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Purdown H.A.A. Battery

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What: Heavy anti-aircraft gun battery
Where: Pur Down, Lockleaze, Bristol
Built: c.1940-1943
Architect: Unknown
Abandoned: c.1945-50
Listed: Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Visited: 2011
Last Known Condition: Well-preserved but becoming increasingly
  overgrown. Outlying bofors pit has suffered recent vandalism.
Page Updated: August 2011

During the Second World War the City of Bristol suffered heavy casualties from German bombing raids, becoming the fifth most heavily bombed city in Britain. Between 24th November 1940 and 11th April 1941 there were six major bombing raids during which 1,299 people were killed and 1,303 were seriously injured; 89,080 buildings were damaged including 81,830 houses which were completely destroyed. To counter this onslaught, a ring of heavy gun batteries were positioned around the city designed to shoot down enemy bombers before they could deliver their deadly cargo.

Western magazine
Western magazine

1943 pattern gunpit
1943 pattern gun pit

BT point-to-point microwave relay tower
BT point-to-point microwave relay tower built in 1970 on the site of Purdown Barracks

[click images below to expand & enlarge]

Site Plan A similar AA Battery in Richmond, Surrey, pictured in 1940 (Imperial War Museum) Top of the command post Command post entrance lobby Command post Cable conduits Western magazine Roof vent Decades of graffiti 1938 pattern gunpit Ammunition locker 1943 pattern gunpit 1943 pattern mounting bolts 40mm bofors pit BT point-to-point microwave relay tower, built 1970 on the site of Purdown Barracks BT point-to-point microwave relay tower View towards Fishponds and Kingswood, Cossham Hospital visible at centre Tower cranes at work on the new Southmead Hospital

First occupied in November 1939 by mobile guns, Purdown was one of eight batteries converted into permanent positions in June 1940. Initially there were four gunpits built to the octagonal 1938 pattern, each housing a 3.7-Inch QF gun. These were joined in c.1943 by two rectangular pits to the east and an outlying 40mm Bofors gun which fired inciendiary shells to intercept German flares. So loud were these guns that they could be heard across Fishponds, Kingswood and much of Bristol and local legend held that the hill was home to a supergun nicknamed Purdown Percy. In fact it is now believed either that the salvoes echoed in the valley below and gave the impression of a very large gun, or that a mechanical computer (possibly a Kerrison Predictor) enabled simultaneous firing.

The battery was manned by the 238 Battery of the 76th Regt, Royal Artillery in 1941, and by 515 Battery of the 150th Regt Royal Artillery in 1942. stationed in barracks to the east, now vanished under the site of the massive Purdown Telecoms Tower (the line of the barracks' perimeter fence is preserved in the modern compound fence). Until its disbandment, the 9th Gloucestershire Bn (City of Bristol) Home Guard also used one bay of the magazine reserve for storage of explosives.

Since abandonment and the recent erection of 'protective' fencing the site has become very overgrown and strong boots and tough clothing were needed to make any headway against the dense brambles covering most of the emplacements and bunkers.

Concise Bibliography

Anon., 2011, '1940 Guns England'[http://www.a2asimulations.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=22981&start=15] Accessed 15/08/11.

Anon, 2010, 'Purdown Camp and Anti-Aircraft Battery' [www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/cms-service/stream/asset/?asset_id%3D35634005] Accessed 15/08/11.

Byrne, Eugene, 2010, 'Bristol Blitz' [http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?hl=en&gl=uk&ie=UTF8&view=map&vps=1&jsv=250a&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=107033042481765584924.0004898c1a53910edeb19] Accessed 16/08/11

Clarke, John and Penny, John, no date., 'The 9th Batallion Home Guard' [http://www.wellingtont2905.co.uk/9th%20battalion%20home%20guard.html] Accessed 15/08/11.

English Heritage, 2008, 'HEAVY ANTI AIRCRAFT BATTERY BRISTOL B6' [http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=201335] Accessed 16/08/11

Ford, Ted, 1996 'Hambrook Tales' [http://www.frenchaymuseumarchives.co.uk/Archives/PagesBiogy/Ford-Hambrook-Tales.rtf.] Accessed 16/08/11

Westcott, Jack L., n.d., 'The Wartime Memories Project - South West England' [http://www.wartimememories.co.uk/southwest.html] Accessed 15/08/11


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