History of MOD Eskmeals

In July 1897 Barrow’s Vickers, Sons and Maxim secured firing rights at Eskmeals, termed the Main Battery, to conduct artillery testing for range and accuracy. Using this site as a test range improved the facilities for test firing which previously was firing into a sand-filled butt. Firing was carried out over the foreshore and the medium to large naval guns built in Barrow were shipped to Eskmeals by rail.

The first master gunner in charge of the Range was Harry Williams who had previously served with the Royal Marine Artillery.

By August 1897 the Barrow company had bought extra land at Monk Moors from Lowther Estates. Early the following year the Furness Railway Company agreed to provide sidings to Eskmeals from the Bootle line. Two years later the Range had its own wooden railway halt for which was used by workers and official visitors that came from all over the world.

Many rail buffs will recall the old signal box which controlled traffic at what was called the Vickers Gun Range Sidings, which was removed for preservation in 1992.

Over the years the Main Battery, South Battery and associated workshops were kept busy as Vickers produced more and bigger naval guns both for the Royal Navy and foreign counties, such as Japan.

From 1910 the first full-time superintendent Alan Craig took over the running of the Range who was a technical expert in trials and experimentation for Vickers.

Just before the First World War started Vickers began sending a range of field guns to Eskmeals for testing.

During the war years 15,000 trials and proofs were carried out on guns at the range.

During the Second World War the range was still operated by Vickers but under the control of the Ministry of Supply. At this time a wide range of guns were now being tested, including secret work on the first multiple launched rocket system.

Over the years the Range has continued to test a variety of guns and munitions whilst moving into various parts of the MOD, including DTEO & DERA, and from 2001 the Range is currently being managed by ‘QinetiQ’ on behalf of the MOD.