In honour bound
Nudging gently out into the waters of the Plymouth Sound is a headland which was out of bounds to the public for 80 years. This small piece of rock played a vital role in world events and in the defence of the nation.
The area had been popular with walkers from
crossing by ferry, often in their thousands on a sunny bank holiday. In 1913 the
MOD requisitioned the land and erected fences. The beaches became inaccessible and
the previously wild scrubland was built over. In full sight of the Hoe across
the Sound, the world on the peninsular became secretive and cut off. Plymouth
The air station was commissioned as flying boat base RNAS Cattewater before transitioning to RAF Cattewater. In the lull between the wars the base was renamed RAF Mount Batten. The outcrop of rock had been known as
since its fortification by Sir William Batten in the 1600’s. Mount Batten
The land was covered with the hangars, workshops and all the supporting buildings needed for a busy airfield. A large slipway was constructed to get the planes in and out of the water for repairs. The flying boats themselves were moored out in the Cattewater bay at the mouth of the river Plym. Massive concrete blocks under water acted as anchors with wires holding the buoys in place. The area which was previously known for its shipbuilding now became known for its flying boats.
Mooring blocks now used as a sea wall
The outbreak of the Second World War saw a further increase in activity on the base. Seaplanes regularly took off and landed along the Sound, mooring in the Cattewater within spitting distance of the Barbican. The planes themselves when out of the water would be stored along the
breakwater, their noses hanging over the sea waiting for the next mission. A
rail network was created and the wooden huts were replaced with more permanent buildings.
Public houses were converted into accommodation and offices for the personnel
of the base. Mount Batten
The impact of bombing raids on
is well documented. The blitz ripped
apart the city and the peninsular did not escape unscathed. During this time there were
large detachments of Australian and Canadian troops stationed at Plymouth .
Now redeveloped this is where the workshops stood
Bits of the past are interwoven with the leisure development that now dominates the area. When you start looking it is possible to pick out half covered parking spaces, mooring buoys, concrete mooring blocks and the abandoned foundations of buildings. The main slipway is now used to launch pleasure craft and the hangars built to house the flying boats now house a variety of boat related businesses.
|Mooring buoy for a Sunderland flying boat|
The base finally closed in the 1990's and lay abandoned for a short while being reopened to the public and redeveloped. A large memorial now stands close to the area which was previously the parade ground, a symbolic propeller acknowledging the debt owed to all those who served here between 1913 and 1992.