How Dr Who saved the day at Eastney

John Pertwee pictured at Fraser Gunnery Range at Eastney where the BBC were filming Dr Who. Pictured with him L-R: Ordnance electrical mechanic Stephen Scholes from Leeds, control electrical mechanic Gerald Taylor from Wolverhampton (who were acting as extras in the filming), and David King from Chichester House, West Leigh is pictured taking a photo''Pic: 715097-2 taken 21st Oct 1971
John Pertwee pictured at Fraser Gunnery Range at Eastney where the BBC were filming Dr Who. Pictured with him L-R: Ordnance electrical mechanic Stephen Scholes from Leeds, control electrical mechanic Gerald Taylor from Wolverhampton (who were acting as extras in the filming), and David King from Chichester House, West Leigh is pictured taking a photo''Pic: 715097-2 taken 21st Oct 1971

THIS WEEK IN 1979: Council refuses to help ex-offenders

2
Have your say

No doubt many of you will remember the 4.5in guns reverberating over the city when firing practice was taking place at Fraser Gunnery Range, HMS St George, Eastney.

The site closed in the 1980s. It is now derelict but might be used for housing in the future.

The beach at the front of the establishment is actually private, but the public have always walked around the area.

Perhaps some might even remember when Doctor Who saved the nation from the Sea Devils – episodes which were filmed there in 1971.

A former commander of the range is Lt-Cdr James Thake, who now lives at Waterlooville.

A gunnery office through and through, his first connection with guns came after passing out of HMS St Vincent in 1949.

He and a party of other boys were sent to HMS Vanguard, then berthed in Portsmouth dockyard. When the 16in guns fired they left copper shards in the breech block and these had to be scraped off.

A rope was passed down the gun barrel and a ‘volunteer’ was picked. As he was the thinnest boy, Mr Thake had one end tied to his armpits and another to his ankles.

He then had to get inside the breech, pulled in by the rope under his arms, and he had to scrape off the copper with a file.

When the job was done he was pulled out by the rope around his ankles.

I would have thought he would have gone to the discharge office immediately after that little episode, but he got over it.

He worked his way up through the ranks to become a petty officer and in the early 1960s was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant.

He then became a lieutenant and after eight years a two-and-a-half ringer, a lieutenant commander. He left the navy just after the Falklands War started after 33 years’ service.

He gave me some information on Fraser Range. He told me the site had 4.5 and 4.7in guns and everything was constructed as if the guns were on board a ship. There was also a Seacat for training purposes.

The shells would come up from below and be loaded just if they were at action stations. The range of these guns was nine miles and ships were posted out in the Channel to keep shipping away.

A notice was sent out to mariners to let them know firing was to take place ‘but the silly so-and-sos never took any notice,’ said Mr Thake.

They used to fire up to three times a week for about an hour and the noise and vibration were heard and felt all over the city.

Mr Thake told me that he sometimes did not have any training for several weeks on end but fired at least once a week otherwise residents would ask why the guns had to be fired anyway.

Most of the shooting was done at a plane pulling a large windsock a hundred yards or so behind it.

On firing and missing the gun aimer was given different co-ordinates and when the plane came around again for the second shoot the windsock was usually obliterated.

There was a ships company of about 180 officers and men at the site.