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Author Topic: Northumberland Bottom (Istead Rise) 4.5" HAA Battery  (Read 2966 times)
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« on: July 16, 2012, 19:44:17 PM »

When I found this aerial photograph I was a bit baffled, as the annotation said 'Northumberland Bolton'. Looking through the ORB for No.1 Coast Artillery Co-operation Group, it was also written in the same way. Fortunately the Cassini grid reference enabled me to find the site, and to realise that they meant 'Northumberland Bottom' near Gravesend. Ho hum. Photograph taken from Anson N4890 on 30th July 1940 from a height of 2000'.

The following information has been extracted from the Standing Building Interim Survey Report on the site, carried out by the Museum of London in 1999. The full text can be read HERE.

In April 1938 the TS17 Northumberland Bottom was chosen as a suitable location for a four gun 4.5 inch HAA battery. By 1942 the records show that the camp was fitted with four guns and a radar station. The manning increased from 312 (76 regimental and 236 Battery) in May 1942 to 747 in December 1943. Since the regimental staff of 169 consisted of male and female mixed personnel, some ‘doubling up’ may have occurred or even two separate camps might have been established; like many AA gun battery sites, no war time plan is known to exist. As the site does not appear to have been designated a ‘Diver’ (anti V1) battery it is possible that guns may have been withdrawn and re-deployed elsewhere in 1944. In January 1946 the camp was declared ‘Off-site’ and unmanned in the course of the post-war ‘Nucleus’ programme, while guns and equipment were transferred to local Ordnance Depots. The site appears to have been used as a civil defence training camp after the war.

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« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2012, 16:51:27 PM »

The site (TQ638711) shows up well on the website at 1:2500 scale for 1962. I asked the wife, a Gravesend girl, if she new the area and she said she used to cycle there as a kid when it was stables to go riding. Small world! The surprising thing is that there appears to be a parade ground as well, top left in photo. Were all disused AA barracks used as stables Smiley
Also found a note that says it was an Overfill Camp in WW2 - not sure what that implies.

There is a book on the site as well.

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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2013, 12:00:00 PM »

At the time I was living at Watling Bank 418 Upper Wrotham Road at the Tollgate Gravesend 1951 - 1968. We were the last house before the roundabout that was then at the Tollgate on the A2 Trunk Road. About half a mile to the south west on the slight hilltop of Northumberland Bottom farm, which was part of the Beasleys farming empire, stood the wooden huts and emplacments that had been the WW2 Northumberland Bottom Anti Aircraft Battery. It had been occupied by a contingent commanded by a Major from the local Invicta army barracks in Gravesend until it was vacated in 1952. It remained unoccupied from then until it was taken over by Kent County Council in early 1963 and became the base for their civil engineers, A. Monk and Company, the principal road and bridge building contractor and Dick Hampton Earth Movers who were engaged on the building of the M2 motorway.

I worked there on a collage holiday job with the KCC bridge engineers in the summer of 1963 and while working at the old camp, I was able to explore quite a lot and found that many of the huts were as they had been left at the end of hostilities. In one obvious dormitory hut, I found an old diary belonging to a WAAF named Avril Redman, who had made notes of her experiences while at the camp and when she left in 1943, a friend Joyce Blamey had penned the following verse.
When the golden sun is setting
And your heart from care is free
When of others you are thinking
Do you sometime think of me

At the time a great many of the huts and the areas where the guns and searchlight had been sited were undamaged, though a new concrete batching plant was built on what had obviously been the ashfelted parade ground and car park. The large self contained commandants residence was at the back of the parade ground and a sewer works was built some distance away on the edge of the farmland.

In the seventies a girl who for some years had run a riding stables at the rear of The Tollgate Inn, which was on the opposite side of the A2 to our house and the Tollgate Garage, moved her operation into the huts of the old AA battery after the KCC had vacated it and A. Monk and Co had moved their base further towards London.

When the M2 was widened and the High-speed rail track-bed was driven through the area after the millennium, nearly all of the old camp and surrounding area was destroyed.

UFO at the Tollgate Gravesend.

   During early May 1961, I was in our front garden with my mother who was gardening. It was around six in the evening and we noticed a very bright, slowly pulsating light in the sky to the west, hovering over the old now disused Northumberland Bottom Anti Aircraft Battery. Part of Londons wartime anti-aircraft defences, where my late wife Annettes old friend Celia Beckhams mother Betty was stationed when in the WAAF during the war as a searchlight operator, but occupied by the Army until the early 1950s.  As we watched, the light sank down and was now below and behind the old camp huts, between the hills at Swanscombe cutting, approximately five miles distant and appeared to land somewhere to the rear of the old camp.
   A few minutes later the light reappeared and rising slowly, vertically. It then moved horizontally to the right, the light pulsating slowly and then suddenly the light stopped pulsating, became steady and the 'aircraft' accelerated towards the east, at what seemed an incredible speed, almost instantly vanishing from sight. During the whole time, which lasted about ten minutes there was no engine noise evident, though the craft, whatever it was, can have only been a maximum of two miles distant. This unexplained incident occurred at the time when the Russian air force major Uri Gagarin made his epic flight around the Earth in his Vostok Space Capsule to become the worlds first cosmonaught.

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