When did Corsham become a favourite of the military ?

It appears to have started in 1927, when the security at  storage sites elsewhere had come into question,and  a search was on to find other possible safe storage for ammunition, and the abundance of the empty underground mines in or near Corsham, were identified as just waiting for a new use.

But it was not until 1935 that Corsham’s suitabilty really became evident, and was put to the test.

First, the Army required storage for ammunition,  and the Corsham Ammunition Depot was slowly brought into being. (Local’s called it the ‘Corsham Ammunition Dump’, or just ‘the Dump’) .

It was not long before the RAF & Admiralty also expressed an interest in the tunnels, and a whole new storage regime was born.

Aerial view of MoD Corsham (formerly Basil Hill Barracks)

Aerial view of MoD Corsham (formerly Basil Hill Barracks)

Having a need to support all this activity, personnel were required to monitor the projects, and so it was natural that the Services should  set up bases here:-  

Basil Hill Barracks was established in 1936, when a large part of the Pockeridge estate was purchased for the use of the RAOC.

The RAF brought officers from No 10 group to RAF Rudloe Manor mansion in 1940, and the Navy established a ‘ Leadership Training Establishment’ at Royal Arthur, Westwells Rd, in about 1947.

There are many many more facts to be found about the development of the Services and their work in the area, but  these are well documented elsewhere, and are far too detailed to repeat here.  Suffice it to say that Corsham had a population of 3,754 recorded in 1931, and in 1951 this had almost trebled to 9,268 persons.

Corsham had become a garrison town.

It was quite natural to walk down the street and find uniformed men – and women passing by, sometimes in exercise mode, sometimes marching, or at leisure. The Remembrance Day Services were a joy to behold, bands and marching feet.  Everyone came out to watch, if not to actually take part.

However, time marches on, and our map of Corsham has changed considerably. Quarries and bases have closed, buildings have been erased, and we have entered a new era, with the MOD Joint Forces Command at Basil Hill, which encompasses all 3 Services.

It is good that Corsham is still able to make a contribution to  the defence of the realm.

Pat Whalley

Sources: Secret Underground Cities by Nick McCamley.

Second World War Secret Bunkers by Nick McCamley.

Corsham Facts & Folklore by Pat Whalley.

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