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Chapperton Down Artillery School - Army List


Lyffe
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I believe the staff of the Chapperton Down Artillery School, Salisbury Plain, are listed in the Army List for September 1918, and I wonder if anyone has access to this document? I appreciate this is held by the National Archives but I'm just after the names of the meteorologist(s) on the staff - and it's a heck of a long way to drive for such a small amount of information (at most two names).

Can anyone help please?

Brian

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The December (corrected Nov) 1918 list only has commandant -staff captain - major and captain gunnery instructors and Supt (Lt Col R O Marton)and deputy 'Supt of Experiments' (Maj F C Tyler) - and quartermaster listed..no meteorologists identified as such ..interesting that there may have been staff Met officers by this date (my dad having been a Naval Meteorologist ....)

david

I believe the staff of the Chapperton Down Artillery School, Salisbury Plain, are listed in the Army List for September 1918, and I wonder if anyone has access to this document? I appreciate this is held by the National Archives but I'm just after the names of the meteorologist(s) on the staff - and it's a heck of a long way to drive for such a small amount of information (at most two names).

Can anyone help please?

Brian

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Thank you David, a pity but worth a try. My logic was that the met unit was an integral part of the Chapperton Down Artillery School and, as such, the CO at least could have been considered as being on the Staff. There is a precendent in that the meteorological officer for the CFS at Upavon was certainly considered to be on the Staff, first as a civilian (1913 - July 1914) and then as an officer until December 1914. I suppose the difference is that the RFC was young and embracing new ideas whereas the RH and RFA had yet to fully appreciate the value of meteorology for artillery operations. I know the names of the first (Lt Stewart, July 1917-?) and last (Capt Durward, Oct 1919-Oct 1920) met officers-in-charge, but it would have been nice filled the gap

I've been searching for the exact location of this met office, which was known as Butler's Cross, and two weeks ago was fortunate to find the plinth (now broken) on which the theodolite used to track pilot balloons was mounted. That's the only visible evidence to date, but I'm now waiting for some aerial photos of the site to see if I can identify the location of the hut that would have housed the met equipment and staff.

Brian

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Might a search of the London Gazette indicate/record an appointment and who was being replaced .. in the form, for example.. Durward vice xxxx, or suchlike? Durward at least being a reasonably unusual name there would not be too many entries in late 1919 to see if it says who Durward replaced.. and work back??

having had a quick go, not much success, is this Lt (a/Capt?) W S Durward MC .?. who appears a few times ..

david

Thank you David, a pity but worth a try. My logic was that the met unit was an integral part of the Chapperton Down Artillery School and, as such, the CO at least could have been considered as being on the Staff. There is a precendent in that the meteorological officer for the CFS at Upavon was certainly considered to be on the Staff, first as a civilian (1913 - July 1914) and then as an officer until December 1914. I suppose the difference is that the RFC was young and embracing new ideas whereas the RH and RFA had yet to fully appreciate the value of meteorology for artillery operations. I know the names of the first (Lt Stewart, July 1917-?) and last (Capt Durward, Oct 1919-Oct 1920) met officers-in-charge, but it would have been nice filled the gap

I've been searching for the exact location of this met office, which was known as Butler's Cross, and two weeks ago was fortunate to find the plinth (now broken) on which the theodolite used to track pilot balloons was mounted. That's the only visible evidence to date, but I'm now waiting for some aerial photos of the site to see if I can identify the location of the hut that would have housed the met equipment and staff.

Brian

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... I've been searching for the exact location of this met office, which was known as Butler's Cross, and two weeks ago was fortunate to find the plinth (now broken) on which the theodolite used to track pilot balloons was mounted...

Brian

Brian: very interesting - I've very little on Chapperton Down and have never been able to determine what sort of accommodation, if any, was there. I've an OS 1-inch map published in 1920 that shows most of the Great War infrastructure on the Plain, but no huts are shown on Chapperton Down.

I'm guessing that it was mainly an artillery range, with its staff based elsewhere - Lark Hill, perhaps - or billeted in nearby villages, with equipment being kept in a hut or two, or possibly a former farm building, as happened on the Lark Hill ranges.

I can't place Butler's Cross - any chance of a grid reference, please?

Moonraker

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David,

Many thanks for the suggestion but I'm afraid I've been down that route already. My man, by the way, is Captain John Durward.

Moonraker (not a Devizes man are you by any chance?)

I initially fell into the same trap as you re Chapperton Down; the Met Office Archives gave me a grid reference of ST 996481 - which is right in the middle of Chapperton Down. Don't ask me how (it's a bit complicated) but I traced the met office to a spot called Butler's Cross, about 4 km east of Chapperton Down, and I visited it two weeks ago. Not surprisingly there are no buildings left, but I did find the remains of the concrete pillar on which the theodolite used to track pilot balloons (to measure upper winds) was mounted. It can be seen on Google Earth at 51 deg 14 min 53.12 sec N 01 deg 58 min 05.39 sec W; alternatively the grid ref is SU 023498.

Butler's Cross has disappeared from modern maps, but you will find it on OS maps from before 1900 to the mid-1970s.

So far as I can gather there was no camp as such; course members lodged in Salisbury and were bussed to the range each day - to whichever one of the 7 gun positions was being used. One of these (the Field Barn Position) was on the side of a gully about 400 m southwest of the met office.

The School became part of the School of Artillery at Larkhill in Jan 1920. The met office remained at Butler's Cross until October 1920, when it too transferred to Larkhill. I have some contemporary aerial photos of the immediate area on order in the hope that one might give some idea of how many buildings there were at Butler's Cross.

Brian

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Brian

Thanks for that. You've done some good detective work there, and I would be interested in any developments.

Moonraker

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Moonraker,

I'd be pleased to update this in due course, but I only became sidetracked onto the story whilst researching something else (well several things actually). No matter, at the moment I'm simply trying to gather as much data as possible then perhaps draft something when I go on holiday later this year. My knowledge of the Army and artillery is minimal, but I need a basic understanding to place the meteorology - my real interest - in context. In the meantime you might be interested in the following link: http://www.gutenberg-e.org/mas01/archive/app20.html

Brian

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Yes. Incidentally TNA file MUN 4/5850 lists "RAF stations for relinquishment or disposal up to 30/6/19" and includes Market Lavington landing ground, which must have been very close to Butler's Cross. There was a short-lived relief landing ground at Market Lavington in the Second World War, but I have been unable to find out anything about the Great War one. Possibly it had a role with your trials or artillery practice.

My notes also have this cryptic entry: " Late in the war Salisbury Plain became the headquarters of a Royal Engineers unit under Captain C J P Cave involved with weather forecasting: see The Times September 3, 1918 p3b".

So cryptic is the note that I would have liked to check the reference before posting it here, but my PC has problems accessing The Times on-line archive - often available via local library websites provided you belong to the library in question.

Moonraker

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As of the early 1980s the type of information reported by artillery meteorological sections included air temperature, air density, wind direction, and wind speed at predetermined elevations or heights through which artillery projectiles would pass. In the '70s and '80s balloons with radio transmitters were released several times a day which would report the information to stations on the ground. The information was then formatted into data to be used by artillery batteries for their gunnery computations. Of course Great War met stations would not have had disposable radio transmitters or miniature diagnostic devices suitable for attachment to weather balloons.

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Moonraker,

In a way it was Cave who brought me to Butler's Cross as I'm writing an account of his WW1 activities. It's a long story, but briefly a Meteorological Section R. E. (aka Meteor) was formed in France during September 1915. It proved of sufficient value that other Meteors were formed in other theatres, but there was no Home section. That was rectified in early 1918 when a Meteorological Section R. E. (Home) was formed under the command of Captain Cave.

Meteor (Home) consisted of four stations, an HQ at Stonehenge, Shoeburyness, Butler's Cross and a detachment from Stonehenge at Filton. Shoeburyness and Butler's Cross dealt with artillery matters, whilst the office at Stonehenge provided met support not only for the No 1 School of Navingation and Bomb Dropping at Stonehenge, but all the other airfields on Salisbury Plain.

Your link to Cave in the Times is perfectly OK - it's a summary of the Met Office Annual Report.

Pete

Many thanks. I can add a little to that. It was Major E Gold (OC Meteor in France) who proved the value of taking meteorological parameters into account for artillery purposes, and as early as the late summer of 1916 a kite balloon was being used to obtain temperatures and wind speeds to between 4000 and 5000 ft near the front - these data formed the basis of the Meteor messages. In February 1918 a Meteorological Flight was formed at Berck (on the coast south of Calais), and this made twice daily ascents to record temperatures up to 14000 ft - again for Meteor messages.

It is worth noting that the first flights to record upper air temperatures were made at Upavon during the summer of 1916 - but those were for the CFS Experimental Flight (or was it the Testing Squadron by then) purposes. Unfortunately the Testing Squadron moved to Martlesham Heath during November 1916 otherwise the data would have been extremely useful for Butler's Cross.

Brian

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Brian, hopefully the following from an American manual of 30 years ago will make the role of met in artillery computations a bit more clear. Of course, there is much more than this on the subject, but the following gives an overview of how it works. Admittedly this is not Great War artillery doctrine but the principles are the same. From U.S. Army Field Manual 6-40, Field Artillery Cannon Gunnery, 1978:

5-1 Reasons for Registration

a. Firing data determined from the firing tables (graphical or tabular) is based on an assumed set of conditions of weather, position, and materiel.

b. If all conditions of weather, position, and materiel were standard, a cannon firing at a particular elevation and deflection would cause the projectile to travel the distance shown in the firing table for that elevation and charge. Since all standard conditions will never exist simultaneously, firing table data must be corrected.

c. The purpose of a registration [called a datum point shoot in the British army during the Great War] is to determine firing data corrections that will correct for the cumulative effects of all nonstandard conditions. With these corrections applied to firing data, a battery can rapidly and successfully engage any accurately located target within the range of their cannons and have a first round fire for effect capability.

From the next chapter:

6-2 Concurrent Met

a. A concurrent met is solved to separate the total corrections determined by the registration into two component parts: those elements that can be easily measured and corrected, MET CORRECTIONS, and those that cannot be easily measured and corrected, POSITION CORRECTIONS. The total corrections for range, fuze setting, and deflection are caused by the total variations from standard conditions of weather, position, and materiel existing at the time of registration. Weather information is provided to artillery units by artillery met sections in the format of a met message. To successfully use the concurrent met technique, it is important that the registration be fired very close to the same time that the met section is measuring the actual weather conditions.

b. If a registration is fired at the same time the met section is measuring the existing weather conditions, it is possible to determine the amount of total corrections due to nonstandard weather conditions. When the registration is fired, the effects of wind, air temperature, and air density; the projectile weight and propellant temperature of the lot fired; the difference in altitude between the gun and the target; the drift at the registration point range [lateral movement of the projectile due to the twist of the rifling in the barrel]; and the effects of earth rotation on both range and deflection can be determined. All of these nonstandard conditions are easy to measure and correct for, and are conveniently grouped under the heading of met corrections (variable). The nonstandard conditions that cannot be measured are called position corrections and are usually small in magnitude, difficult to measure, and relatively constant. When all the variable nonstandard conditions have been measured and corrections computed, it is then possible to subtract the met (variable) corrections from the total corrections and identify the amount of position (constant) nonstandard conditions.

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I have some contemporary aerial photos of the immediate area on order in the hope that one might give some idea of how many buildings there were at Butler's Cross.

Brian

I've now located Butler's Cross on an old OS map. I note that it was 500 yards west of New Copse Farm, which was "extinguished" (as N D G James puts it in Gunners at Larkhill) with the formation of the artillery ranges. In fact Canadian artillery were based there in December 1914 when the buildings had a caretaker. I think that this indicates that they were used by the army, perhaps to store range equipment, as I suggest above. Possibly your met section might have had use for them later in the war.

I have a couple of contemporary postcards of New Copse Farm, showing soldiers, possibly Canadians, there, but there are not very illuminating. It is extremely unlikely that postcard photography of the farm would have been allowed when the Met section was in the neighbourhood.

Moonraker

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Peter,

Thank you for the advice. As I learn more about the Chapperton Down story I get the impression that it was here, at least for the British military, that some of the groundwork for what you describe was developed.

Moonraker.

Aerial photos have arrived. One, dated Feb 1924, shows just three huts sufficiently large enough to have been used as offices/ accommodation. There are also three smaller buildings which I suppose could have been for storage and ablutions. On Google Earth the southernmost hut would be approximately 51 deg 14 min 53.42 sec N 01 deg 58 min 03.45 sec W, whilst the northernmost structure would have been at 51 deg 14 min 55.21 sec N 01 deg 58 min 01.16 sec W - all are on the opposite side of the track from the plinth.

Only one of the other photos (dated July 1921) includes the area, but although mostly beautifully clear, the area of interest is damaged and nothing can be seen.

Brian

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To take this topic a little off what Brian intended:

Dennis Wheatley in Officer and Temporary Gentleman 1914-1919 describes being involved in an exercise "near Tilshead" in 1916, the men being accommodated in "old wooden huts" on an artillery range, the officers at the Black Horse Inn in the village. (I'm not at all sure about the reference to "old wooden huts", as I don't know of any such at that time, the nearest hutments being at Lark Hill, and these were erected in late 1914.) In November Wheatley moved to a tented campsite 1½ miles south of Imber.

A Ministry of Munitions meeting on June 27, 1918 decided to strengthen the artillery staff concerned with chemical warfare and appointed Major Hilditch DSO MC to the Artillery School at Clapperton Downs (sic) "to entirely confine his duties to the study of chemical problems as related to artillery". With an assistant, he would be under the orders of the commandant at "Clapperton Downs" but "would keep in the very closest touch with the experimental work being carried on at Porton". (TNA file MUN 4/2735, the catalogue entry for which in 2007 referred to "Chopperton Down".)

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Moonraker

You might be interested in this reference I've found to a paper by Major R H Chapman:

A Treatise by Major RH Chapman on the calibration of guns and howitzers by the direct measurement of muzzle velocity, as carried out at Shoots of Artillery in France and England (Chapperton Down) 1917 and 1918. Military Document 2021

If you are interested I've asked Firepower if it's possible to obtain a copy.

Your reference to Hilditch makes one wonder what he actually did. I can't believe chemical shells were actually fired on the Chapperton Down Range, especially as there are villages in fairly close proximity. Do you have a copy of MUN 4/2735?

Brian

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Muzzle velocity and met data are used together to compute the corrections to be applied to generic standard firing data taken from the firing tables. Corrections derived from muzzle velocity and met are a close approximation of the total corrections determined during the registration (datum point shoot) process described above in post number 14. Although I'm not sure how refined these techniques became during the Great War, I believe the guys at Chapperton Down and elsewhere were developing these procedures empirically by actual shooting and by trial and error. There were probably some survey guys from the Royal Engineers helping them on the firing ranges by measuring the fall of shot on the ground. More from U.S. Army Field Manual 6-40 in 1978:

7-1. Reason for Calibration

a. The muzzle velocity developed in a field artillery weapon is the measure of its shooting strength. If accurate artillery fire is to be obtained, shooting strength of a weapon-ammunition combination must be known. Firing tables give velocities and ranges for a standard weapon firing standard ammunition under standard conditions. However, ranges and velocities obtained in actual firing differ from those in the firing tables because of variations in manufacture of the weapon and ammunition, wear in the weapon, nonstandard conditions, or a combination of these factors. Two pieces of the same caliber, firing the same charge and elevation, will seldom deliver fire at exactly the same range. Calibration is the comparison of the muzzle velocity of a given piece with an accepted standard performance. The standard may be selected arbitrarily from the performance of a group of weapons being calibrated together, as in comparitive calibration, or it may be the standard defined in the firing tables, as in absolute calibration ...

b. After the relative shooting strength of each weapon is known, corrections can be determined and applied to correct for the increase or decrease in shooting strength.

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Thank you Pete, although I'm not sure you are absolutely correct in believing that the Chapperton Down Artilllery School was "...... developing these procedures empirically by actual shooting and by trial and error."

The value of artillery units taking meteorological variables into consideration when laying their guns had already been proven conclusively by Major E Gold ' (Met Section R.E. at GHQ) during the spring of 1916, although at this time he was only considering the effect of wind at various altitudes (Gen Sir Martin Ferndale "History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Western Front 1914-1918). It was Gold's work that led to the introduction of Meteor telegrams.

However, Gold also appreciated that the density of the air at altitude also had an effect and during the late summer of 1916 a kite balloon had been allocated so an observer could measure temperatures up to 4000 ft, data that could also be used when applying corrections.

All this was known when the met section for the Chapperton Down Artillery School was established in July 1917. The only information I have at present is that the met section measured the upper winds, but I'm wondering if any attempt was made to measure temperatures aloft as well. Now, Ferndale also notes that the scope of the school at Chapperton Down was expanded to include balloon observation, and it occurred to me that upper air temperatures could have been obtained from this.

Although Chapman's paper is obviously about the measurement of muzzle velocity it is just possible it might include some throw-away about meteorological parameters - hence my interest in it.

Although there always has to be an element of empiricsm at the start of any new science, Gold was basing his advice on well-proven scientific considerations.

Brian

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Moonraker ...If you are interested I've asked Firepower if it's possible to obtain a copy.

Your reference to Hilditch makes one wonder what he actually did. I can't believe chemical shells were actually fired on the Chapperton Down Range, especially as there are villages in fairly close proximity. Do you have a copy of MUN 4/2735?

Brian

Brian

Chapman treatise: Thanks - if there's any reference to the locality and conditions there (eg transporting men and/or equipment; contact with local villages), I would be interested, but not if it's just a technical report (as I suspect it may be).

MUN 4/2735: Sorry, I don't have a copy - I'm inclined to jot down summaries of documents, concentrating on local flavour, rather than get photocopies of pages with incidental references.

Moonraker

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Actually the effects of meteor on artillery were known before WW1, in my view it is overstating to case to assert that Gold 'discovered' anything significant about it. In 1915 Brooke-Popham RFC (and subsequent Singapore fame) offered meteor data to artillery but they declined, probably because it was useless to them at that time - the range tables did not include data to correct for the variations (ie the data would be unusable). That said, RTs with the necessary data started appearing in late 1915 and early 1916, and state they were based on range & accuracy firings in Apr & May 1915. This suggests the army had decided to use RTs to provide data around the beginning of 1915. Of course Maj Rowan-Robinson RA (later maj gen) had addressed this issue in a presentation to RUSI in 1914.

However, the RA Journal had published Rev Bashforth's Tenuity Tables in the late 1870s IIRC, and the pre-1914 editions of the Text Book of Gunnery explained how to use temperature, etc data to correct the ballistic coefficient for non-standard conditions, although no one would describe this approach as 'user friendly' and would probably have been something of a mystery to all but RGA officers.

I suggest visiting my web site http://members.tripod.com/~nigelef/index.htm and looking at the pages on:

Pre 1914 to learn that meteor affecting artillery was not discovered in 1915, please pay particular attention to the Non-Standard Conditions section!

Ballistics to get a better idea of non-standard conditions and learn who Rev Bashforth was.

Calibration there's a section on WW1 and its usful to note that in the early 20th century the term had a slightly different meaning to later, this may mislead people reading the contemporaneous literature.

Meteor which covers the early history of its use by RA, drawn mostly from artillery documents and some documents from Brian.

Report back when you've done this and I'll set an open book test :-)

There's another angle to early met at Larkhill. An experimental sound ranging section was formed there in 1917. The sound rangers knew met conditions affected their results (speed of sound) and in France had experimented using a circle of microphones and a bang in the middle. The sect at Larkhill was comd by Capt (?) Tucker (formerly of Imperial College) who had invented the low frequency microphone.

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Oh no, not another gunnery exam by Major Evans! He grades harder than all the other instructors! :(

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  • 1 month later...

Moonraker,

I visited the NA a few days ago and accessed MUN4/2735. It consisted of two thick files that were mostly concerned with chemical warfare and the logistics of gas shells (their acquistion/cost/delivery etc). To be honest there was so much, and I was very short of time, that after the first few I just flicked over the pages looking for references to Chapperton Down.

I found just three entries (12.06.18, 27.06.18 and 29.06.19) which, in summary, discussed the need for Battery Commanders attending the Chapperton Down Artillery School to be instructed in the use of gas shells. Quote:

"It is important that all artillery officers attending the courses at Chapperton Down Artillery School should witness, when convenient, demonstrations of gas shelling, and be instructed in the methods necessary to obtain the maximum effect from gas shells.

It will be necessary to devote at least two days of each course to this work."

It appears there was an officer working on gas shells at Porton. Ideally the proposed demonstration should have been conducted there, but it lacked the facilities.

I've seen no reference elsewhere to gas being released on Chapperton Down and, given the immediate presence of Imber, to say nothing of Army camps in the locality, I doubt it ever was.

Brian

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