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Pembroke Dock Town “Our History”
Army and Royal Marines
Fortifications & Barracks - Peacekeeping
The Dockyard's original garrison was provided by Royal Marines. Their first barracks was HMS Dragon, a beached 74 gun warship which had been seen action before the Battle of Trafalgar. The marines would have repelled any foreign attackers, but their actual duties included peacekeeping in the local countryside. Farmers, frustrated at having to pay to use toll roads, took matters into their own hands. During the Rebecca Riots (1842-3), midnight gangs - normally led by "Rebecca", a horseman disguised in woman's clothes - methodically wrecked the tollgates of Southwest Wales. As desperate magistrates summoned help, the marines were hurried to destinations including Cardigan (by steamer) and St. Clears - to find smashed gates and, sometimes, a polite note from the elusive Rebecca. The troubles abated after 1844, and the Marines returned to Dockyard duties. The yard quickly developed into a national asset, needing well planned protection from enemies. A network of coastal forts spread out from Pembroke Dock, along Milford Haven. Pembroke Dock itself, with more barracks and camps, had by World War 1 become Britain's seventh largest garrison town. (Sources: Mason 80; Peters 10; Williams, Rebecca, 193, 212-4, 230, ;Watts)
Soldiers march out from the newly built Defensible Barracks, c. 1848. A  Llangwm girl, with her fish-basket,  looks on.
Soldiers march out from the newly built Defensible Barracks, c. 1848. A  Llangwm girl, with her fish-basket,  looks on.
Picture of Defensible Barracks c. 1848, by courtesy of Pembrokeshire County Libraries
Fortifications & Barracks - Pater Fort
Pater Fort c. 1835.
Pater Fort and battery stood in what is now the northwestern corner of the Dockyard, near the Carr Jetty. Building work began in the 1750s, to defend the Haven at the time of the Seven Years' War, but the fort was left unfinished. Richard Fenton, viewing this uncompleted, isolated structure in 1810, thought it "a scandalous waste of public money". Fortifications were rebuilt here several times as part of the Dockyard's seaward defences "Pater Battery", Mrs Peters notes, was constructed in 1840-42. Dockyard volunteers and other units trained and drilled here, the artillerymen firing at targets such as a barrel surmounted by a flagstaff, moored in the haven about a mile off. Most of the battery was demolished in 1903. Some of its masonry was carried off by horse and cart, without charge, by Thomas Brown and Joseph Gibby. They carted the stones from one end of town to the other, to build St. Teilo's church. (Sources: Fenton 151; CADW 62; Peters 81; HMT 24 May 1871; Mason 213) Picture by courtesy of Pembrokeshire County Council Museum Service.
Pater Fort c. 1835.
The Defensible Barracks
The 1987 Military Tattoo - The Pembroke Dock Volunteer Artillery make the Defensible Barracks ring to the sound of gunfire once again. The 1987 Military Tattoo - The Pembroke Dock Volunteer Artillery make the Defensible Barracks ring to the sound of gunfire once again.
The 1987 Military Tattoo - The Pembroke Dock Volunteer Artillery make the Defensible Barracks ring to the sound of gunfire once again.
The entrance to this imposing structure bears the date "VR 1844". The barracks' moat encloses outer walls. Inner barrack blocks are built around a central parade ground. It first housed the Royal Marines, then - until after World War II - numerous Army units. The dry moat proved a hazard to Victorian servicemen returning after dark from evenings in town, and had to be fenced in. 18 soldiers died here in a 1942 basement mine training accident. They included three Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany - Corporal Heinz Abraham, and Privates Ludwig Rosenthal and Heinz Schwartze.      Dominating the Dockyard and town, the Defensible was intended as an artillery fort as well as barracks. Nearby buildings in Pennar were demolished to give the weaponry a clear field of fire. In the days of the Royal Dockyard the artillery served a ceremonial, as well as a defensive, purpose: 21 gun salutes greeted important anniversaries and Royal visitors. The discharge of a smaller gun, by the entrance, kept time for the town. Gunfire time was at noon and 9.30 pm. (Sources: CADW 37-39; Peters 72; Evans, disaster; Johnson, K. Boom of ... gun: ) Pictures of Artillery Volunteers by courtesy of Mr R. Watts.
Defensible Defensible Defensible
Latest
(12th October 2009)
The two 1851 gun towers stand at opposite corners of the Dockyard. They, with the Pater Battery, were for close quarter defence of the yard. Their 32 and 12 lb guns could be swung to fire seawards or, in case of a land attack, along the straight roads flanking the Dockyard wall. visitors to Front Street may see the ammunition delivery system - narrow spiral staircases, up which soldiers would have to carry armfuls of charges as quickly as possible. In the late nineteenth century the Front Street tower was home for a sergeant of artillery and his family. Later, it was used for for storage. It is now refurbished as the town's museum. The Fort Road tower is also in the process of restoration, as a historic private dwelling. (Sources: Watts; Clements 129-133)
The Gun Towers
Front Street Cambridge Tower
. at Front Street and Fort Road
South Gun Tower Gun Placement Front Street Gun Tower
Llanion Barracks
Llanion hut camp was built during the Crimean war emergency. Brick barracks replaced the wooden huts in the early 1900s. Mrs Peters, writing at the time, notes with approval "they are built on the most modern principles. At one time soldiers had to to sleep and eat in the same barrack-room, but in these new buildings a proper and commodious room is set apart for meals... Each block is provided with a veranda, where the men can walk out". Llanion Barracks witnessed the low and high points of World War II. In 1940, Britain's back was to the wall. One of the few weapons available to the barracks' anti aircraft gunners was a small Lewis gun. Nazi bombers could attack the town and oil tanks with virtual impunity. Corporal Arthur Lowe's experiences at Llanion in 1940 may have helped inspire his most famous role - Captain Mainwaring of Dad's Army. In 1944, one of the many units training for the Liberation of Europe was accommodated here. General Eisenhower visited Llanion to inspect the United States 110th Infantry Regiment. Veterans and townspeople alike have happy memories of this pause in the life of the young soldiers, who were soon to take heavy casualties in bitter fighting against hardened SS units. Australian airmen of 461 squadron were also quartered here in world war II. They travelled and from work in the Dockyard by a fleet of bicycles.  The units stationed in Pembroke Dock are honoured in memorials, histories, and regimental associations. One of Llanion's last units received a different kind of recognition. The 22nd Light Air Defence Regiment gave its name to one of the town's most popular nightspots - the Double Two club. The fine brick Officers' Mess has provided office accommodation for South Pembrokeshire District Council and (currently) the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. 
Llanion Hut Encampment dated from the 1850 Llanion Hut Encampment dated from the 1850s
... and Barracks (c. 1905)
(Sources: Peters 80; Scott, Experience shared, 209-230; Hennessey; Ashworth, 149.) Pictures (incl. Zenith postcard) by courtesy of Mr Michael Blake
Pennar Barracks & Bush Camp
Pennar Barracks
Brick barracks were also constructed at Pennar Point. These were originally a torpedo and submarine mine depot, and became the Royal Engineers' barracks. In World War I, an extensive hut and tent camp occupied the site of today's Memorial Park and Bush Estate.
(Sources: Peters 81; Scott, Gordon's farewell, 43) Picture from private collection
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