Old WW2 Gunnery Ranges – Cartridge Cases And More!

A number of years ago now, I used to have permission for an old WW2 gunnery range. It was a superb site, with a huge number of finds possible for very little effort, if you knew the ‘sweet’ spots. I visited it two or three times a year for this very reason. On one trip alone, I recovered enough 303 cartridge cases and spent bullets to fill an entire 250rnd Vickets belt!

Unfortunately the landowners changed and the new ones were less keen on me visiting than the previous one, so I had to call it a day. This was a shame as the site was the source of a great number of cartridge cases, as well as other items.

Used for training of both ground troops, and a strafing range for aircraft, the site would yield an incredible volume of finds in a very short space of time. As it was used as a ground strafing range as well, there were chances to recover some bigger cartridge cases like .50cal and 20mm. They also practised with grenades on this range, as well as mortars, PIATs and artillery pieces like the 25pdr.

I got to know where most of this ‘action’ took place and would vary my visits between recovering ground fired small arms cartridges, to those fired by aircraft, with each being concentrated in different areas.

One thing about old gunnery ranges like this is that it is all well and good having landowners permission, but the vast majority of these ranges had bye-laws attached to them. Ensuring that such bye-laws have lapsed is essential as otherwise, you could be inadvertently recovering relics from a site still covered by such laws. This range had an old bye-law, but it had been revoked a good 20 years before I first started searching it.

Here are a few of the finds from this site. I won’t show everything as this page would go on for ages!

 

1
Result of one 3 hour dig
2
.45cal and 9mm bullets
3
.303 bullets. Some more-or-less intact, others not so!
4
9mm cartridge cases
5
.303 cartridge cases
6
Various bits from a No 36M grenade. Filler plugs, base plugs, remains of central column. When the grenade explodes, the force crushes the central column against the spring, creating the grooves you see here.
7
Parts of artillery shell fuze, rotation band, 2inch mortar fin and a brass disc
8
Brass disc is thought to be the base plate from a 25pdr base ejecting smoke shell
9
Another day, another visit….
10
9mm cartridge cases
12
.303 cartridge cases
22
Lee-Enfield charging clip with 5 fired cartridge cases stuffed in it. Someone was bored while out practising!
13
Another visit, this one to the strafing range ‘end’ of the range. Still get the usual cartridge cases and grenade bits, but in among them are .50cal and 20mm cartridge cases
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One of the earliest visits to the site. Over 300 cartridges from one dig!
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303s
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9mm
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Lee-Enfield charging clips
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Remains of a No 117 fuze
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Remains of a No 117 fuze
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No 151 fuze safety caps (2 inch mortar)
21
More grenade bits. Remains of central column and base plugs
23
Results of another early visit.
24
More from the strafing end of the range.
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A nice mix following a visit to both ends of the range. 9mm, .45cal, .30cal, .303s, .50cal and 20mm

 

Shame that I can’t get back there and I do miss the place, but being lawful is far FAR more important that a few cartridge cases!

2 comments

  1. Hi Stephen, could you tell me the dimension of the brass disc please? I am recovering numbers of them from an air gunnery range on the coast of Sheppey. I have no evidence that 25lbers were used here. obviously ordnance related but am puzzled as to what the discs are from. Most have some degree of belling and crinkling. So far from finds and documentation I have confirmation that calibres up to 20mm cannon where used as well as air to ground rockets. Interestingly, for the first time this weekend just gone, we recovered a service revolver bullet and a section of drive band from a large shell of some sort. The inner side of the band had a lovely clear square pattern where it was swaged onto the shell. The range closed about 1954. Kind regards. Fred

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