Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

Spigot Mortar site at Hapton

What a site! Is there another Spigot Mortar site remaining in Lancashire? If there is - they won't be as good as this one!

 

So, what is a Spigot Mortar?

Also known as a 'Blacker Bombard' it was the main anti-tank weapon available to the Home Guard. But it was a static weapon, sat on a concrete base (like a larger anti-tank block) and as such had great limitations. Its position would therefore depend on where the main site of the Home Guard's defence was. But it had a limited range - only 75 to 100yards (68 - 91m). So those tanks would be getting pretty close!

 

The brave Home Guard manning these weapons, if ever asked to use them in defence of an invasion would have felt like sitting ducks. Once fired, their fixed position would be given away.

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According to Wikipedia:

"The Bombard was a 29mm spigot mortar, weighing between 112 and 360 lb, placed on top of a swivel or pivot. It was able to fire a 20 lb high-explosive bomb to a range of approximately 100 yards; when the bomb detonated, it was able to inflict significant damage on a tank, although it was unlikely to actually pierce the vehicle's armour as the projectile was not able to gain sufficient velocity. It was served by a crew of between three and five men. The Bombard was considered to be most effective at short range, with targets being engaged with 'considerable success' at a range of between 75–100 yards. It was a muzzle-loaded weapon and therefore had a slow rate of fire, averaging between six and twelve rounds per minute; as such it was considered vital that the weapon be well-camouflaged and that it hit the target with the first shot. Two types of ammunition were provided for the weapon – a 20 lb anti-tank bomb and a lighter 14 lb anti-personnel bomb, with each weapon being issued with 150 rounds of the former and 100 of the latter."

These photos show the concrete base of the emplacement with the metal pin or swivel on which the weapon would sit. The concrete "box" is to store ammunition

Right: the metal pin or swivel, 70+ years on is in amazing condition! It has had decades of Lancashire weather to survive, out in the open.

Below: You can just about make out the SECOND Spigot Mortar emplacement behind this one!

The SECOND Spigot Mortar emplacement.

Above: This metal pin or swivel is in slightly less excellent condition compared to its neighbour.

Right: The second emplacement with an exact same layout - including one concrete ammunition recess.

The first Spigot Mortar site is just behind this one - roughly three trees away!

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This important relic of Lancashire's defence in the event of an invasion in WW2 is in the grounds of the former William Blythe Chemical Works.

Above: The site today (viewed from the canal) has been totally cleared of all its buildings. It is now up for sale for housing. So it is important the Spigot Mortars are preserved. Please keep an eye on local planning applications in Burnley to help do this. Your voice counts - so please help protect this site.

Above: Just a few steps from the two Spigot Mortar sites is this derelict building.

Is it a version of an Andersen Shelter or is it some kind of ammunition store? I am sure that it is a WW2 building. All three features (this building and the two Spigot Mortar sites) are on the raised area of the site where once the owner's house of the works stood. According to Hapton Heritage Group it had its own bowling green and tennis court.

 

What is unclear is why the Spigot Mortar emplacements are sited here. They are a short distance from the road but are quite a distance from the canal and the road bridge over it - surely out of range? It seems a strange choice for their position.

 

Many thanks to Hapton Heritage group for their excellent website and the help of Steve Butterfield for his information about this important Lancashire World War Two site.

http://www.haptonheritage.co.uk/

 

Below: What a Spigot Mortar site looked like in action, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Hapton MEL

Another bit of Hapton WW2 history is the factory BEHIND Blythe's, which, according to Steve Buttersfield of Hapton Heritage was: "the MEL Factory, (or Magnesium Electron

Works) which was set up in WW2 and produced the chaff which the RAF dropped

to confuse enemy radar systems during the War, in fact a line of the main rail track

used to branch off directly into the factory." Many thanks again to Steve for his help.

See photo BELOW, courtesy of Hapton Heritage

Update: November 2015

Many thanks to Steve Butterfield and the Hapton Heritage Group for their support in the battle to save the Hapton Spigot Mortar Site. They have campaigned to have this site saved when it is at threat of development. The GOOD NEWS is that they have successfully saved this site (with the support of Lancashire At War). So, the new housing estate will go ahead and the WW2 heritage site will be saved! Let's hope there is some kind of community archaeology project first to record this site. This is proof that we should campaign for each and every site - and Lancashire At War did this, as did the Hapton Heritage Group.

 

Below, is the details of the housing area and the "saved area". See more on the Hapton Heritage Group site.

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