelled by rail to Okehampton for two or three weeks training. In 1901 a battery consisted of 5 officers, 166 men, 6 guns and at least 89 horses. The camp could accommodate two brigades each containing four batteries.

In the late-C19, probably in response to the tactics employed by the Boers during the wars in South Africa, trenches were dug, principally to determine methods of attacking these defensive positions. Further earthworks were created to facilitate training including earthen parapets and redoubts. An imaginative firing programme was also established with the addition of an extensive system of static, moving and disappearing targets. These were intended to represent advancing infantry, cavalry and guns. The targets were moved in a variety of ways including horses pulling targets on tracks, ropes, pulleys and sledges. Earth and granite covered concrete, splinter-proof shelters were also built to facilitate the observation of the artillery training and to instruct on the movement of targets. Some have subsequently been demolished, and those that survive remain in use as training features with the exception of Observation Post 22, at the corner of East Okement Farm, which is still used to observe manoeuvres.

Early communication was carried out by semaphore, with flag stations erected on high points across the moor. Later an extensive network of telephone cables was installed with concrete telephone points placed at strategic positions.

It is unclear whether any formal training was provided at Okehampton for First World War recruits as those who joined up typically received a short period of training before being sent to the front. Formal training did occur at sites such as Larkhill Camp, Salisbury Plain, which was established during the First World War. Artillery training continued at Okehampton during the 1920s and 30s. Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, virtually the whole of Dartmoor was requisitioned for army training. The D-Day preparations of 1943/4 led to the replacement of British troops with the American 4th and 29th Divisions, who took part in the Normandy invasion. Subsequently, training took place at Okehampton for the campaigns in Korea (1950-53) and Suez (1956). Since the late C20 the Camp and Range have been used extensively by the Territorial Army, Commando Brigades and the Royal Marines.

Observation Post 6 (OP6) and the incline target carrier railway, on the east flank of East Mill Tor, are first shown on a military Ordnance Survey Map of Okehampton in 1898 (WO/78/3444). The post is marked ‘Bombproof’, and the railway as ‘Tramway for Running Target’. The features are not shown on the survey map of 1892 (WO/78/4547), so a c.1895 date for their construction is probable. They are also depicted on a War Department map of 1907. The moving target operated as a series of trolleys that would run from the top of the track (by OP6, which was originally a trolley shed) along the length of the tramway, presumably using their own mass and momentum to continue downhill. Targets positioned on the top of the moving trolleys would then be fired on by artillery guns, probably positioned along Oke Tor Ridge, 800m to the east. The trolleys would then have been pulled back up the incline, most likely by ponies as there is no evidence of any other form of motive power having been used. This was one of a number of moving targets established on Okehampton Range in the late C19, although it is the only one thought to have solely used an incline to power the trolleys. Another, smaller, moving target is located on the north-west side of East Mill Tor and has been incorporated into terracing and footpaths. It has been recorded that the incline target carrier railway was used for some time for anti-tank training and that the trolleys carried a fabric representation of a tank.

An aerial photograph of 1946 (SX5989/3/185) shows that part of the target carrier route had been adopted within the early-C20 Loop Road, which passes to the east of the tor. In the C20, the carrier shed was converted to provide an observation post, and is now known as Observation Post 6. The rails from the tramway were removed in 1982.

The features were identified and surveyed as part of a study of the military range by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England in 1993 and again by English Heritage in 2004 (Probert). They have been recorded as part of the National Mapping Programme for Dartmoor and also as part of a historical and photographic survey of the range carried out in 2002 (Francis).

Details

PRINCIPAL FEATURES: a c.1895 inclined target carrier railway that includes a long, curvilinear cutting that follows the east slope of East Mill Tor (partly incorporated into the Loop Road) and terminating at Skit Bottom, 175m south of the East Okement Farm enclosures; and the former trolley shed, now called Observation Post 6.

DESCRIPTION: the inclined target carrier railway consists of a turf-covered stone shelter with concrete lining, known as Observation Post 6 (OP6) and a curvilinear cutting, formerly used by a moving target railway, between SX 6038390820 and SX 6029889816. OP6 measures 6.4m north to south by 2.5m, and rises to 2.0m above ground. It has a depth of 1.0m in places and forms a mound mostly covered by turf. The entrance to the south is protected by a steep, splayed stone cutting. The wide entrance portal is supported by a timber lintel, and the interior corrugated iron ceiling is supported on timber cross beams that are evenly-spaced. The side and rear walls are exposed rubble stone. The interior is subdivided into two roughly equal sections by a chest-height cast-concrete partition with iron rungs fixed to the outer face and a steel handrail to the top.

The embanked ditch, or cutting, that formed the head of the target carrier railway leads south-east from OP6 before making a sharp U-turn north. It descends through a long steep-sided cutting measuring on average 2.8m wide at its base and 1.8m deep. At SX 6029490193 the cutting ends and the trackbed joins the Loop Road; diverting east from it at SX 6035590416. Shortly before the trackbed ends on inclined open ground, a short branch curves to the north-east between SX 6041390486 and SX 6039690600. The branch may have been the former course of the railway, or used to service target trolleys. At the northern end of the trackbed, at SX 60419073, is an L-shaped mound approximately 4.5m long. It is recorded as being of stone with corrugated iron elements, its former function is unknown and it is possibly an early-mid-C20 feature.

A number of timber sleepers at approximate 1.0m intervals are visible along the course of the trackbed, and cast-iron sleepers and track chairs have been recorded in the northern section. The gauge of the track appears to have been approximately 20 inches.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the monument consists of two separate areas of protection. The boundary runs between SX 6038390820 in the north and SX 6029889816 in the south, to include the target carrier track bed and cutting, and Observation Post 6. The track route is subdivided by a later military loop road at SX 6035590416; the road continues at a lower level along the side of the railway bank to south to SX 6029790192. The road is not included in the scheduling. The earthwork features between SX 6041390486 and SX 6039690600, and an L-shaped mound at SX 60419073 are also not included in the scheduling. A buffer of 2m is included around the whole monument for the support and preservation of the earthworks, with the exception of the edge of the scheduling that runs along the loop road as described above.

EXCLUSIONS: two cable tapping-in points within the interior of the mound are excluded from the scheduling, although the wall and floor structure beneath is included.



Sources

Websites
English Heritage Pastscape - Monument No. 832018, accessed 11/2/2015 from http://www.pastscape.org.uk
The Armed Forces on Dartmoor: A Brief History, accessed 11/2/2015 from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/33309/armed_forces_ondartmoor_brief_history.pdf
Other
Francis, P (2002) Okehampton Artillery Range, Devon: Report and Photographic Survey (unpublished)
Probert, S, (2004) Okehampton Range: Monument Baseline Condition Survey English Heritage (unpublished)
WO78/4547 Okehampton Ordnance Survey Map of Camp and Artillery Ranges 1892 Reproduced in 1906, from the National Archives

Legal

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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