Monument record WSW 101 - WW1 Tank Training Area - the 'Elveden Explosives Area'

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Summary

WW1 tank training area for the earliest tanks. The Estate at Elveden was used for battle training and tank testing up to their use in WW1 in 1916. Said to have been the most secret place in England at the time.

Location

Grid reference TL 800 770 (point) (Approximate)
Map sheet TL87NW
Civil Parish ICKLINGHAM, FOREST HEATH, SUFFOLK
Civil Parish WEST STOW, ST EDMUNDSBURY, SUFFOLK

Map

Type and Period (4)

Full Description

1916: WW1 tank training area for the earliest tanks. The Estate at Elveden was used for battle training and tank testing up to their use in WW1 in 1916. Said to have been the most secret place in England at the time. 15 square miles of trenches, one and a half miles wide; three lines of "German" and a British support and frontline, possibly centering on North Stow Farm (The Citadel), although this was not part of the Elveden Estate. The A11 is said to have been closed during tis period. The trenches were modelled on the "Loos pattern". The 'restricted' area was named "Elveden Explosives Area".
The first tanks were used here, the very first one was camouflaged and nicknamed "Mother". Extensive and significant trenches, redoubts and shell holes were made as well as a viewing platform (used by Lloyd George and King George V) on the 'British' lines. Exact location and alignments of trenches unknown but area of Berners Heath (centred on TL 799 767) seems a likely candidate and shows extensive impact creaters and is said by Elveden Estate to be full of shells (also note practice wall IKL 123 and bomb target area IKL 107, which includes some trenches, are within this area).
Army HQ's and encampments at Elveden Hall (with main mess, to the north), Canada (IKL 176) and Bernersfield (IKL 177) Farms (to west), West Stow (WSW 006, to the south), New Farm, Wordwell (WRW 055, to the south-east) and Little Heath, Barnham (BNH 063, to the north-east) with railway sidings etc at Culford Lodge Farm (CUL 048), Barnham Camp (BNH 054) and Barnham siding (BNH 067) to the north-east. Elveden Hall stable block was used for the officer's mess (ELV 079).
A fine group of photographs of the troops, encampments and the closing of the trenches can be found in the Burrell Albums in the Suffolk Records Office (Bury, S1). For background discussion and notes of these sites see (S2).

June 2019. Breckland National Mapping Programme.
The monuments recorded as part of the Breckland National Mapping Programme survey relating to the probable Frist World War tank Training Area are recorded under IKL 352.
J.Powell (Norfolk Historic Environment Service), 18th June 2019.


Probably located mostly in Berner's Heath area. It is believed the area that became The Kings Forest (FC Plantations of 1920s/1930's) was outside the Elveden Estate so may not include elements of this complex.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Bibliographic reference: Campbell C. 2007. Band of Brigands: The Extraordinary Story of the First Men in Tanks. Pg. 121 etc..
  • <S1> Source Checked: Suffolk Record Office. SRO (B), K997.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Jul 16 2020 2:00PM

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