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ST THOMAS HEAD WEAPONS TESTING SITE

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A Second World War and 20th Century air gunnery and bombing range which later became a weapons testing site, visible as a collection of military buildings, mast structures, range marker, access roads, slipways and piers, was mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1946, 1950, 1954, 1970, 1978, 1979 and 1985. Located on the grass at St. Thomas's Head, the site was used during the Second World War for air gunnery practice by aircraft like the Gloster Gladiator aircraft. The site expands from 1946, where the site is visible only as four rectangular military huts and a range marker in the form of a directional arrow pointing northwest to Langford Grounds. A rectangular concrete plinth at the cliff edge has been suggested as the site of a Second World War searchlight battery, but no structures were visible on aerial photographs taken in 1946. By 1948, additional buildings, masts and a long raised pier constructed on piles with a braced framework had been constructed. By 1970, the site was undergoing an upgrade of facilities, with additional brick-built buildings, a large mast-like structure with a square base and braced by tripod legs, more substantial access roads and the construction of a second pier. In aerial photographs taken in 1979, a curvilinear slipway long has been built. By 1985, aerial photographs show that only two of the original wartime air gunnery range buildings remained and that the range marker arrow was overgrown but still faintly visible. In 2007, the 11 acre site, centred at ST 3482 6689, was still in use by the military, being taken over by QinetiQ and used as an Explosives and Shock Test Facility.

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