Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Wartime history of the West Barnes Ranges....

 

West Barns ranges, now John Muir Country Park

We have been busy and not wasting time when off on Furlough and we have been researching the history of the war time artefacts at John Muir Country Park.         This is still on going and this post like my WW2 XT Class Submarines wrecks post will be updated as more history is obtained...

Here to get the ball rolling is G`s latest social media write up on what we uncovered yesterday after research and information by several people;

The A and the F. 

About two years ago someone  uncovered an 8 foot A at Youngs Knowe at Hedderwick... 


I met G through a FB message after I had posted a picture and again mentioned that I would love to know the history of this - I presumed it was for aircraft during WW2,

After G had also discovered the A while out cycling she has spent hours trawling through old photos, maps and generally all over the internet in an attempt to find out what it was.G also always had a notion it was some sort of aerial target. 

The trees you see today in John Muir Country Park at Hedderwick Plantation were planted in the late 1950s, so it’s difficult to visualise the area without trees. rewinding time there was a golf course on the land now planted with pine trees and there was a race course in what is now 2 fields to the west of East Links Family Park. The Military go back a long time in Dunbar with Cavalry barracked in the Town,

During WW1 trench systems were built for training and defence and firing ranges built.

During WWII the area was requisitioned by the War Office for ranges, along with coastal defences built along the shore and across the bay. There were two separate ranges. 

Map from the 1940 Bylaws

The first being Field Firing ranges for anti-aircraft, small arms and anti-tank weaponary and the second being for Battle Shooting practice using mortars and grenades. 

A walk around the Park with a local Archaeologist who lives in the town and is a keen war time researcher gave us a lot of answers to questions both of us had, including most of what we see today around JMCP is actually from WW1.                                                                                                      The trench systems you see in the title photo, the rifle ranges, and mortar/grenade ranges. He was unsure the actual reason of the letter A, but the answer to it would come from the help of someone else and things started to really fall into place a  week ago when G was pointed  to a link to a 1940 document entitled West Barns Ranges Bye-Laws. We were both astounded to find reference to the A within the document!. G printed it off to add to her growing local history book;




And on Page 3 F and A which explains the hinges on the A you can see today were indeed for covering it up from Aircraft...


And you read that right there was also a large F marker for aircraft for when the Mortar range is in use...


And other information...

So we now know the A was an aerial marker to warn aircraft that the Field Firing  range was in use. However the document also mentioned that an F aerial marker was built to warn aircraft that the Battle Shooting range was in use. 

So the hunt for the F started... 

A while back a chap called David mentioned to G he recalled playing in an underground shelter with steel doors as a child. He gave us vague directions. We went looking for this a few months ago but had no luck finding it. However if there is such a bunker in the plantation it is yet to be found. 

After about a week of further research and making an intelligent guesses where the F could be we went for another poach about yesterday.  Much to our surprise, not far from the area we were searching for David’s bunker, we spotted a chunk of concrete sticking out the ground...

This was all you could see...


 We initially thought we had found the bunker...

 


But after a little excavation we uncovered the bottom of the F... 



Painted in the same style of red white and back as the A...

I did a bit further excavation to expose a bit more of the F and the hinges that were used to cover the marker when the ranges were not in use. They still work... 


We popped home for a bit but returned a bit later with the newly recruited battle field detective Spider to help with further excavation. Later the same evening online we were told by a local resident that he and friends as kids had dug out a Den underneath and they were warned to be careful incase it collapsed which it finally did after heavy rain, so we also know how it has broken up.

We gave it a brush down and the lifted turf has been laid around the marker as we originally planned to cover it up if there is a hoo ha about it, but with the excited response of so many locals already to us finding this and G putting all the links together to tell a story of an important part of the towns link to the military were going to leave it uncovered for folk interested to come and see.

Were now relying on the memories of elderly local people now to help find the last few pieces of the jigsaw that I have give a massive credit to G for all her research...

The red arrow marks the F, the A is on the north side of the former sand quarry  at Young`s Knowe...

Both of us have cycled past this undiscovered 80 year bit of history unknown to most visitors to the Park, it's great to share local history on here and via social networking to interested folk...



Here is a 1 minute film of the find and reveal!


More soon...


No comments:

Post a comment