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RAF Tain, tracked target range 185m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Tain and Easter Ross, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.8259 / 57°49'33"N

Longitude: -3.9585 / 3°57'30"W

OS Eastings: 283777

OS Northings: 883493

OS Grid: NH837834

Mapcode National: GBR J8L1.9H6

Mapcode Global: WH4DW.5K8G

Entry Name: RAF Tain, tracked target range 185m NW of

Scheduled Date: 25 August 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13653

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Miscellaneous

Location: Tain

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Tain and Easter Ross

Traditional County: Ross-shire

Description

The monument is the remains of a 200 yard Moving Target Range (MTR) dating to the Second World War. It is visible as a series of concrete structures, earthworks and narrow gauge tracks on a flat coastal plain just above sea level, in the vicinity of RAF Tain.

The target range is hexagonal in plan. The southern end is formed by a concrete wall and earthwork bank approximately 1m in height. At its north there is a large concrete blast wall, around 5m in height, and the remains of the equipment and maintenance shed, along with a further earthwork to protect the track from practice firing. The final element of the site is the oval-shaped narrow-gauge trackway which carried the gunnery targets.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument was constructed during the Second World War, for the purpose of training air-gunners to target moving enemy aircraft. Each element of the training area remains visible today, and overall the site is very well preserved allowing it to be well understood. The southernmost part of the training area is a concrete wall, roughly 75m in length, with a flat topped earthen bank built against its southern face.  When in use, the area behind the bank was used for a small cart, fitted with a replica gun turret, from which the gunner would practice targeting against the moving target on the track described below. The bank protected the machinery from the live rounds being fired. At the same time, the cart was moved back and forth along the bank, to replicate the motion of the plane from which a gunner would be firing in action.

Opposite the concrete wall and bank, around 160m to the north, is a second substantial concrete structure, measuring around 20m long by 5m high. Attached to the north side of this are the remains of a concrete and wooden hut, which was used a maintenance shed for the equipment, with the concrete wall providing protection from the gunfire. In front of the concrete wall, an earthen bank also provides protection for the trackway in the northern half of the site.

The final element of the site was the oval-shaped narrow-gauge tramway, comprising wooden sleepers, steel or iron rails and stone ballast, with short side tracks leading into the equipment shed. Elements of the trackway remains visible in a few places, and appears to survive below the turf for most, if not all, of its circuit. The trackway occupies an area of approximately 170m by 110m, and when in operation, it carried a small motorised engine attached to a target in the form of a model plane. This apparatus was then remotely driven around the loop of the track at speed and, when combined with the cart behind the bank, provided the trainee with the experience of firing from a moving position at a target which was also moving.

Contextual Characteristics

The site lies within the current Air Weapons Range (AWR) Tain training area. During its operation in the Second World War, the MTR was adjacent to Tain airfield, which had served as a landing ground connected to the training range prior to the war, and in 1941 opened as a Fighter Sector Station, before being used as a forward base for bombers and, from 1943, as a torpedo training base. However, the MTR appears to have been used by the gunnery cchool at the nearby RAF Evanton, rather than by airmen at Tain itself.

The open, flat landscape of Morrich More, on the southern shore of the Dornoch Firth, was identified as suitable for a training area as early as 1913, and it remains in use for this purpose today. The MTR specifically relates to its use during and after the Second World War, and specifically focussed on training aircraft gunnery crews in the tracking and targeting of enemy aircraft.

A total of at least 17 of the 200yd Moving Target Ranges were constructed for various gunnery schools in the United Kingdom immediately prior to and during the Second World War, including other examples in Scotland at Fort George, Dumfries and Wigtown. Additional examples were also built at training schools around the world, although the number and location of these is unclear. Of all the known MTRs in the United Kingdom, the best surviving examples are those at Tain and Wigtown.

Associative Characteristics

A wartime propaganda photograph taken around 1940 shows the method by which the MTR operated. A recruit can be seen inside the "turret" cart, while the target passes on the trackway in front of him. However, the setup appears to have been staged rather than showing the range in actual operation, as in reality the turret would be located significantly further away from the targeting track than shown in the photograph.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular aerial gunnery training in the Second World War, and the development of tactics and equipment during the conflict. The monument is well preserved, with all the major elements of the construction remaining visible. The design and construction of the complex is specifically tailored to train aerial gunnery crews in how to target an enemy plane in motion from a moving position, simulating the reality of an aircraft gun turret. The site is one of the two best surviving examples of at least seventeen Moving Target Ranges of this type which were constructed within the United Kingdom around the time of the Second World War. The existence of the site is particularly significant as it demonstrates the rapid tactical and functional changes which occurred following the advent of large scale aerial warfare in the 20th century. As one of the best preserved example of this type of installation, the loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to understand this aspect of aerial training during the Second World War.

 

 

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number 90557 (accessed on 01/12/2016).

The Highland Council HER reference MHG18951 (accessed on 01/12/2016).

The Airfield Research Group (2009) SECOND WORLD WAR - 200-yard moving target ranges. Available at: https://www.airfieldresearchgroup.org.uk/forum/airfield-discussion/2240-second-world-war-200-yard-moving-target-ranges#21230 (Accessed: 20 January 2017).

The Airfield Research Group (2009) 200 yard moving target ranges. Available at: https://www.airfieldresearchgroup.org.uk/forum/airfield-discussion/1762-200-yard-moving-target-ranges?limitstart=0 (Accessed: 20 January 2017).

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/90557/


HER/SMR Reference

The Highland Council HER reference MHG18951

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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