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Three target operator bunkers 730m north of Hopehead

A Scheduled Monument in Otterburn, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.2715 / 55°16'17"N

Longitude: -2.1678 / 2°10'3"W

OS Eastings: 389438.3188

OS Northings: 597497.7813

OS Grid: NY894974

Mapcode National: GBR F79H.H3

Mapcode Global: WHB0S.NRYN

Entry Name: Three target operator bunkers 730m north of Hopehead

Scheduled Date: 6 October 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021033

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32792

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Otterburn

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Otterburn St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument is situated within the Davyshiel Field Firing Box on the
Otterburn Army Training Estate. It includes the upstanding and buried
remains of three target operator bunkers. The bunkers, which are contained
within three separate areas of protection, are part of a group of five,
which formed a small arms training area constructed under the provisions
of the Thurlow Plan from 1962 to 1964. The other two target operator
bunkers are the subjects of separate schedulings. The bunkers housed a
system of cables and levers which military personnel operated manually to
raise and lower targets across the firing area. The first bunker operated
five remote targets and the second and third bunkers each operated three
targets, which were set into rectangular target pits; the target
mechanisms and the target pits which partially survive in the vicinity are
not included in the scheduling.

The three bunkers are of standard form and dimensions. Oriented north to
south, each is visible as a square blockhouse of concrete construction,
measuring 2.4m across and about 2.3m high within walls 0.3m thick. A
single narrow and wide embrasure measuring 2.1m by 0.2m with vertical
metal bars pierces their north sides. The blockhouses are entered from a
subterranean passage 0.76m wide, which runs the full length of their
eastern sides, through a reinforced metal door. The metal fixings for a
second door are visible on the east walls of the bunkers at the other end
of the passage. The entrance passage itself is approached from the north
by a descending flight of steps, which extend 2.75m to the north,
protected by concrete blast walls 0.24m thick. A third projecting blast
wall protects the western side of the blockhouse.

Internally, the blockhouses are lined with asbestos sheets and have a
wooden shelf and an electricity supply fixed to their south wall. The
target apparatus, consisting of a system of levers and cables, used to
raise and lower the remote targets is housed in a wooden frame situated
against the north wall immediately below the embrasure. The cables leading
from this mechanism emerged through a rectangular recess situated
immediately below the embrasure and were fed into a wooden distribution
box situated some 4m in front of north side of the bunker.

The first bunker, which is contained within the first area of protection,
projects above ground level at its north side for 0.75m and has a capping
of turf 0.2m high upon its flat roof. Its south, east and west sides are
encased in an earthen mound spread 2m wide. The bunker retains its
original metal gate at the entrance to the stairway. The concrete base of
the distribution box is also visible with the impressions of the metal
pickets, which fed the cables in trenches in the direction of the targets,
within it. This bunker also retains two metal pulleys inserted into a
large concrete block immediately to the west of the stairway. These
features in addition to a metal roller inserted into the eastern side of
the embrasure are considered to represent later re-use of the bunker,
which was modified to control a moving target. The second bunker, which is
contained within the second area of protection, projects above ground
level at its north side for 0.75m and has a capping of turf upon its roof
0.2m high. Its south, east and west sides are encased in an earthen mound
spread to 2m wide. The original bunker number II written in white paint is
retained on the north end of the blast wall which flanks the western side
of the stairway. The third bunker, which is contained within the third
area of protection, projects above ground level on the north side for
0.3m; this bunker has been set into a slope and hence is provided with
sufficient natural protection. It retains its original metal gate at the
entrance to the stairway, and its original bunker number III written in
white paint on the north end of the blast wall which flanks the western
side of the stairway.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Army Training Estate Otterburn (ATEO) is one of eight Army Field
Training centres in the UK and is the largest single live firing area in
the country. It has been operational since 1911 when the War Office
acquired about 20000 acres (8094ha) of land in Redesdale, Northumberland
to create a seasonal tented camp and artillery range for the training of
the newly formed Territorial Forces. The pattern of artillery firing from
Easter to October fitted in with local sheep farming practices, and
byelaws to control access during live firing periods were introduced in
1916. A period of intense training occurred during World War I to prepare
both artillery and infantry units for war, including the construction of a
sector of front line trenches at Silloans to practice infantry companies
in the routines of defence, control of overhead artillery fire and relief
in the line. After World War I the previous pattern of training was
restored and continued to 1939, the only change being that from horse
drawn to lorry drawn guns in 1938. During World War II, the training area
doubled in size with the acquisition and subsequent purchase of a further
20,000 acres (8094ha) to create a second Artillery Range and camp at
Otterburn. In 1959 the Ranges were renamed as an All Arms Training Area
and five infantry fire and manoeuver areas at Quickeningcote, Wilkwood,
Davyshiel, Sills and Heely Dodd were constructed under the Thurlow Plan.
From 1969 Otterburn was designated as one of seven Principal Training
Areas in the UK and became increasingly used for fire and manoeuver
training by infantry units supported by artillery, mortars, guided
missiles and air to ground attack aircraft. Developments since 1969 have
included the construction of another battle shooting area at Ridleeshope
and a moving target railway system at Stone in the Mire for engagement by
wire guided anti tank-missiles.

The target operator bunkers 730m north of Hopehead survive well with a
range of component features intact. They were constructed as part of a
wider group of five bunkers and mark the highly significant change at
Otterburn from an Artillery Range to an All Arms Training Area in the late
1950s. They are not thought to be paralleled by similar structures
anywhere in the United Kingdom and hence they are an important and highly
significant survival. Taken as a group they represent a major phase in the
development of the Otterburn ATE.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The First 80 Years, (1994)
MOD, Thurlow Plan Phase II: Davyshiel Area Tgt Op Bunkers 1, 2 & 3, (1963)
MOD, Thurlow Plan Phase II: Davyshiel Area Tgt Op Bunkers 1, 2 & 3, (1963)

Source: Historic England

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