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YNYSLAS NATURE RESERVE ROCKET RANGE;ROCKET FIRING RANGE

Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 408392

Map Reference SN69SW

Grid Reference SN60669394

Unitary (Local) Authority Ceredigion

Old County Cardiganshire

Community Borth

Type of Site FIRING RANGE

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period 20th Century, Modern

Site Description General site record for missile-testing site providing links to all associated site records at Ynyslas (see Associated Sites for list).

It was towards the end of the war that the quiet, isolated sand dunes of Ynyslas were added to the military firing ranges of Cardigan Bay. HMS CAMROUX III, a small coaster which had been specially converted with rocket launch ramps, was anchored at Aberdyfi to provide billets for some 30 army officers during the construction phase. It is known that the Ynyslas range was used for the testing unrotated rocket projectiles. Both the 2in diameter projectile filled with plastic explosives and a 3in solid armour- piercing rocket which were designed at the behest of Winston Churchill by military scientists lead by Sir Alwyn Crow CBE, Director and Controller of Projectile Development, at Fort Halstead. The German flying bombs (V1 and V2 rockets) which caused devastation to London between June 1944 – March 1945 provided the impetus for a new Guided Projectile Project to be headed up by Sir Alwyn. The Project brought together some 40 civilian and service personnel from the Radar Research Defence Establishment (RRDE), Signals Research and Development Establishment (SRDE), Sir Frank Whittle’s Power Jets (Research and Development) Ltd and private companies such Asiatic Petroleum Company (formed by Shell and Royal Dutch Oil Companies) and Laporte Chemicals Ltd (for the production of hydrogen peroxide). The Ynyslas Range was nominated to provide special test facilities for the testing of rockets propelled by liquid fuels (such as liquid oxygen and petrol). It was to be manned by 9 officers and 202 ordinary ratings (excluding cooks and ratings) under a Superintendent of Experiments (S of X).

Only one document appears to have survived detailing the nature of the trials undertaken – this being the minutes of a visit by the chairman of the Guided Projectile Working Committee, Major L W Jubb, on 2 January 1946. A tour of the existing facilities was undertaken with the Superintendent of Experiments, Lt Col T L G Tod, Royal Artillery. Discussions centred on how photographic observations might be improved with Akeley and Ascania cameras. Attending the discussions were the four Assistant Superintendents of Experiments, Major Till, Captain Pubach, Captain Lodge, and a female officer, Junior Commander Biddle. She was responsible for overseeing staff operating the Ascania cameras. The minutes refer to a proposed propulsive duct or liquid-fuel propelled rocket trial for 11 January 1946 and a test of the Ascania cameras to precede this trial using Admonitor rockets from Aberporth. A letter from the Major Jubb (dated 11 June 1946) suggests that the observers/recorders were from the Auxiliary Territorial Services (Women’s ATS) and that their commander, Lt Col Tod, lamented the loss of their skills when they were replaced by Royal Artillery surveyors after demobilisation (AVIA 48/16, National Archives, Kew).

RAF Westcott was subsequently chosen as the peacetime home of the Guided Projectile Project with an outstation at Aberporth. The German scientists persuaded to stay in Britain were housed there and continued to work on rocket motors until the BLUE STREAK missile project was cancelled in 1962. The rocket they designed was used as the first-stage of the European satellite launcher Europa in 1964.

Sources include:
Gatland, Kenneth W,1954, Development of the Guided Missile, pub. Iliffe & Sons, London.
Gatland, Kenneth W, 1975, Missiles and Rockets, pub. Blandford Press.
Kerr, D.B., 1990, The Girls Behind the Guns – with the ATS in World War II, pub. Robert Hale.
Parry, M, 2012, Rockets on the Beach, RCAHMW Collections
Twigge, Stephen R., 1993, The Early Development of Guided Weapons in the United Kingdom, 1940-1960, pub. Harwood Academic.
The War Office, 1938, Directions for the use of Anti-Aircraft Artillery Instruments, Pamphlet No. 5, The Kine Theodolite

Maritime Officer, RCAHMW, February 2016.

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