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MOD Shoeburyness Timeline & History

OLD RANGES 1849-1998

June 1849: First lands purchased by the Board of Ordnance on the Ness at South Shoebury.

First lands purchased by the Board of Ordnance on the Ness at South Shoebury

1850: First experiments. Hale's rockets and cast iron Smooth Bore Muzzle Loading (SBML) cannon firing round projectiles.

Probably William Hale. His 'Stickless' War Rocket dwarfed by that of the Congreve/Boxer. Mid-1860s. Splinter proof shelter on right (RE Library)

1859 - 1863+:

1. Introduction of the wrought iron rifled gun firing an elongated projectile. Initially, Armstrong Rifled Breech Loading (RBL) guns (6pr to 110pr).

Armstrong 3in 12pr Rifled Breech Loading Gun. 1862. (RAHT)

2. Introduction of the Ironclad Warship and the commencement of the battle between gun and armour.

HMS Warrior at Plymouth in the 1860s (Warrior Trust)
Warrior target having been attacked by 68lb, 100lb and 200lb shot, Oct 1861 (RAHT)
Attack of the Plymouth Breakwater Fort target, June 1868. L-R: Rodman 15in SBML and 9in, 10in, 12in, 7in Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML). (RE Library)

3. The first British ‘School of Gunnery’ established (1 April 1859).

Long Course Repository, July 1886. Garrison Theatre in background (P&EE)

Result of these three events: Expansion of lands and a major building programme to that roughly seen today.

Expansion of lands and a major building programme to that roughly seen today
Clock Tower with attached Guard Room and on right, Offices 1859-1861. Right of Way was along Chapel Road until the 1880s when Campfield Road was built (P&EE)
The Barracks, 1859-1861. As at June 1879 (P&EE)
The Terrace ('Bloke's Row'), 1859-1861. 'A' not built until 1871 (P&EE)
Chapel School built in 1866. Never used as a school (P&EE)
Officers Mess. L-R: Former Coast Guard Station (c.1825), Ante-room and Library (1852) and Mess Room (1859) - latterly the Ante-room. Taken 1880 (RAHT)
Warrior Square Road with Terrace of three Single Officers Quarter blocks (1859-1861) and nearest, one Married Officers Quarter (c1870). Taken c1880 (RAHT)

1860s-1870s: Introduction of Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) guns (up to 16in of 80 tons at Shoebury).

Big Will', the Armstrong 13.3in RML of 23 tons shortly after its arrival at Shoebury in 1863. Firing a 600lb shot, it defeated the Warrior target at 1,000 yards (RAHT)
The 16in 80 ton RML first arrived at Shoebury in September 1876. This is No.8 (of eight built) - the 'Admiralty Spare'. The Railway Proof Sleigh weighed 40 tons. Taken in August 1876 (RAHT)

1880s: Introduction of the ‘Modern’ Rifled Breech Loading (BL) Steel Gun (up to 16.25in of 110 tons at Shoebury).

A 6in Breech Loading Gun. Taken on 25 June 1889 (RAHT)
A 12in Breech Loading Gun of 43 tons. Taken on c1883 (Essex Record Office)
An Armstrong 16.25in 110 ton Breech Loading Gun being off-loaded from the War Department Barge 'Gog' in c1888. The Railway Proof Sleigh weighed 95 tons (Navy & Army Illustrated)

26 February 1885: Detonation of a 6in shell resulted in seven deaths which included the Commandant and the Superintendent of the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich. Four buried at St Andrews Church, Shoebury.

Dedication and unveiling of the Memorial Cairn on 26 February 1985 (P&EE)

February 1887: First railway steam engine (Manning Wardle 0-6-0) arrived. Named 'Nicolson' after the Commandant.

1890+: Experiments gradually moved to the ‘New Range’, north-east of the village.

1905: The Experimental Branch which since 1859 had been part of the School of Gunnery, became independent.

1914-18: Various Infantry Units stationed in the barracks in the Home Defence role e.g. Anti-invasion.

1915: The first Anti-Aircraft School of Instruction formed at Shoebury. Moved to Perham Down in 1920.

13pr 9cwt Anti-aircraft gun on a J-Type Thorneycroft lorry manned by 120 AA Section RGA at the School of AA Artillery, July 1917 (RAHT)

1920: The Royal Horse and Field Artillery Branch of the School of Gunnery officially moved to Larkhill to become the School of Artillery. The Royal Garrison Artillery element remained at Shoebury to become the 'Coast Artillery School'.

1920s-1930s: Medium Artillery Brigades (Regiments) stationed in the barracks.

September 1939: 22 Heavy and Medium Training Regiment formed at Shoebury. After several changes in title, it was disbanded as 22 Royal Artillery Training Regiment (Anti-Tank) in 1945.

December 1939: 1 Super Heavy Battery formed at Shoebury (9.2in gun on Railway Truck Mounting). In January 1940, the School of Super Heavy Artillery was unofficially established at Shoebury by Major Cleeve. It moved to Catterick in early May.

September 1940: The Coast Artillery School moved to Llandudno for the duration; and to Plymouth after the War ended.

1942: 5 Battery (later Regiment) Maritime Royal Artillary moved from Southend to the barracks. Disbanded in 1945.

1948-1976: Regiments stationed in the Barracks - mostly Gunner units for varying periods. The last was the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment.

Garrison HQ closed.

1976-mid 1980s: Only the Military Wing remained. Many buildings ‘Listed’ in the mid-1980s.

After 149 years Old Ranges closed and was then sold to Gladedale Homes and developed into The Garrison housing development.

4 March 1998, the last Sunset Ceremony before closure of the Barracks and the only one to be held on the square (as opposed to the Commandants Paddock). General Salute on arrival of the Master Gunner, Field Marshal The Lord Vincent (Shoebury Archive)


1889+ Lands purchased to the north-east of the Village up to Havengore Creek. Trial Batteries constructed mainly along the sea wall.

c1897: Experimental Office (K17) built. First floor added at rear in c1915 with the front added in 1938. Until c1897 the Office was located in 'Chapmans'. The Range Conning Tower was demolished in July 1975.

Experimental Office (K17) built c1897. First floor added at rear c1915 with the front added in 1938. Until c1897 the office was located in 'Chapmans'. The Range Conning Tower was demolished in July 1975 (P&EE)

1902: Havengore Island purchased.

1914-1915: New England and Foulness Islands purchased. By now some 30,000 acres of sands had been acquired for the Crown

1914-1918: Just over two million rounds fired. 9.2in Howitzer trials at Gantry Battery.

1914: 9.2in Howitzer trials at Gantry Battery. Taken on 13 March 1914. This was the first equipment built and for some time that autumn was the only one deployed on the Western Front where it was named 'Mother' (RAHT).

9.2in Howitzer trials at Gantry Battery. Taken 13 March 1914. This was the first equipment built and for some time that autumn was the only one deployed on the Western Front where it was named 'Mother' (RAHT)

6 April 1916: HM King George V visited Old and New Ranges.

HM King George V watching a firing demonstration of a 3in 20cwt AA gun (Miss Lewis)

1917-1918: War Dogs School established in New Ranges.

28 March 1918: Ammunition Fire. Tens of thousands of shell and charges burned and exploded near Central Office (K17). Many villagers evacuated for the day.

Aftermath of the fire. RA Workshops (now Tank) on left with Gantry Battery on right. Central Office (K17) out of picture to left (P&EE)

1918-1924: Bridge built over Havengore Creek and a road built from the Creek to Churchend and Fisherman's Headway.

c1920: Original Scherzer Rolling Bridge shortly after completion

Original Scherzer Rolling Bridge shortly after completion in c1920 (P&EE)

1923: The new island road under construction at Churchend. Rectory on left and 'George and Dragon' on right. (Miss Taylor).

The new island road under construction at Churchend, mid-1923. Rectory on left and 'George and Dragon' on right (Miss Taylor)

1919-1922: A trials battery built at Yantlet Creek on the Isle of Grain. Used for firing large guns of up to 16in on to the sands at Ranges of 30,000 + yds.This activity led to complaints from Southend residents and officials in the late 1920s. Closed c1954.

Meteor staff at Chalkwell monitoring 16in gunfire from Yantlet Battery (P&EE)

1920: The 'Experimental Branch‘. became the ‘Experimental Establishment' (commonly known as ‘The XP’).

1930s: Many development trials of weapons which were to serve so well in WW2 e.g. 25pr, 5.5in, 3.7in AA guns etc. These trials also included the 15in Coast Gun and mounting which afterwards was installed at Singapore where it didn’t fare so well.

15in Mk1 Breech Loading Coast Defence gun and mounting about to be proofed at K Battery before installation in Singapore. Taken on 25 June 1934 (P&EE)

1938-1939: ‘White City’ on Foulness was built for the Small Arms Experimental Establishment (Hythe) and which in June 1940, hastily ‘evacuated’ to Pendine Sands in South Wales.

16 May 1939: Visit by HRH The Duke of Kent.

The Duke about to leave the 'Kitchener Coach' (Mrs M Orrell)


3 January 1941. The PM witnessed a trial of 3in AA 'Unrotated Projectiles' (UPs or 'Z' Rockets). The Battery was commanded by son-in-law, Major Duncan Sandys. With Churchill is Dr Alwyn Crowe, 'father' of the project (IWM)
Equipment Demonstration held on 13 June 1941. L-R: Professor Lindemann (bowler hat), Archibald Sinclair (Secretary of State for Air), Field Marshal Sir John Dill (CIGS), Captain D Margesson (Secretary of State for War), Lord Beaverbrook
  • Numerous trials of ‘weird and wonderful’ weapons.
  • The Prime Minister visited on at least two occasions - certainly in January 1941 (AAZ Rocket firings) and again in June 1941 (major weapons demonstration).
  • Over one and a quarter million rounds fired.
  • ATS - the first ATS General Duties girls arrived on 3 September 1939. The first ATS Experimental Assistants in Gunnery (EAG) arrived on 15 September 1940.
Some EAGs had yet to be issued with uniform. Taken in September 1940 (Mrs Orell)
16 December 1940. Visit by Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan (Commander ATS). Colonel Lickman (Superintendent), Dame Helen, Company Asistants J Honeyburne, K Warwick and J Bathurst. RA Workshops and Gantry Battery at rear (P&EE)

1946+: A number of trials batteries were built on Foulness Island e.g. Churchend, Rugwood etc.

1948: The 'Experimental Establishment' became the 'Proof and Experimental Establishment, Shoeburyness' (P&EE).

31 January/1 February 1953: North Sea Storm Surge. Some facilities unusable for up to six weeks. One WD Policeman and two Islanders died.

2 February 1953. Looking south west with Havengore Creek and Q Battery in foreground. Ballistic Range in middle ground (PSA Colchester)
Remains of the seawall at Great Shell Corner, Foulness. February 1953 (PSA Colchester)

1985-87: Contractorisation. Apart from trials and Staff Officers, a few WOs and Senior NCOs, all military personnel departed.

31 July 1986. After nearly 47 years, the last WRAC left. Medical Orderly Lance Corporal Randall outside the Barrack Hospital (Major AS Hill)
6 July 1987. After 138 years, the last Junior Ranks to leave. Lance Bombardiers Downes and Gosling outside the Military Wing Offices (Major AS Hill)

6 July 1987: After 138 years, the last Junior Ranks to leave. Lance Bombardiers Downes and Gosling outside the Military Wing Offices.

9 May 1991: Visit by HRH The Duke of Kent.

Visit of HRH The Duke of Kent on 9 May 1991

1994-2001: After 46 years, P&EE Shoeburyness became Land and Maritime Ranges; and following further changes (DTEO & DERA), finally became ‘QinetiQ’ in 2001.

1 April 1995. the Proof and Experimental Establishment became DTEO.Colonel Roger Styles (former Superintendent) unveils the necessary at Blackgate (Major AS Hill)

With thanks to the late Major Tony Hill, MBE and MOD Shoeburyness Archives.