Shooting Targets, Shells, Tanks and Bunkers
Below are 2 Articles I’ve written for a local magazine. I’ve left them intact as there is some progression in the story….
If you are familiar with walking and running from Langsett and Midhope you may also be familiar with the old military targets in the area and the old farm known as North America. Just a quick look at an OS map shows that Midhope and the Strines road had some very strong military influences, with “Targets” marked over Range Moor (Fenny Common), and Ewden Heights. But few people realise just how extensive this operation was.
Upper Midhope, known locally at the time as “Little Congo”, was basically an army camp, and Mortimer Road (Strines Road) was off limits to most civilians. Most of the soldiers operating in the area were based at Thurgoland, but the military also took over several farms and fields. Lawtons Farm was taken over by the Royal Signals, Townhead and Manor farms were commandeered, and the main workshop for the tanks and guns was at the farm buildings known locally as the “workshop” SK 212913 (This is on private land so please respect this). The field just to the side of this building was one of the tented camps, it’s just south of Midhope bend.
There were anti artillery guns, smoke pots and bunkers surrounding Midhope and Langsett Dam, which was seen as a major target for the Germans as it could potentially devastate Sheffield if destroyed. Upper Midhope itself was bombed twice in 1941 and a German bomb UXB was found in Thickwoods Brook.
If you take a wander around the woods SE or NW of Langsett or Bosville’s Piece (the moors south of Midhope reservoir) you may come across big blocks of concrete. I was always told these were there for anchoring barrage balloons protecting the steel works in Stocksbridge, but I’ve since found out that they were used as a Catenary Defence against bombing the reservoirs. This was a steel cable hung between two pylons with chains and girders hanging down to prevent German bombers getting low enough to bomb the dam walls.
These pylons were anchored to the concrete blocks. All this happened just after Guy Gibson completed the famous Dambusters raid. The Derwent, Langsett and Ewden reservoirs were all used as part of the preparation and Guy Gibson himself actually lived at Broomhead Hall for a while with the Rimington-Wilson family.
There were plenty of underground bunkers. In fact, as you exit the path coming up from Thickwoods there are some deep depressions. These are all that survive of a storage bunker now filled in. Thickwoods Lane itself was originally made from rubble taken from Sheffield after an air raid. This allowed access to what was thought to be an ammunitions dump but now appears to be where they burnt now redundant flares after the war. Nothing much grows in this area. In the last year it has been resurfaced and turned into a turning circle for forestry trucks.
The main firing points were from the concrete triangular track. This can clearly be seen on the OS map. At the top corner there is bunker/observation post. This is still visible and had a poppy cross in it the last time I passed. Other shooting points were from the Nab in Midhope – this is also on the map.
The targets themselves, some of which were on rails, and the red brick winch houses that were used to move them are still just visible. If you search around, a target’s bogie is still visible at SK 206985. The target itself was shaped like a tank but made of wood and canvas and was called a hornet.
Ewden Heights range is also accessible and was the main storage site for chemical/high explosive weapons. Although not certain, it is believed that these were fired from near Gill Royd Lane.*
Another well-known spot is North America farm – if you check out the eastern side you will notice the wall is heavily chipped from small arms and range finding.
Around this area was an aircraft-towed drone used by practising anti-aircraft artillery. This would fly east to west whilst the gunners would take shots at it.
On the Moors somewhere around Emlin, the authorities decided to make a star fish mock village. The purpose of this was that when the enemy aircraft were expected, a unit from the Defence Regiment would go onto the moors and light the powder charges and oil-filled barrels to make the enemy think they were bombing a large area. This proved to be unsuccessful as the Germans had far better surveillance and navigation aids than the British thought…..and the British army could not find its way in the dark! It was subsequently decided that local farmers should act as guides although it is unclear how many times it was actually used.
The projectile found by Dukes Drive a few years ago was a high explosive/shrapnel shell and was extremely dangerous. There has also been some British test rocket debris found near Mickleden Pond. Other unexploded shells have been found all over, and even the “dud” ones might turn out not to be quite so dud. Both the tracer pockets and fuses still present a clear danger.
The two latest finds were by Cut Gate above Bull Clough and Fenny Common. One was a high explosive shell and needed to be blown up by the Royal Engineers.
Langsett was not just a training range for tanks, armoured cars and artillery guns but also a test range for experimental shells. This means that some of the shells out there are not what they seem. Even the Royal Engineers aren’t sure what they all are, so be warned
Some high explosive munitions fired will be empty but still with a fuse, others will be intact. It is impossible to tell by looking (or even with x-ray) which is which. All are potentially highly dangerous. Do not touch; those with just a fuse will remove a hand if they go off. These items are now 70 years old and potentially unstable.
It is rumoured that many 25 pounders were fired on to the moor, but none to my knowledge has been found yet.
During runs along Cut Gate we’ve had “discussions” about where the V1 bomb crater is. We’ve talked about two supposed sites, both of which have documented evidence of bomb remains inside them. It appears the truth is now known. The V1 is the crater east of Outer Edge, the other site approx SK 186965 is the remains of a German parachute mine. This has been determined by testing the respective metal remnants – the V1 was made of steel, and the parachute mine of aluminium.
So, the next time you take to the local moors keep your eyes open as there is more to them there hills than you may realise.
The second piece below continues the story
Things that go Bang on the Moor
Following the last article on the things found on the moors around Midhope I received quite a lot of interest……..so I thought a follow up was in order.
I did some further exploring after a conversation with another walker who pointed me in the direction of some other interesting points on the hill and have uncovered other pictures of the defences on the hills. I have since found the bases and weights for the catenary defences.
Nearby are the remains of an old truck that sank in to the moors and was stripped down, possibly an Austin. This prompted further trips which have brought up two bunkers, a tank wash and lots of tank tracks.
After the heavy rain in April, I went for a run and, as I was not feeling very well, decided on a straight line route over a new bit of moor that I’ve not crossed. Within a few minutes I’d found 2 new shells and some pieces of shell. I took some pictures and noted the grid refs before I went on my way. I sent the photos of the shells and grid ref off to be checked out and they came back as “safe”. A friend in the Rescue Team went out to double check the two I’d found and discovered two more; one which was believed to be dangerous. He couldn’t find one of mine so I went to recover it and found yet another. Now we had 5 new shells in just over a week. These were mainly 75mm AP, two of which are suspect.
Then last week I had a call from a friend who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become obvious. He was on his way up Cut Gate. The conversation went something like this:
“Hi Ian I’ve just found a shell on Cut Gate. I’m just ringing to get an opinion”
“Well, without seeing it, it’s impossible to comment but, as long as the base has a clean hole in it, it’s probably safe but I’d assume it’s dangerous, leave it alone and we’ll check it out.”
“Oh! I’m walking up Cut Gate with it! The hole is in the front though with a thread……!”
“Ah, take it off the path now and put it down carefully, mark it.”
Later we went up to check it out. It didn’t take us long to realise that this was an 18lber about 40 cm long, with the front cone missing and a “mechanism” inside. Pictures were quickly taken and it was left alone and well off the path.
Skip forward 2 more days. Woodhead MRT were out to provide a safe cordon. The Royal Engineers were flown in by the police. After inspecting the shell they were apparently quite excited/concerned. This was the real deal; full of high explosives. The fuse was live and could go any second. I think they were quite stunned to hear someone had incredibly carried it for 10 minutes and they were still alive.
Not long afterwards they used a small charge to trip the fuse. Result… a new crater just off the path.
So just a reminder; this is the third shell, at least, found in the last 5 years that has been Hi-Ex or a shrapnel shell. If you find one, mark it and make a note of the grid ref but do not touch. Whatever you do NEVER CARRY/MOVE ONE OF THESE SHELLS like the very lucky runner.
*Following on from this article I believe the missing Gill Royd Lane defence and range have been found nearby. More shells including another 18lber has recently been reported. Woodhead MRT and the Royal Engineers will be mounting a joint exercise to clear as many Shells as possible.
Guided walks and runs are available in this area alongside guided walks to the local aircrafts wrecks.
More pictures of all the recent finds are available at https://www.facebook.com/OutdoorNavigation
In the album “Hills around the Langsett Shooting range”