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Cheshire Steve

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    Cheshire, England
  • Interests
    Cars, Bikes, engineering history, old lathes

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  1. I measure the OD as around 117mm, but mine aren't perfectly round. Have yours got the same markings on the base? Steve
  2. Thanks Bryan, all very interesting. I didn't find anything suggesting robust magazine construction at Staple, or where exactly the stored munitions were given that steam hauled trains still passed through the station. There is an account of the stored munitions being 'covered with brushwood', so it all sounds very temporary. As 97 MU was wound up on 10th July, and the site was not handed back until August, then maybe 36MU handled the decommissioning of the site. I have now diverted my efforts to finding out about the Martin Mill Military Railway, and I have created a Wikipedia page about it. I enjoy a bit of digging in the past. The common link is of course the rail mounted guns. Steve
  3. The super heavy railway gun story turns out to be an interesting one. Seems there were 3 batteries on the East Kent Light Railway each with 2 of 12" howitzers. 5th battery at Sheperdswell, 37th at Eythorne, and 12th at Staple and Poulton siding. The 5th may have originally had a third 12" howitzer at Eythorne until the other batteries turned up, and it may be the 8th were originally the battery at Eythorne and became the 37th SHB. I doubt any of them would have been effective if the German forces had come across in September as Hitler had hoped - most of them weren't ready until October and the operation of the guns took a lot of experience regarding anchoring, as they were prone to move (or even derail) when fired. The main advantages of the guns being rail mounted was the ability to relocate them, and to hide them in tunnels, but as regards firing they needed to have a bespoke rail spur heavily strengthened to take the recoil, and well equipped with massive anchor points for the 1" cables. The demonstrations of the guns at Catterick featured on Pathe news must have used blanks at best. What I particularly liked while investigating this was a quote from Major Cleeve who was sent out in 1939 to find what we had available in term of heavy artillery for home defence. He found various stocks of spare or redundant naval guns but said " it was a fruitless task until I reached the RAOC depot at Chilwell, (Nottingham). Seeing 'an enormous and derelict transport shed away on the perimeter', he led the way there: With the greatest of difficulty, we forced the rusted doors open and gasped at what we saw. On the left were Boche-Buster, Scene-Shifter and Gladiator [three WWI 14in guns], but none with any barrels. On the other two lines were about nineteen 9.2in Mark XIII guns and 12in howitzers, in a deplorable state, just as they were abandoned in 1919. This treasure trove of guns and mountings were hastily refurbished, fitted with the 13.5 inch naval guns and deployed to the coastal defence sites." I think I would have 'gasped' at discovering that lot locked away ! So that's where the rail guns came from. It seems twelve Mk V 12" howitzer rail guns were deployed, and six Mk XIII 9.2" rail guns (approx). Then there were Gladiator, Piece Maker and Scene Shifter at Dover fitted with ex-naval 13.5" guns, plus the famous 18" BocheBuster gun on the Elham Valley railway - it seems the large guns get a disproportionate coverage in articles on rail guns - but even the smaller guns were still monsters, and quite an extraordinary thing to have up a very quiet rural railway like the East Kent Light railway.
  4. Just spotted that during WW2 Bekesbourne was only an active airfield from 20th May to 8th June 1940. Steve
  5. Well done - I tried searching for Staple and found nothing. It seems to me they were creating a munitions dump remote from anywhere intending to take munitions away from Bekesbourne, Eastchurch and Lympne airfields - though in the end only from Bekesbourne. I like the mention of using the Local Defence Volunteers as guards, with many never having fired a shot. I can imagine a brilliant episode of dad's army set there. It is a little alarming to have munitions dumps covered with brushwood, with steam engines passing through, in mid-summer. One assumes they were a safe distance from the line itself. It was wound up in August 1940, during the battle of britain - it would be interesting to see the operations reports for July/August. As it only stored the munitons for a few months I wonder if it was a temporary arrangement remote from built up areas while more secure magazines were being constructed. Steve
  6. An interesting idea. I wondered if it was some sort of listening post or other early warning system, sounds like it was classified from the account - the full text of which is : "In May 1940 a squadron of the Royal Air Force entered upon the Railway and took over complete control of Staple Station, for all intents and purposes that station being closed to the general public. Both the inwards and outwards traffic formerly dealt with at Staple Station had to be diverted to either the Company's Wingham or Woodnesborough Station, and the Company's Clerical and other Staff attached to the Station had to be temporarily transferred to Woodnesborough Station. The Company's trains were only permitted to pass direct through the Station except in cases where goods were consigned for or to be dispatched by the RAF, and that procedure continued until August 1940 when the squadron was transferred elsewhere, after which Staple Station and premises were handed back to the Company."
  7. You are right there is some great information on there - I must look at it in more detail on a number of topics. It was there that I found the info on the 5 SH Battery, and the 37 SH Battery but found it externally via Google. If you search the board for Eythorne you get only 2 hits, and these are where I got the info that 37 SH Battery had 2 of 12" Howitzers there (and same for 5th SH at Sheperdswell). I see now that info was dated September 1940, so that blows my theory that the 9.2" guns arrived first. But there is now a clash between the accounts of the EKLR written at the end of the war, which said 82ton gun on 6-wheel bogies, whereas the 12" Howitzers were 58ton guns on 4 wheel bogies. So they must have had 9.2" rail guns on the EKLR at some stage, and the photo show one. BTW I love the report that on 18/10/1940 the Folkestone rail gun (a 9.2" I think) fired at an e-boat - the first time one of the guns had been used in anger since 1918 - the gun derailed itself as a result. This emphasises the preparation of the track, the anchoring system, and track alignment for successful operation. Fat chance getting a second shot in if you derail yourself with the first one, or shoot backwards 20 foot around a curved rail spur. I must search it more broadly for other rail gun info - thanks for the tip. Steve
  8. I think they get away with it on a technicality. The surviving gun is an 18" barrel mounted on what is described as a proofing sleigh (a lot smaller mount than the normal rail gun), which was used for test firings at Shoeburyness. It retired from those duties in 1959. It was moved to the Rotunda, then after a spell at Larkhill, and then an exhibition at Utrecht it is indeed now at Fort Nelson.
  9. Yes, though it rather focuses on the really big gun. The 9.2" guns had a full 360 traverse, but I have seen an account saying that while the 12" howitzers also had a full traverse, they were best fired within 20 degrees of the track alignment. This made me wonder if on some branches the 9.2" guns came first, and then if they could find a place to build a rail spur with suitable alignment they could be replaced by the howitzers. The Elham Valley info mentions 12" howitzers being fired on a spur of track at Lyminge. It also says the 9.2" guns at Elham were replaced by 12" howitzers reinforcing my idea that the 9.2" guns arrived first, then if a suitable firing location could be devised they were replaced by the 12" howitzers. All speculation on my part of course. There is mention of there being 2 rail mounted 9.2" guns on the Kent & East Sussex railway somewhere near Wittersham Road where they had an ammo store. Steve
  10. There is a preserved railway there now (Sheperdswell to Eythorne). I think the curved bank at Sheperdswell still exists although now heavily wooded, and a small part of the triangle at Eythorne is still present. I'll contact the preserved railway and see if they have any further info, they may have first hand accounts as the society was created in 1985, still within living memory of wartime events. I think another reason the guns were given their own spurs was to stop them damaging the main track when firing. Steve
  11. From the military side of things I see notes of 5th super heavy battery at Sheperdswell having two 12" howitzers, and 37th super heavy battery at Eythorne having a further two 12" howitzers. As far as I can tell such guns usually had spurs of railtrack for firing - presumably at a safe distance from anything damaged by the blast waves. At Sheperdswell there was a curved embankment for a link to the mainline that had never been used, and at Eythorne there was a former triangular junction for the disused line to Guilford Colliery (the line here was lifted in 1937, but apparently relaid during WW2 'for a rail mounted gun' as well as an extra siding being added for the military at Eythorne station). As regards the purpose of the guns - they were mainly defensive against landings by German forces. So perhaps they took shelter in the tunnel on the EKLR when thought to be at risk. This tunnel was built double width, but as far as I know only ever had a single track on one side of it, so having the guns in there would block traffic. I am no good at finding out what battery was where - so maybe someone can confirm the accounts of the 5th and 37th that I found on a bulletin board. I am stumpedfor now as to how to take this further. Interesting story though. Steve
  12. I have been studying photos, and comparing them with the photo on the Colonel Stephens site (referenced), and the gun shown there might well be a MK XIII rail gun, which was a 9.2 inch gun. I think the photo is one from the EKLR and not a library photo as it doesn't seem to appear elsewhere. The rail guns are described as having 6 wheel bogies at either end, which matches, and you can just make out in the photo that the well truck design matches. I haven't found the weight for the MkXIII - the EKLR reported the guns were 82 tons. There is a photo of one on Wikimedia ( https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BL_9.2_inch_Mk_XIII_railway_gun.jpg ) - and that is lifted from this very interesting dcument : https://eugeneleeslover.com/ENGINEERING/Railway_artillery2.pdf Steve
  13. I saw there was a thread on this a long time ago, and I was doing some research on the EKLR and updating the Wikipedia entry and came across more infomation on the three 82 ton rail guns deployed on the East Kent Light Railway in Kent from September 1940 until December 1944. It turns out there is a typed document in the Colonel Stephens archive regarding the WW2 activities on the East Kent Light Railway (even though Col Stephens died in 1931), This is the link : https://colonelstephenssociety.co.uk/kent%20and%20east%20sussex/light%20railways%20war.html One thing that intrigues me is the RAF take-over of Staple station from May 1940 to August 1940. I wonder what they were doing there? They allowed through trains, but closed the station for passengers and goods (except their own). They left and handed the station back in August, only for it to become one of the locations for the rail-guns from September 1940. I would be interested to know who the RAF squadron were and what they were doing, and any more info on the three rail-guns. I see the firing locations had attachment points to contain the recoil - so they couldn't be fired 'just anywhere'. This seems to negate some of the advantage of having them rail-mounted. The WD locos allocated to the guns did over 10,000 miles during the war, so clearly there was quite a bit of movement. Curious to know more. Steve
  14. Ha - I know nothing - except what I found using Google! It seems to have been referred to as a Royal Ordinance Factory, even after it was privatised and sold to BAe systems, who I think closed it and switched to a new factory at Washington, Co Durham in 2011/2012. The title Royal Laboratory was also used by Woolwich, maybe Birtley gained it when Woolwich closed. The implication of Laboratory maybe being the development of munitions, rather than purely the manufacture. Steve
  15. It appears to have been designated as the Royal Laboratory Birtley (or Laboratories) - I have no idea why. Search for RLB and shall case brings up several references, searching for ROFB didn't turn up anything. So I think its Birtley. Steve
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