SU1813 : (1a) A tour of the WWII Ashley Walk Bombing Range - Main Practice Tower site

taken 4 years ago, near to Blissford, Hampshire, Great Britain

(1a) A tour of the WWII Ashley Walk Bombing Range - Main Practice Tower site
(1a) A tour of the WWII Ashley Walk Bombing Range - Main Practice Tower site
Located on Hampton Ridge this direction indicator could be illuminated for night bombing, and pointed to the Illuminated Target area in the valley below at Latchmore Bottom. This was also the site of the 30 feet tall Main Practice Tower where all activity within the area for inert bombing was controlled. The tower also housed a generator to power the lighting for both the tower and the target area.

SU1813 : (1b) A tour of the WWII Ashley Walk Bombing Range - Main Practice Tower site

OVERVIEW: this tranquil area within today's New Forest National Park was a very different place in 1940 when this 5000 acre bombing range built here at the outbreak of war, was brought into use for the first time. It came under the control of the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment at RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, whose operating personnel were billeted in huts opposite the Fighting Cocks pub in Godshill. Whilst there were many other ranges established throughout the UK during this time, the range at Ashley Walk was unique in that it existed predominantly to test weapons, rather than for the training of bomber crews.

The range was divided into two separate parts. The first consisted of a 2000 yard diameter practice range used exclusively for dropping inert bombs that was controlled from a tower at Hampton Ridge, that was known as the Main Practice Tower. The second was the High Explosive Range that was controlled from the North Tower located close to the Fordingbridge - Cadnam road, and was much larger at 4000 yards diameter for obvious reasons. Both these locations contained a multitude of different targets, including several different air to ground targets, at least three wall targets, fragmentation targets, a ship target, and a so called submarine pen that was in reality a huge public air raid shelter, built by the Ministry of Home Security (responsible for civil defence) in order to test its performance against that of laboratory models.

Between 1940 and 1946 every type of air dropped ordnance used by the RAF (with the exception of incendiary weapons) was tested here, ranging from the small anti-personnel type bombs, to the ultimate in air dropped ordnance - the Barnes-Wallis designed 12,000 lb Tallboy bomb, and the 10 ton (22,000 lbs) earthquake bomb, the Grand Slam. Also nicknamed "Ten Ton Tess", only one live Grand Slam bomb was ever tested on UK soil, and this took place over the Ashley Walk range on 13 March 1945 when a specially modified Lancaster flying at 16,000 feet, released the Grand Slam over Godshill. Travelling close to the speed of sound it impacted about 80 yards from the Ministry of Home Security target, burying itself into the ground. After a delay of nine seconds, it exploded, creating a crater 130 feet across, and 70 feet deep, and to this day it remains the largest live bomb ever dropped on UK soil.

Today, very little remains apart from the many bomb craters, a number of chalk target markings, and the concrete foundations of various structures, as the majority of targets and facilities were removed after the war. Interestingly, because of the alkaline nature of chalk on acidic soil, the natural vegetation that would normally occur has been inhibited, thus helping to preserve some of the chalk target markings. In this tour of the range I have attempted to document most if not all of these and other remains, that may be viewed together with this Google Earth map created by the Real New Forest Guide:

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1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
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SU1813, 32 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Tuesday, 12 May, 2015   (more nearby)
Saturday, 16 May, 2015
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Air transport  Woodland, Forest  Defence, Military  Moorland 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SU 1883 1358 [10m precision]
WGS84: 50:55.2825N 1:44.0089W
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OSGB36: geotagged! SU 1883 1358
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North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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World War II Bombing Range 

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