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What: Gunnery school and Radar research establishment.
Where: Eastney, Hampshire
Last Known Condition: Derelict
Page Updated: June 2014
The close relationship of Eastney and nautical gunnery dates back to 1859 when Fort Cumberland became the headquarters of the Royal Marine Artillery and a Sea Service training battery was set up to the west of the common.
In the period 1924-37, the foreshore in front of the fort was used for searchlight and sound locator training, pier building and landing craft development.
Fraser Range seems to have been established either around this time or shortly afterwards and is clearly shown on aerial phtographs of 1946. It took its name (after 1945) from Admiral of the Fleet Baron Bruce Fraser of North Cape. The range, initially called Fleet Assessment Unit Fraser, specialised in training naval gunnery personnel in director sight firing.
The site had 4.5" and 4.7" Quick Firing as well as 40mm Bofors guns configured to simulate a shipboard firing scenario. By the 1960s, there was also a Seacat Missile launcher for training purposes, replaced by a Sea Wolf c.1980. The guns were mounted on the foreshore pointing seawards, requiring warning markers to be posted in the Channel to keep shipping clear of the nine mile range.
During the 1960s, Fraser was also home to HMS St George, the Royal Navy's Special Duties Officers' School where Senior Ratings who had been selected for promotion were given nine months of specialist officer training. The school moved to Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1974.
In 1972, the base became briefly famous when it stood in for 'HMS Seaspite' in Doctor Who episode The Sea Devils, starring Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning.
Fraser Gunnery Range closed in 1986, but the base was put to use again as the Civil Marine Division of the Admiralty Research Establishment, moved there from Eastney Fort East in 1989. The ARE's work at Fraser consisted mostly of testing RADAR equipment using large steel-lattice towers to improve range. In 1995, the ARE became part of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and in 2001, not being of particular strategic importance, Fraser was transferred to the privatised defence company QinetiQ, who slowly wound down operations, closing the site in 2006. Plans were announced to replace the buildings with 131 flats, but by 2011 no progress had been made and the plans were withdrawn. In recent years, the site has become an unofficial tourist attraction for bored children and curious visitors (I encountered several children, a family of five and two men in their sixties). Aware of this and the dangers of the now derelict buildings, in 2013, QinetiQ had the base's two iconic RADAR towers demolished to stop people from climbing them.
Briggs, J.N., 2004, 'Target Detection by Marine Radar'
London: Institution of Engineering and Technology. p. xxv
Hind, B., 'How Dr Who saved the day at Eastney', Portsmouth News, 19th January 2013[http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/nostalgia/how-dr-who-saved-the-day-at-eastney-1-4702566] Accessed 4/6/14
Judd, E., 'Iconic Eastney building to be demolished', Portsmouth News, 10th July 2013[http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/politics/iconic-eastney-building-to-be-demolished-1-5267320] Accessed 4/6/14
Marsh, B., Photograph depicting R.N. Gunnery School, Eastney, 1961[http://dovergrammar.co.uk/archives/Old-photos/1961Gunnery-school.html] Accessed 4/6/14
Various, 2011 'Fort Cumberland/Fraser Battery?' [http://www.victorianforts.co.uk/smforum/index.php?topic=199.0] Accessed 4/6/14