Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery (P3 Verne), 275m south-west of Fancy's Farm

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1459502
Date first listed:
26-Mar-2019
Location Description:
The site is centred on NGR SY6934373085
Statutory Address:
New Ground, Fortuneswell, Isle of Portland, Dorset, DT5 1LF

Map

Ordnance survey map of Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery (P3 Verne), 275m south-west of Fancy's Farm
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Location

Statutory Address:
New Ground, Fortuneswell, Isle of Portland, Dorset, DT5 1LF

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

Location Description:
The site is centred on NGR SY6934373085
County:
Dorset
District:
Weymouth and Portland (District Authority)
Parish:
Portland
National Grid Reference:
SY6934373093

Summary

A Second World War heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) battery, established by August 1939 and subject to adaptations during the Second World War.

Reasons for Designation

The standing, earthwork and buried remains of the Second World War heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) battery, P3 Verne, 275m south-west of Fancy’s Farm on the Isle of Portland is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: as a well-preserved HAA battery that retains its core structures, including a command post, four octagonal gun emplacements and two square emplacements which retain evidence of many of their original fittings; * Rarity: it has been identified as one of a small number nationally of complete or near complete Second World War HAA positions, and as such is a legible ensemble in which the function of its various structures is strongly sensed; * Potential: it will enhance our understanding of the construction and operation of HAA sites in Britain and provide an insight into the development of anti-aircraft measures during the course of the conflict; * Historical interest: it represents an important physical record as well as a visual reminder of the significant role of ground-based anti-aircraft guns during both the Second World War and the Cold War; * Social interest: as a mixed battery employing female soldiers it reflects the pioneering role of women assuming combat responsibilities during the Second World War; * Group value: as one a number of significant military sites which illustrate the strategic significance of Portland Harbour and the development of its defences from the mid-C19 to the mid-C20.

History

One of the major threats to Britain during the Second World War was the strategic bombing campaigns of the German Luftwaffe. To combat this danger ports, major installations and military targets were provided with heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) batteries and almost 1000 were constructed nationally. The standard weapons deployed at these sites were 3.7 inch and 4.5 inch calibre heavy anti-aircraft guns. Along with gun emplacements, which were usually arranged in groups of two, four or eight, the operational structures of a typical HAA battery consisted of a standard set of components, including a command post, a radar platform, a gun store and a magazine for storing reserve ammunition. A variety of typical military hutting made up the domestic section of the site, usually a combination of Nissen and timber huts placed on concrete building platforms. The layout of HAA batteries 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. Due to their inflexibility, the majority of Second World War HAA sites were abandoned during the course of the war, but a number was selected for post-war use as the Nucleus Force, which was finally closed in 1955.

Portland Harbour has historically been recognised as an important military strategic location. Conveniently situated equidistant between Portsmouth and Plymouth and facing the French naval dockyard at Cherbourg, Portland Harbour was recognised as an important military strategic location from the mid-C19 when a naval anchorage was established here. The HAA battery, known as P3 Verne (Portland B), formed part of a chain of batteries positioned to defend Portland Harbour. It was constructed on the edge of a disused quarry to the south-east of the Verne Citadel (scheduled monument and various structures listed at Grade II* and II), and sources indicate that it was established by August 1939. It appears to have initially been a mobile anti-aircraft battery which was probably armed with a mix of old 3-inch and mobile 3.7-inch guns. By 1st June 1941 P3 Verne was recorded as having four 3.7-inch static guns. These were then replaced by the arc of four octagonal gun emplacements and the command post which remain extant. These later emplacements were built to the design drawing DFW 55414 which was issued by the Directorate of Fortifications and Works (DFW) on 10th October 1942. It is likely that they overlie the earlier emplacement positions. That same year P3 Verne became a mixed battery with roles being undertaken by women from the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and it was also equipped with a GL (Ground-Laying) Mk II radar. The radar site is not evident on an aerial photograph from September 1945 which would suggest that it had been removed by then, however, a number of small structures (not extant) are visible on the playing field to the north-west of the gun emplacements and may perhaps mark its former location.

Two square emplacements were added sometime in late 1943 or early 1944. They were designed to take a 3.7 inch Mk IIC semi-automated gun equipped with the No 11 Machine Fuze Setter (MFS) which had an increased rate of fire. Trials of the new gun found that the octagonal-shaped emplacement (DFW 55414) gave insufficient space for ammunition storage in relation to the faster rate of fire, and that the design and siting of the ammunition recesses slowed the crew’s ability to load the gun at the new pace made possible by the MFS. Following discussions at the War Office it was concluded that a square-shaped emplacement was required as this plan would allow more space for the larger number of spent cartridges and which could be accumulated in the corners of the gun pit during operation. The DFW issued specification drawing DFW 55483/1 in September 1943 for a new square form of emplacement that could accommodate the new 3.7 inch Mk IIC guns.

The associated accommodation camp lay to the north-east of the HAA battery. It was cleared between November 1949 and April 1950, and has since been quarried removing all evidence of the domestic buildings/huts. After the Second World War, P3 Verne was one of 210 HAA sites selected to form part of the reduced, post-War layout known as the Nucleus Force, and served as a Battery Headquarters (BHQ) site with its guns permanently mounted. Some of the structures at P3 Verne have subsequently been adapted for use as stables and for storage.

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The monument includes a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) battery located some 275m south-west of Fancy’s Farm on the outskirts of Fortuneswell. The site was known as P3 Verne (Portland B) and was established by August 1939. It occupies a levelled area on the edge a former quarry and includes six gun emplacements and a command post. The site has been subject to some minor later C20 alterations.

DESCRIPTION The battery is accessed via a service track that runs south from New Ground. The gun emplacements and command post are all constructed of concrete and broadly follow standard designs, although the two square emplacements appear to be a variant design. The command post is a rectangular, single-storey building which stands on a north-east to south-west axis. It is built of shuttered concrete and concrete blocks with a flat, reinforced concrete roof. The enclosed front part of the building, where the identification telescope, predictor (a mechanical computer) and height finder were located, was formerly open to the sky, but has been roofed in the late C20 with metal sheeting. In operation these pieces of equipment would have fed information to the plotting room in the roofed part of the command post where the bearing, elevation and range were calculated and relayed to the guns. Other rooms in the command post served as telephone, stores and rest rooms. The command post has been subject to some alteration to provide stabling. An aerial photograph from 1945 provides evidence for three buildings or huts erected against the rear (west) wall of the command post but these do not survive. In front (east) of the command post is an area of concrete hard-standing.

Forming a shallow, east-facing arc around the command post are the four octagonal 3.7 inch gun emplacements which date from about late 1942. Each emplacement comprises a gun pit that is surrounded by a concrete block blast wall which is externally embanked with earth for extra protection. There is a single entrance, recessed ammunition lockers and two flat-roofed concrete shelters which project beyond the blast walls. Contemporary stencilling in the shelter of one of the emplacements reads ‘STEEL HELMETS’. The gun pit is approximately 9m across, with circular iron holdfasts or bolts set into the ground for fixing the gun mounting. The guns have been removed. The two square emplacements were added in 1944 and designed to take 3.7 inch Mk IIC semi-automated gun mountings. One is situated immediately to the north-west of the command post, while the other is to the west, beyond the arc of the earlier octagonal emplacements. Each has a perimeter blast wall built of concrete blocks which encloses the gun pit. The western square emplacement has four ammunition lockers to the perimeter walls and a central metal holdfast. The lockers in the north-west emplacement have been removed. All of the emplacements have been altered slightly to provide storage and/or stabling.

Additional structures are visible on aerial photographs taken between 1945 and 1950 and it is likely that they formed part of the complex. Most do not survive. A group of five small structures are visible on the 1945 aerial photograph situated to the north-east of the gun emplacements, on the edge of a cutting for a former quarry tramway adjacent to the north side of the site. These features are perhaps corrugated steel elephant shelters for storing ammunition and were possibly installed in 1944 to hold ammunition for the 3.7-inch Mk II guns. The structures themselves do not survive, having been removed before 1949, but their positions are marked by slight, roughly rectangular depressions in the ground surface which are included in the scheduling. A small building approximately 60m to the south-west of the command post is located where a Nissen hut is shown on the aerial photographs, but by 1950 only a concrete base is visible, indicating that the current building is later and it is not included in the scheduling. To the east and downslope of the emplacements are very fragmentary remains of two former structures. These are thought to have been contemporary with the HAA battery and may have been magazines and/or stores. The fragmentary remains of these structures are also not included in the scheduling.

To the north-east of the gun emplacements and cut into the side of the former tramway cutting is a flight of steps which led from P3 Verne to the domestic camp. The camp was cleared between November 1949 and April 1950, leaving only the concrete bases for Nissen and/or timber huts (depicted on the 1974 edition of the 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map). These were removed after the war and their concrete building bases were subsequently destroyed by quarrying in the late C20. This area is, therefore, not included in the scheduling.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The scheduled monument comprises two separate areas of protection. The larger of the two has been drawn to include the area containing the command post and the six gun emplacements and is defined by a break of slope to the east and south. Beyond this area, to the east and south-east, further associated buildings/huts are shown on contemporary aerial photographs, but most have been removed and those features which do survive are considered too fragmentary and ephemeral to be included in the scheduling. The second area of protection, situated to the north-east, includes five small, rectangular depressions which are considered to be the sites of shelter, probably for ammunition.

EXCLUSIONS The modern stable fittings and fixtures including doors, windows, water troughs (including bath tubs) and mangers, the materials used to seal some of the openings in a number of the gun emplacements, all modern materials and equipment stored within and around the emplacements, and all fence posts and gates are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath these features is, however, included.

Sources

Books and journals
Dobinson, C, AA Command: Britain’s Anti-aircraft Defences of the Second World War, (2001)
Dobinson, C, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England Anti-aircraft artillery, 1914-46, (2002)
Websites
Encyclopaedia of Portland History, accessed 20 September 2018 from http://www.portlandhistory.co.uk/verne-heavy-anti-aircraft-battery.html
Pastscape: heavy anti-aircraft battery Portland 3, accessed 10 September 2018 from http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1413298&sort=2&rational=m&recordsperpage=10&maplat=50.55670000&maplong=-2.43440000&mapisa=100&mapist=ll&mapilo=-2.4344&mapila=50.5567&mapiloe=w&mapilan=n&mapios=SY692731&mapigrn=73150&mapigre=369232&mapipc=
Other
Vertical aerial photograph: RAF/106G/UK/842, 25 September 1945
Vertical aerial photograph: RAF/541/385, 8 November 1949
Vertical aerial photograph: RAF/541/487, 11 April 1950

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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