Record Details

NHER Number:12747
Type of record:Monument
Name:World War Two anti-aircraft army camp, including 'The Whirlygig' rotary launcher

Summary

A World War Two anti-aircraft training camp is visible to the immediate south of Stiffkey marshes on 1945 RAF aerial photographs. The site consists of arrangements of nissen huts and military buildings, gun emplacements and structures.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TF 963 437
Map Sheet:TF94SE
Parish:STIFFKEY, NORTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK

Full description

Army camp.
Set up before 1939 for target practice and used in World War Two. Rows of corrugated iron and asbestos huts, now used as caravan camp.
Seen by E. Rose (NAU), 24 August 1977.

Drones for target practice were launched by catapult. Camp closed early 1950s.

D.Wicks (NAU) reports at west end of area, a massive shell bunker with steel rollers for shells, trap door for shell supplies, and inscriptions on walls showing sizes of shell above stacks.

June 1983. At northwest angle on marshes.
A tarmac circle about 18m (20 yards) across with central iron pole and jib. Probably a rotating direction finder.
Identified by H. Spalding and A. Gregory (NAU).

Along the high water mark just north of the camp are a number of concrete circular slabs with rings of iron bolts. These might be parts of some defensive structure dumped here but could equally well be simply old sewer pipe manholes.
No, they are gun positions; details to come.
Visited by E.Rose (NAU) in 1987 and again in 1994.

Photocopy of newspaper cutting in file (S1).

October 2002. Norfolk NMP.
A World War Two anti-aircraft camp is visible on 1945 RAF aerial photographs (S2). The site consists of arrangements of nissen huts and military buildings, gun emplacements and structures. The camp was in use until the 1950s, therefore only military structures visible on the 1945 RAF aerial photographs were mapped as using later photography would inevitably have features which post date the NMP cut-off date of 1945.
The site consists of several clusters of buildings and temporary huts arranged around a system of surfaced roads. Clusters of curved profile huts, measuring approximately 11m by 4m, possibly nissen huts are visible at TF 9660 4364 (32 huts), TF 9676 4369 (10 huts), TF 9688 4378 (21), TF 9671 4385 (16) and TF 9662 4384 (5). Several other groups of structures are present, these appear to be slightly more substantial pre-fabricated buildings. These vary in size and presumably function and are visible in groups of varying numbers at TF 9697 4387, TF 9688 4386, TF 9670 4368 and TF 9680 4389. One particularly large rectangular building is located at TF 9677 4384 and measures 65.5m by 10m. At TF 9674 4376 are another group of these pre-fabricated structures, many of which are still in use today, including two large co-joined structures at TF 9671 4378, measuring 50 by 18m together. Centred on TF 9661 4379 is another large group of which many are still in use at the modern day caravan park. To the immediate south of this group is a line of linear ditches cut into the ground from TF 9656 4373 to TF 9665 4375, these vary in length between 3m and 7m and are likely to be slit or practice trenches.
To the west of these is a tower-like structure, it may be a mast of some sort, it is 6m square and located at TF 96552 43742. Another tower or mast like structure is visible at TF 96378 43698, measuring 5.5m by 4m.To the west of the main area of structure is system of roads and evidence of some removed buildings at structures, centred on TF 9623 4387. At TF 9621 4377 is a square structure 8.5m across, which is surrounded by a heavily fenced area, 45m square. To the west of this is a rectangular structure 23m by 12.5m, located at TF 9604 4374. This feature appears to be slightly dug in to the ground. The roof of the building does not seem significantly higher than the surrounding ground, especially to the west. It is possible that it has been surrounded by earth to some extent. This structure also has three circular marks in a line on the roof. They appear to have some height to them, so they may be chimneys or air vents, in a largely sunken building. To the north there is a line of huts from TF 9614 4386 to TF 9624 4386. These structures are a mix of curved profile and pre-fabricated structures. To the north of these is a series of roads around rectangular fenced areas. Along the northern line of this arrangement are the rectangular marks of the former position of buildings.
The layout of the camp appears to be quite fluid, several areas of removed buildings and areas of hard standing are visible. As the camp stays in use further changes will be evident. The existing HER description and map includes a circular feature to the west of the site at TF 9562 4387, however, this structure was not apparent on the 1945 aerial photographs and therefore not included on the NMP map.
S. Massey (NMP), 26 October 2002.

22 October 2003. Visit.
Further information on the gun position remains, noted above, is still awaited. The concrete rings still lie on the shore but are becoming covered with a belt of scrub growing up between the water and the coastal path.
E. Rose (NLA), 22 October 2003.

2006.
(S3) suggests that the circular feature 91.5m (300 feet) in diameter at the northwest corner at TF 95621 43878 known locally as ‘The Whirlygig’ was a Cold War rotary launcher by the USAAF, used to launch RCATs (Radio Controlled Aircraft Targets) for the practice firing of anti-aircraft guns. See letters in file. It looks newly-built on aerial photographs taken in 1953 (S4, S5). This feature is also currently recorded under NHER 41503. Examples are known in the United States, but this may be the only one known and extant in the United Kingdom. See also notes on the main camp in file.
See powerpoint presentation (S6). On the edge of the marsh nearby there are circular concrete bases with boltholes for the anti-aircraft guns (on seaward side of path), but these are not in situ.
D. Gurney (NLA), 5 October 2006.

Monument Types

  • ANTI AIRCRAFT DEFENCE SITE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BOMB STORE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • HUT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY BUILDING (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY CAMP (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY TRAINING SITE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • NISSEN HUT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • ROTARY LAUNCHER (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SLIT TRENCH (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • TRANSMITTER SITE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • UNDERGROUND MILITARY HEADQUARTERS (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TF9543 B-C,E,F; TF9643 E,G.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Publication: 21 March 193.
<S2>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1945. RAF 106G/UK/388 3128-30 16-JUN-1945 (NMR).
<S3>Unpublished Document: Butcher, F.. 2006. Letter and associated papers.
<S4>Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1953. RAF 540/1063 029 07-FEB-1953 (NHER TF 9644C).
<S5>Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1953. RAF 58/1010 (N2) 60-1 05FEB-1953 (NHER TF 9644K-L).
<S6>Digital Archive: Butcher, F.. 2006. RCATS and the Stiffkey Whirligig.

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