Advice on research please: WW2 gun emplacement, Thames Ditton

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by martin sylvester, Aug 8, 2021.

  1. Hi, can anyone advise me on how to research a subject, where to start who to contact etc.

    I belong to a small boat club situated on the none tidal river thames section opposite Hampton Court Palace. The club has been well established for many years and is called BMYC, British motor yacht club for small boat enthusiasts. I am trying to uncover some history about the place. Our club house is a very solid building, the kitchen is solid concrete and originally had large metal sliding doors (long since removed and buried somewhere in the grounds), this opens into the main clubhouse area. At the front and by the side of the river is our slipway with a large concrete platform. Our only information is that is was a gun emplacement (possibly anti aircraft) in WW2, the kitchen area stored ammunition (hence concrete roof and metal blast doors) and the main area housed soldiers. Our location is Address: Queens Rd, Thames Ditton KT7 0QY.

    It would be great to know a little bit more about, I have tried various google searches but so far nothing. Could anyone make any suggestions. I would be very obliged. We have just refurbished the club and we are keen that younger members know the clubs history and what it originally functioned as and if i could find a picture or two that would be a bonus.

    JimHerriot likes this.

    ARPCDHG Member

    Posting a photo of it would be a good start...
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  3. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    On the attached map (early 50s) I believe your building is indicated by the arrow. Seems to be a road connecting it to the Albany Hotel in whose grounds it appears to be situated, also a fairly substantial engineering works nearby.

    Have you tried the local authority planning office for old applications as the site was developed?
    BMYC 2.jpg BMYC 1.jpg
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  5. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Try here they might be able to help and as suggested please post photos

    Home - Esher District Local History Society

    for info
    1947 E. R. Ponsford and L. B. Copestick, based in Kingston on Thames, commenced subcontract work for the GPO (General Post Office) and the Admiralty Research Laboratory, which was based at Teddington.

    1948 Registered the company name, Solartron, and started the manufacture of pulse generators, power supplies and oscillators. They also designed and introduced an oscilloscope to the product range.

    1950s The company expanded significantly under the leadership of John Bolton, developing a wide range of scientific instruments including radar simulator devices, X-ray spectrometers, cybernetic teaching machines and a range of analog computers.
    Solartron Electronic Group - Graces Guide

    one Solatron Factory was at the bottom of Queens Rd & Alexandra Rd.
  6. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Middlesex County Times 06 February 1937
    BMYC 3.jpg
  7. hutt

    hutt Member

    The area was covered by 49th AA Brigade (part of 1st AA Division). I'll see if I can dig anything out in the next day or so and I do have one diary for a LAA Battery that covered some of the nearby water works at Hampton Kempton Park and Walton. It may of course be nothing to do with AA defences, perhaps wartime boatbuilding as went on further up at Hampton at Platts Eyot (scene for recent fire that has destroyed the structures and historic boats)
    Any diaries for units found will, if they survive, be held at Kew and can be accessed for reading and copying there.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2021
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  8. Many thanks to everyone for this, it is all very interesting and giving me some good leads.

    I will take some pictures of the building and post
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  9. Pics attached, clearly many changes/updates over the years, have tried to show what clues are left on the building, the large metal sections on wall above kitchen is where the metal sliding door hung.

    Attached Files:

  10. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    What about the 'large concrete platform' at the front - are there any signs of fixings, mounting bolts etc?
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  11. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

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  12. Will ask one of the older members hard to see due to the big metal box on top...although this may have been part of it.
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  13. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Hello Martin it looks like at some time it would have been a small engineering workshop?

    The building looks like 1920/30 structure

    Not sure I can see any sign of a reinforced structure.Where has the information come from word of mouth or does a local still remember it

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  14. Thanks Clive, mainly word of mouth, mostly about the kitchen area which is reinforced and did have a metal blast door.
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  15. hutt

    hutt Member

    I've just skipped through two of the the 1st AA Division diaries for August 39 to December 40. At over 1200 pages, fascinated tho I am by this, I'm not going to be able to read all those but each month, almost without fail there is a detail location statement that lists all the Regiments and Batteries along with addresses and map references. Even phone numbers with the delightful exchange names of which I am just about old enough to remember some.
    However, across that 16 month period there are no references to Thames Ditton except 75th Search Light Regiment, 473 Battery being deployed at Newlands, Weston Green Road so well south from the river. The division diaries confirm the AA regiment and batteries that were covering the nearby waterworks as 36LAA - 79bty (of which I have a diary), 4LAA regt - 3rd AA bty and later 36LAA regt - 128 LAA bty. The absence of any site description as 'Thames Ditton' where most other sites have details including up to 6 figure grid references, would, in my view suggest that at least up to December 1940, whatever structure you have either wasn't yet built or wasn't purposed as an AA gun site.
    I have more diaries for 1st AA Division up to the end of 1941 so I'll try and look through those. I will also go through the 49th AA Brigade diary that I have that runs from Aug 39 to Dec 41 and see if that has any detail. I will also read the 79th Bty diary in a little more detail incase I've missed any reference to Thames Ditton as I have seen references to guns at Hurst Park which doesn't appear in the division location statements so its may be possible that individual guns may not be identified except in the detail of the regiment or battery diary.
    One other possibility is that the area was actually in 5th AA Division as I have never come across gun sites any further out than Walton in this broad direction to the south west of London in the diaries of 1st AA Division so the divisional boundary will have been in the vicinity. Interestingly, and this is the first time I have spotted this, there is a note dated 30th April 1940 suggesting that the battery manning the Walton on Thames waterworks site is to be transferred from 1st AA Division to 5th AA Division. I have one 5AA Division diary and will have a skip read through that to see if its confirmed.
    For a better understanding of the structures themselves, the definitive reference is AA Command by Colin Dobinson published by English Heritage which includes photos and drawings of typical sites with the overall layout and details of gun pits, command posts etc.
    There were other VP's warranting AA defence at Tolworth and I'll see if a thread from some while ago that I contributed to on this site may have something of use.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2021
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  16. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Hello Martin re the blast door the hinges look like a metal door hung off which was a security door but not a blast door the brickwork seems to be just a brick thick
    I might have been used as a war time factory producing stuff for the war effort etc

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  17. Amazing that you have done this, cannot thank you enough, it is an historical hunt and would love to get to the bottom of it.
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  18. Thank you so much it is all very interesting and would love to get a definitive answer to what the building is/was.
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    ARPCDHG Member

    Looking at the photos, I can't see anything to really indicate it is a military/wartime building, otherwise just a well-built/strong structure?

    Clearly, it's location is indicative to its use.

    At a push, I wonder if it is a WW2 AFS/NFS fireboat building?
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  20. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Door here attached to 30s building
    Building is a miniature railway store/shed


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