Okehampton Artillery Range: Observation Post 7

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1425410
Date first listed:
02-Oct-2015
Location Description:
Centered on SX6056189288, 841m to the south east of the summit of East Mill Tor, Dartmoor Forest, Devon.

Map

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Location

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

Location Description:
Centered on SX6056189288, 841m to the south east of the summit of East Mill Tor, Dartmoor Forest, Devon.
County:
Devon
District:
West Devon (District Authority)
Parish:
Dartmoor Forest
National Park:
DARTMOOR
National Grid Reference:
SX6055989290

Summary

Observation Post 7 is a stone- and earth- covered concrete splinter-proof shelter, also known as a bunkhouse, built up on a small granite outcrop near to west of the East Okement River and 110m west of the military ring road.

Reasons for Designation

Observation Post 7 to the west of the East Okement River and the military ring road at Okehampton Artillery Range is 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. This early-C20 splinter-proof shelter forms of the earliest phase of the range’s development; * Survival: Observation Post 7 is one of the best surviving of the early-C20 splinter-proof shelters on the range, with a relatively low level of erosion and few significant alterations; * 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; * Documentation: the structure has been documented in historical maps of the range, and a number of landscape and condition surveys throughout the C21; * Group value: the shelter has strong group value with the other related military training features. The associated camp to the north is also of historic significance in itself, particularly the listed late-C19 buildings, and the range and the camp should not be seen in isolation of each other. The Okehampton bunkhouses 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 range and 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 railway 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 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, also known as bunkhouses, 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. We do know formal training did occur at sites such as Larkhill Camp, Salisbury Plain, which was established during the First World War. Artillery training did continue 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.

The origin of Observation Post 7 is as an early-C20 range structure. An Ordnance Survey of the range from 1919 depicts it in this location, as one of a series of splinter-proof shelters that are likely to have served a number of roles including sheltering soldiers observing training proceedings and controlling nearby targets. A reinforced concrete structure, the front bays are protected by a blast wall, probably added slightly later, with a tubular-metal handrail which would have been used for feeding target cables. The shelter possesses good views to the south west. A telephone point has been added and the shelter is still used as part of military training.

Observation Post 7 was 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). It also forms part of the historical and photographic survey of the range carried out in 2002 (Frances).

Details

PRINCIPAL FEATURES: Observation Post 7 is a stone- and earth- covered concrete splinter-proof shelter, also known as a bunkhouse, built up on a small granite outcrop near to west of the East Okement River and 110m west of the military ring road.

DESCRIPTION: a splinter-proof shelter constructed of pre-fabricated concrete blocks lying on the south-western side of a large protective mound of boulders and turf. It consists of three bays and measures 6m, south-west to north-east, by 2m and is 2.5m high. The bays, probably originally open on the south side or partially covered by an earthen bank, are protected by a cast-concrete blast wall topped by a tubular-metal handrail and approximately 1.5m high. Entrance is gained to the shelter via steel rungs cast into the blast wall. The protective semi-circular mound measures 7m, south-west to north-east, by 6m and is just under 3m high. The mound material is retained by a coursed boulder revetment.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: a buffer of 2m is included around the shelter for the support and preservation of the structure.

EXCLUSION: a cable tapping-in point within the interior of the mound is excluded from the scheduling, although the wall and floor structure beneath it is included.

Sources

Websites
English Heritage Pastscape Monument No. 967377, accessed 22 January 2015 from http://www.pastscape.org.uk

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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