WWII Coastal Battery

The two gun casements on the cliffs at Bransty were demolished in the 1980's, and the searchlight emplacements have all but disappeared, with just the bases remaining. The battery on the clifftop level was protected by Lewis guns at either end, with anti-aircraft protection offered by the then secret ZAA-Batteries, otherwise known as 'UP's' - Unrotated Projectiles: Devices by which means a cluster of sixteen explosive-carrying rockets would be released electrically to bring down any attacking aircraft by exploding at a predetermined altitude.

As well as guns, Battery Observation Post (BOP) and camp up on the cliff-tops, the Whitehaven battery consisted of two concrete and steel searchlight emplacements and a generator building, tucked in to the foot of the sandstone cliffs about 100 feet below, just above the Barrow to Carlisle railway line and on the site of some 19th Century Ironworks. A miniature range was provided for training purposes, and was located about half-way between the searchlight emplacements and Parton, just off the 'Waggon Road'.

The north searchlight - No: 1 - was manually operated by the 12 to 18-strong searchlight crew, while positioning of the No: 2 southernmost searchlight was automatically controlled from the BOP on the cliffs above, presumably by a 'SELSYN' or 'MAGSLIP' arrangement (electrical transmission of angular torque between machines).

Communication from the BOP to the searchlights below was by field-telephone, and the aerial-type device next to the south Lewis-Gun was used to carry the telephone wire safely over the cliff edge and down to the searchlight positions. A wire barrage-balloon cable was also rigged to allow the transportation of sea-coals up to the cookhouse stove, to augment the regular fuel supply.

The remains of the searchlight emplacements are all that is now left of this site. Both searchlights were 90 centimetre Mk V converted 'ack-ack' (Anti-Aircraft) arc lamps running on Direct-Current, providing fifty minutes of intense white light before the carbons needed replacing. The top carbon was connected to the positive end of the supply, and burned away more quickly than the bottom (negative) rod as minute particles of carbon were torn from the positive rod leaving a crater, on to the tip of the negative rod,

The gun casements as seen from the Bransty road. As observed in the sketch, the battery encampment extended some distance behind them, up the fields.

World War II Coastal Battery At Whitehaven
World War II Coastal Battery At Whitehaven


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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