About MOD Shoeburyness

The area of Shoeburyness and Foulness Island which is today known as MOD Shoeburyness was first used by the military in 1848 when the British School of Gunnery was opened. The location was chosen for this purpose for many reasons including its proximity to London and its direct access to major shipping routes. The area's geographical features make it the ideal location for the MOD's Test and Evaluation requirements with the flat tidal sands providing the large secure safety area needed for long range firing and the recovery of shells. These natural features, coupled with today’s infrastructure and expertise, mean that the site continues to provide an unrivalled and unique UK facility for critical military test, evaluation and training activities.
MOD Shoeburyness

Site Facts & Figures

As an MOD Range, there has been a need for humans, flora, fauna and weapons testing to co-exist on the Shoeburyness site for over 150 years.

The site covers over 9,300 acres with another 35,000 acres when the tide goes out. There is over 60km of road and another 60km of tracks and 21km of railway track.

It is home to over 200 private residents living in around 100 dwellings. There are seven working farms managing 7,000 acres between them.

For over 30 years, the MOD has been dedicated to wildlife conservation on the site. The 30 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) also SPA, SAC and Ramsar designations for flora and fauna that exist here are testiment to this work.

The site and its contractors are major contributors to the local economy employing around 300 people.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most commonly asked questions about MOD Shoeburyness and its activities. If you can't find what you are looking for, please contact us.

Can members of the public use the beach next to the Ness Road slipway (near to Uncle Tom's Cabin and the HM Coastguard Station)?

No. This beach is owned by the MOD and is not open to the public for any purpose or use. Trespassers may be prosecuted and fines are applicable. More >>

What does QinetiQ do at MOD Shoeburyness? Answer >>

I sometimes notice loud bangs and vibration, is the disturbance coming from MOD Shoeburyness?

There are a number and variety of noise sources around the Thames Estuary but from time to time, and in certain weather conditions you may notice noise from activities at MOD Shoeburyness.

How do you manage the impact of noise on local communities? Answer >>

Can the vibration from your activities damage my property? Answer >>

Can I find out about the Range firing programme in advance? Answer >>

I live/work near to MOD Shoeburyness, is there anything that I should be aware of that could affect me? Answer >>

Can I visit MOD Shoeburyness? Answer >>

Are there any areas of the local seafront where I am not allowed to go? Answer >>

What do the Red Flags mean? Answer >>

How can I find out more about the history of the area? Answer >>

Do you do any work in the local community? Answer >>

Our Work at MOD Shoeburyness

QinetiQ operates the Range at Shoeburyness on behalf of the MOD under what is known as the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA).

QinetiQ operates the Range at Shoeburyness on behalf of the MOD under what is known as the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA). It provides defence Test and Evaluation (T&E), and training support services which help ensure the safety and effectiveness of munitions and skills used by the UK Armed Services. The purpose of the service can be summarised as follows:

  • To ensure that weapon systems for our Armed Services are safe and function as intended, it is essential for them to be tested thoroughly throughout their development. At Shoeburyness, this is done by firing, shaking, rattling, rolling, dropping, heating and freezing equipment and munitions.
  • Safe disposal of stressed or life-expired ammunition.
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training techniques are taught during military training courses by recreating realistic scenarios involving live ammunition. Many of the service personnel trained here are deployed on active service shortly after completing the course. For further information on the work of the DEMS (Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Munitions and Search) Training Regiment, visit the Army website.

The location, facilities and expertise at MOD Shoeburyness provide a secure environment for these activities to be conducted safely and effectively.

For more information about our capabilities at MOD Shoeburyness, visit the LTPA website.


Images of Foulness Island

Foulness Island is a place of hidden beauty. The marshy landscape and mudflats provide an ideal habitat for breeding birds, flora and fauna all of which thrive within the protection of the site boundary. The historic buildings add a flavour of bygone days and a traditional farming community.

We have selected some images that illustrate the natural beauty of the area. For more information about conservation on the Range, click here.

Wildlife photography courtesy of Chris Lewis of the Foulness Area Bird Survey Group.

Barn Owl Barn Owl Cockle beds Comma Corn Bunting Foulness Church Foulness Heritage Centre Grey Heron Oystercatcher Residential property Tortoiseshell Butterfly Wheatear
MOD Shoeburyness Timeline & History

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 Artillary 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 site historian, Major Tony Hill, MBE.

Contact us

By post

Community Liaison Officer
MOD Shoeburyness
Blackgate Road

By e-mail


By telephone:

Careline: 0800 0560108 (freephone) - for general enquiries and to report any concerns you have about the site or Range activity.

Shoeburyness Emergency Update Line: 0800 2215417 (freephone) - for the latest information during a site emergency.

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