Second World War bombing range target indicator and observation post

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1465902
Date first listed:
30-Aug-2019
Location Description:
Bombing target range indicator NGR: SS4472640563 Observation post NGR: SS4469640562

Map

Ordnance survey map of Second World War bombing range target indicator and observation post
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

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

Location Description:
Bombing target range indicator NGR: SS4472640563 Observation post NGR: SS4469640562
County:
Devon
District:
North Devon (District Authority)
Parish:
Georgeham
National Grid Reference:
SS4469640562

Summary

Second World War bombing range target indicator and observation post overlooking Putsborough Sands and Morte Bay, built in around 1942.

Reasons for Designation

The Second World War bombing range target indicator and observation post structure overlooking Putsborough Sands are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* as a component of the Allied training structures on the north Devon coast during the Second World War.

Architectural interest:

* despite some alterations and losses the relationship between the bombing range target indicator and the observation post can be clearly read.

Rarity:

* it is believed that the two structures together are the only survivors in Devon, and possibly in a national context.

Group value:

* within the contextual history of the use of the north Devon coast for armed forces training in the Second World War.

History

The north Devon coast is recognised as one of the major training centres for American troops during the Second World War, and particularly in the run-up to D-Day in June 1944. However, due to the increased threat of an attack on the British coastline from the sea, training for Royal Air Force low-altitude bombing crews also practiced in the area around Woolacombe and Morte Bay, in this instance using a directional indicator in the form of a concrete arrow.

Such bombing range target indicators were principally located around Britain’s coast, including examples at Brean Down and Steart in Somerset, and Drumburgh, Cumbria. According to the Armament Training Manual (1940; see Sources) the indicators comprised a large concrete-slab arrow, 100ft long with the sides of the arrow-head each 21ft in length. Arranged 21ft either side of the foot of the arrow and 20ft from the tip were three concrete discs, each 8ft in diameter. 10ft from the end of the arrow was a concrete triangle 12ft wide; 10ft back from this and 10ft apart were two concrete strips 30ft long. The strips and discs were recommended to be painted white and the arrow and triangle red. At Putsborough, the arrow pointed at a timber and cork triangular buoy, painted yellow, with a mast and basket on top anchored in Morte Bay, and the arrow was accompanied by a concrete observation post structure. Further observation posts on Marine Drive, Woolacombe (demolished) and at Barricane Beach (altered; not included in this entry) allowed for triangulation to measure the accuracy of the bombing; the posts were manned by the WRAF.

The arrow and its associated discs are shown on a 1942 RAF aerial photograph, where (despite being a black and white image) it is clear that it was painted white. It was possibly used by the RAF for only one year until American forces arrived in north Devon in September 1943 to train for D-Day, and remained unused until they left in May 1944. The target range was used principally by squadrons based at nearby RAF Chivenor, including by Number 172 Squadron who were the first operational squadron to use the Leigh Light for seeking out submarines at night and the bombing range would have been used by Vickers Wellington aircraft to help with this training. Additionally, Spitfires were used for practice dive bombing, some of which crashed into Morte Bay. It is thought that the bombing range was ultimately used until at least 1952.

The shaft of the arrow was truncated in the 1980s when a pipeline was laid in the field to the south. The associated concrete discs, triangle and strips had been removed by 1964. The windows and door to the observation post have been blocked and it has recently been used as a water tank.

Details

Second World War bombing range target indicator and observation post overlooking Putsborough Sands and Morte Bay, built in around 1942.

The bombing range target indicator comprises concrete slabs set into the ground in the shape of an arrow, pointing north-east and downhill. The shaft of the arrow is approximately 13m long and the sides of the arrow head each 8m long.

Approximately 30m to the west of the arrow’s tip is a single-storey observation post, rectangular in plan. It is constructed of brick with concrete render and has a flat roof with a projecting cornice and plinth, and a projecting porch on the south side, slightly lower than the principal roof. The east and west elevations contain a window; and the north elevation has a large central window with two narrower ones flanking. All of the windows are blocked, although small protruding cills remain, and the doorway is also bricked-up. On the west side there is a shallow water trough at ground level. The structure has pieces of protruding steelwork which are assumed to be part of its construction. Details about the interior are unknown.

Sources

Websites
Airfield Research Group: Bombing and Gunnery Ranges , accessed 19 July 2019 from https://www.airfieldresearchgroup.org.uk/forum/airfield-discussion/2323-bombing-and-gunnery-ranges
BBC: WW2 People’s War: Tales of Woolacombe at War, accessed 19 July 2019 from https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/94/a1969194.shtml
Devon Environment Viewer: RAF aerial 1946-49, accessed 19 July 2019 from http://map.devon.gov.uk/DCCViewer/
Heritage Gateway: Devon and Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER ref: MDV52950), accessed 19 July 2019 from https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV52950&resourceID=104
Heritage Gateway: Devon and Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER ref: MDV57332), accessed 19 July 2019 from https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV57332&resourceID=104
Russell W Barnes: Bombing and Gunnery Ranges (Cumbria) , accessed 19 July 2019 from http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~rwbarnes/defence/ranges.htm#maw
Other
Air Publication 1245, Armament Training Manual, Part IV, Chapter 1, Air Firing and Bombing Ranges, February 1940.
Knight, S & C Hegarty, North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty NMP Project: a National Mapping Programme Report (April 2013)

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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