Gunnery school site

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Gunnery school site, Great Orme

In 1940, early in the Second World War, the government decided that with the threat of Nazi invasion and bombing the Royal Artillery’s Coastal Gunnery School should be relocated from Shoeburyness, Essex, to somewhere safer. After much searching of the west coast of Britain, officials chose an area of the Great Orme at the end of Llys Helyg Drive. The site was considered ideal both for its location and its wide estuary mouth, which provided anchorage for target vessels.

Training began in September 1940 training began. In addition to the Gunnery Wing, a Searchlight Wing and a Wireless Wing were established. In April 1941, the first wireless courses began, for traininphoto_of_gunnery_schoolg in radio location and radar. A practice battery was built in the quarry of the Little Orme which was used for training and also as a part of the coastal defences.

By 1942 there were 150 officers, 115 cadets and 445 other ranks at the Great Orme gunnery school. They were able to run 14 courses at a time. The personnel were mostly accommodated in local Llandudno hotels and boarding houses.The HQ was in the One Ash Hotel. More than 130 local women married servicemen based at the gunnery school. Men connected with the school fathered an estimated 70 Llandudno babies.

Red flags or red lights (at night) were hoisted around the area, including at Llandudno lighthouse, West Shore bathing pool and Penmon coastguard station (Anglesey), to denote when firing was taking place. Bye-laws introduced in 1942 prohibited the public from entering the foreshore of the firing range or taking vessels into the sea area. Collecting bullets, shells or other projectiles was also banned – with fines of £5 for anyone breaking the bye-laws.

Mortar firing was to cease if an aircraft was in the vicinity, at an altitude below 3,000 feet (c.900 metres), and anti-aircraft practice to cease if a plane was below 10,000 feet (3,000 metres).

In 1942 the Llandudno Home Guard were trained on six-inch and 12-pounder guns, and on the searchlights. In 1943 they were officially named as the Coast Artillery Battery, Home Guard.

The three searchlight stations are still intact but not easily accessible. The site was vacated by 1946 and in the 1950s most of the installations were demolished.

With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society

FOOTNOTES: Personal recollections of the site

Where is this HiPoint?

Website of Great Orme Country Park

Other MILITARY HiPoints in this area:
The Mulberry - recalling secret D-Day harbour developed at Conwy
Great Orme summit complex - a wartime radar station


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