MOD Shoeburyness - Timeline

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OLD RANGES 1849-1998

June 1849: First lands purchased by the Board of Ordnance on the Ness at South Shoebury. Photo 1.

1850: First experiments. Hale's rockets and cast iron Smooth Bore Muzzle Loading (SBML) cannon firing round projectiles. Photo 2.

1859 - 1863+:

1. Introduction of the wrought iron rifled gun firing an elongated projectile. Initially, Armstrong Rifled Breech Loading (RBL) guns (6pr to 110pr). Photo 3.

2. Introduction of the Ironclad Warship and the commencement of the battle between gun and armour. Photos 4-6.

3. The first British ‘School of Gunnery’ established (1 April 1859). Photo 7.

Result of these three events: Expansion of lands and a major building programme to that roughly seen today. Photos 8-14.

1860s-1870s: Introduction of Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) guns (up to 16in of 80 tons at Shoebury). Photos 15-16.

1880s: Introduction of the ‘Modern’ Rifled Breech Loading (BL) Steel Gun (up to 16.25in of 110 tons at Shoebury). Photos 17-19.

26 February 1885: Detonation of a 6in shell resulted in seven deaths which included the Commandant and the Superintendent of the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich. Four buried at St Andrews Church, Shoebury. Photo 20.

February 1887: First railway steam engine (Manning Wardle 0-6-0) arrived. Named 'Nicolson' after the Commandant.

1890+: Experiments gradually moved to the ‘New Range’, north-east of the village.

1905: The Experimental Branch which since 1859 had been part of the School of Gunnery, became independent.

1914-18: Various Infantry Units stationed in the barracks in the Home Defence role e.g. Anti-invasion.

1915: The first Anti-Aircraft School of Instruction formed at Shoebury. Moved to Perham Down in 1920. Photo 21.

1920: The Royal Horse and Field Artillery Branch of the School of Gunnery officially moved to Larkhill to become the School of Artillery. The Royal Garrison Artillery element remained at Shoebury to become the 'Coast Artillery School'.

1920s-1930s: Medium Artillery Brigades (Regiments) stationed in the barracks.

September 1939: 22 Heavy and Medium Training Regiment formed at Shoebury. After several changes in title, it was disbanded as 22 Royal Artillary Training Regiment (Anti-Tank) in 1945.

December 1939: 1 Super Heavy Battery formed at Shoebury (9.2in gun on Railway Truck Mounting). In January 1940, the School of Super Heavy Artillery was unofficially established at Shoebury by Major Cleeve. It moved to Catterick in early May.

September 1940: The Coast Artillery School moved to Llandudno for the duration; and to Plymouth after the War ended.

1942: 5 Battery (later Regiment) Maritime Royal Artillary moved from Southend to the barracks. Disbanded in 1945.

1948-1976: Regiments stationed in the Barracks - mostly Gunner units for varying periods. The last was the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment.

Garrison HQ closed.

1976-mid 1980s: Only the Military Wing remained. Many buildings ‘Listed’ in the mid-1980s.

After 149 years Old Ranges closed and was then sold to Gladedale Homes and developed into The Garrison housing development. Photo 22.


1889+ Lands purchased to the north-east of the Village up to Havengore Creek. Trial Batteries constructed mainly along the sea wall.

c1897: Experimental Office (K17) built. First floor added at rear in c1915 with the front added in 1938. Until c1897 the Office was located in 'Chapmans'. The Range Conning Tower was demolished in July 1975. Photo 23.

1902: Havengore Island purchased.

1914-1915: New England and Foulness Islands purchased. By now some 30,000 acres of sands had been acquired for the Crown

1914-1918: Just over two million rounds fired. 9.2in Howitzer trials at Gantry Battery.

1914: 9.2in Howitzer trials at Gantry Battery. Taken on 13 March 1914. This was the first equipment built and for some time that autumn was the only one deployed on the Western Front where it was named 'Mother' (RAHT).

6 April 1916: HM King George V visited Old and New Ranges. Photo 25.

1917-1918: War Dogs School established in New Ranges.

28 March 1918: Ammunition Fire. Tens of thousands of shell and charges burned and exploded near Central Office (K17). Many villagers evacuated for the day. Photo 26.

1918-1924: Bridge built over Havengore Creek and a road built from the Creek to Churchend and Fisherman's Headway.

c1920: Original Scherzer Rolling Bridge shortly after completion. Photo 27.

1923: The new island road under construction at Churchend. Rectory on left and 'George and Dragon' on right. (Miss Taylor). Photo 28.

1919-1922: A trials battery built at Yantlet Creek on the Isle of Grain. Used for firing large guns of up to 16in on to the sands at Ranges of 30,000 + yds.This activity led to complaints from Southend residents and officials in the late 1920s. Closed c1954. Photo 29.

1920: The 'Experimental Branch‘. became the ‘Experimental Establishment' (commonly known as ‘The XP’).

1930s: Many development trials of weapons which were to serve so well in WW2 e.g. 25pr, 5.5in, 3.7in AA guns etc. These trials also included the 15in Coast Gun and mounting which afterwards was installed at Singapore where it didn’t fare so well. Photo 30.

1938-1939: ‘White City’ on Foulness was built for the Small Arms Experimental Establishment (Hythe) and which in June 1940, hastily ‘evacuated’ to Pendine Sands in South Wales.

16 May 1939: Visit by HRH The Duke of Kent. Photo 31.

1939-1945: Photos 32 and 33.

        • Numerous trials of ‘weird and wonderful’ weapons.
        • The Prime Minister visited on at least two occasions - certainly in January 1941 (AAZ Rocket firings) and again in June 1941 (major weapons demonstration).
  • Over one and a quarter million rounds fired.
  • ATS - the first ATS General Duties girls arrived on 3 September 1939. The first ATS Experimental Assistants in Gunnery (EAG) arrived on 15 September 1940. Photos 34 and 35.

1946+: A number of trials batteries were built on Foulness Island e.g. Churchend, Rugwood etc.

1948: The 'Experimental Establishment' became the 'Proof and Experimental Establishment, Shoeburyness' (P&EE).

31 January/1 February 1953: North Sea Storm Surge. Some facilities unusable for up to six weeks. One WD Policeman and two Islanders died. Photo 36 and 37.

1985-87: Contractorisation. Apart from trials and Staff Officers, a few WOs and Senior NCOs, all military personnel departed. Photos 38 and 39.

6 July 1987: After 138 years, the last Junior Ranks to leave. Lance Bombardiers Downes and Gosling outside the Military Wing Offices.

9 May 1991: Visit by HRH The Duke of Kent. Photo 40.

1994-2001: After 46 years, P&EE Shoeburyness became Land and Maritime Ranges; and following further changes (DTEO & DERA), finally became ‘QinetiQ’ in 2001. Photo 41.

With thanks to site historian, Major Tony Hill, MBE.