NS3270 : Mathernock Battery accommodation camp

taken 3 years ago, near to Bardrainney, Inverclyde, Great Britain

Mathernock Battery accommodation camp
Mathernock Battery accommodation camp
Some of the many brick foundations in the field opposite the battery.
Mathernock Battery :: NS3271
The site is a Scheduled Monument LinkExternal link (or see the full text below).

Much remains to be seen of the WWII anti-aircraft gun post, including the four largely intact gun emplacement rings which each housed a 3.7 inch gun. A service building is also largely intact and appears to be in use by the farmer.

The battery is separated from the accommodation camp which was a couple of hundred yards away on the other side of the farm road. The brick and concrete foundations of several huts can still be seen there.

Here is the Scheduled Monument listing text from the Historic Environment Scotland web site.

DESCRIPTION
The monument comprises the remains of the High Mathernock heavy anti-aircraft battery, dating to the Second World War. The site consists of a command post, four upstanding gun emplacements and the remains of the nearby accommodation camp. The site is located on level ground in the bottom of a shallow valley at between 130m and 140m above sea level and around 3.5km south of Port Glasgow.

The battery itself, comprising the command post and gun emplacements, now lies in a field of grass, while the accommodation camp lies some 175m SE of the battery in a field of rough grazing.

The command post is of a typical form for this type of site. It is an E-shaped building on plan, with six internal rooms. The entrance is through the central arm, outside of which would formerly have been the shelters for the Predictor and Height-Finder. The command post would initially have been a semi-subterranean structure with surrounding earthen banks providing additional protection from blast damage, but these banks have since been removed. The building measures around 20m NNE-SSW by around 10m transversely. Each of the four gun emplacements is of octagonal form, measuring some 17m in diameter. Each has one open side for access, facing towards the command post in the centre. The remaining seven faces each have an ammunition locker attached to their interior side. Crew shelters are attached to the exterior walls of each emplacement, to left and right of the entrances. The entrances to the crew shelters are accessible from the interior of each emplacement. The southernmost emplacement is missing one wall and ammo shelter. It has also undergone more recent alterations, including a fence and gate to create a pen in the centre of the enclosure, and a variety of doors and fittings have been installed by a local clay pigeon shooting club.

The accommodation camp is located in another field, some 175m SE of the battery. The remains are visible as a series of low brick and concrete platforms which served as the bases of Nissen huts. There are at least twelve bases visible on the ground today and they stand up to 1m in height. The remains of other brick structures are also visible on the site.

The area to be scheduled 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 may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences are specifically excluded from the scheduling, to allow for their maintenance.

STATEMENT OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE
Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This well-preserved example of a heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) battery dates to the Second World War. It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a monument which would have been a familiar sight in the 1940s. Given the excellent level of preservation of the site, there is a high potential for further archaeological evidence related to the construction, use and abandonment of the battery to survive, both within and around the structures. As one of the group of HAA batteries installed as part of the aerial defences of the Clyde Gun Defended Area, this site could potentially supply valuable information about the requirements and technologies of Second World War aerial defences as the war progressed.

Contextual characteristics

The monument lies in a shallow valley to the south of Port Glasgow and the Clyde estuary. The Clyde was the most significant strategic asset in the west of Scotland, and one of the most significant assets of Britain. It was home to the most extensive shipbuilding industry in Britain, an extensive range of other important industrial concerns such as munitions, and was the destination point for the Atlantic convoys bringing vital supplies and troops from the United States. Later in the war it would also serve as a vital mustering point for the fleets involved in the invasions of North Africa in 1942 and Normandy in 1944. This site was a part of the Clyde Gun Defended Area (GDA), a grouping of 46 HAA batteries created to protect the Clyde from aerial assault. This was a third of the total anti-aircraft batteries created in Scotland as a whole and formed only one aspect of the wider defence of the Clyde, highlighting the critical need to keep the Clyde harbours and industries running.

The location of this site gives it long views east and west along the valley, with more restricted views to the north and south due to slightly higher ground. It should be remembered, however, that the restricted view would not have hindered the function of the site, as its focus was the defence of the sky and the higher ground is not far enough above the site to impede this function. Its location south of the strategic assets of Port Glasgow was also appropriate, as the line from north-south would have been the main axis of approach for enemy bombers attacking the area.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, a rapid program of construction was undertaken to provide a defensive network for the country. This included the Gun Defended Areas of HAA batteries protecting major towns and strategic assets across the country. By the war's end, more than 1200 HAA batteries had been constructed. Early examples appear roughly to have followed the form visible at High Mathernock, with four octagonal gun emplacements placed in an arc around a command post.

Documentary records indicate that the battery at High Mathernock was armed with four 3.7 inch guns. As the war progressed and technology advanced, the original manual guns were superseded at many batteries by larger, electrically powered examples. Some sites were completely rebuilt with new square gun emplacements to permit the installation of the new weapons, while others were retro-fitted and/or had additional gun emplacements of the new form added. It is unclear if High Mathernock underwent such upgrading and surviving archaeological evidence could answer this question.

Associative characteristics

The impact of the Second World War on the lives and landscape of Scotland in the late 1930s and 1940s was on a scale never before witnessed. The mobilisation of the entire country to aid the war effort would transform the social and economic character of the nation and the new threat of long-range aerial attack brought the war directly into the daily lives of the civilian population. Its place in the national consciousness remains prominent to this day, and many people alive today remember first hand the experiences and impact of the conflict.

The industrial workers of the Clyde had been notoriously left-wing during the First World War, with many of the leaders of the so-called 'Red Clydesiders' finding themselves imprisoned for their objections to the conflict. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the need to fight was widely accepted and the Clydesiders willingly took their part alongside former enemies in aiding the war effort. In the west of Scotland, the war would create an industrial boom that would prove unsustainable following the end of the war with the decrease in shipbuilding, and the resulting economic decline would never be reversed. Very little evidence now survives of this former landscape.

A high level of effort was made to protect the strategic asset of the Clyde during the Second World War. The Clyde GDA would contain one third of the HAA batteries in Scotland, and the same number as the next largest two combined, the Scapa and Forth GDAs. These batteries would be manned by troops from the Royal Artillery, aided by volunteers from the local regiments of the Home Guard although, as the war progressed, the volunteers were assigned further duties, including manning the guns themselves. Given its relative proximity to the large towns below, it is highly likely that Home Guard volunteers who lived in the area will have served on this battery during its operational life.

Despite the efforts to protect the area, the strategic value of the Clyde had been recognised by the Axis powers early in the war, with Luftwaffe reconnaissance photographs of Greenock and the surrounding area appearing less than a month after the outbreak of hostilities in 1939. The threat posed by these photographs, however, would not fully materialise for almost two years.

On the nights of the 6 and 7 May 1941, Greenock suffered the second worst bombing raids inflicted on Scotland during the entire war. On the night of Tuesday May 6, a force of 276 German bombers had been dispatched to strike targets on both sides of the Clyde, including Greenock. Around 50 bombers dropped their payloads on Greenock and the surrounding area, causing damage to several parts of the town and killing numerous people, including many civilians inside one of the public shelters. Worse was to come on May 7, however. It was a common tactic to raid the same target on consecutive nights, using any remaining fires as targeting aids. The air-raid sirens began sounding at around 25 minutes after midnight and one of the first buildings to be hit was the Ardgowan Distillery within the town. The resulting inferno illuminated the town and thus provided an easy target for following bombers. To make matters worse, a direct hit was scored on the Westburn Sugar House, starting another huge blaze. These fires were large enough to be seen 100 miles away and the bombers would continue to attack the town until almost 4 am. By the end of the attacks the Air Raid Precautions Control Room in Greenock listed 159 areas of the town as being of critical concern and reinforcements were drafted in from as far afield as Edinburgh to help with the aftermath. The result of the raid would be 271 deaths with more than 1,200 people injured and damage to more than half the homes in the town, with about 1,000 completely destroyed. The incident would leave a lasting impact on the town and its surrounding area.

Given its position in the hills close the town, it is highly likely that the High Mathernock battery would have been in action on the nights of the blitz. There is also a clear indication from these events of the widely held idea that anti-aircraft weaponry was notoriously ineffective. Despite the number of anti-aircraft defences and the volume of fire they could create, not a single enemy aircraft was lost during the raids.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the defences of the Clyde during the Second World War and their place within the wider defensive network of wartime Britain. The remains of the battery may hold valuable information about the function and operation of such sites and the daily lives of the troops stationed there. This site is particularly valuable given its excellent state of preservation and its role in one of the most significant events of the Second World War in Scotland. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the efforts and sacrifices made to defend the Clyde during the Second World War and the preparation, construction, use and eventual abandonment of the defences themselves.

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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NS3270, 43 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Thursday, 12 May, 2016   (more nearby)
Submitted
Saturday, 28 May, 2016
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Farm, Fishery, Market Gardening  Defence, Military 
Primary Subject of Photo
Historical 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3226 7087 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:54.0977N 4:41.0746W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3228 7081
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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