Surface Sites

WWII Heavy Anti-Aircraft Batteries

 Created 23-07-2002    Last update 15-01-2006

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During WWII there were three Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) Batteries on Portsdown. Contrary to popular belief none of them were in the Palmerston Forts on top of the hill, although the central ammunition stores were at Fort Nelson. They were all positioned on the northern side of the hill to counter an aerial attack from the north of Portsmouth - they where too far north over the hilltop to get line of sight of the city, but could fire on retreating raiders which had attacked from the south. A northern attack was not unusual, as the Luftwaffe Bombers would cross the English coastline at a poorly defended point, fly inland, then turn 180 degrees towards Portsmouth. The city was also protected by HAA batteries at Gosport, Hayling Island and on Southsea Common which included 'Z' batteries (rockets).

HAA sites 1940

 Disposition of the Heavy Anti-Aircraft batteries in the Portsmouth area, July 1940.


Below is a summary of the condition of the sites now (2002), starting from the west. Following on from that are the site photographs.

HAA - Nelson Derelict but still exists together with some outlying buildings  SU601075
Magazines - Fort Nelson 2 out of the original 10 magazines remain. SU607072
HAA - Southwick Demolished - but traces can be found SU640076
HAA - Morelands Demolished - entirely re-built on SU685071

With thanks to: 

Peter Cobb UK Fortifications Club, Peter Rogers, Andy Martin, 

Kevin Miller,  Duncan Godwin, and The Landowner Monument Farm.


Nelson HAA battery

The Nelson HAA battery is located within Monument Farm. One of its principle duties was to deny the enemy airspace over Fort Nelson, which housed the Portsmouth areas entire supply of anti-aircraft ammunition. The site still exists in a derelict condition, together with many of the original support buildings. The site started life with 2 x 3 inch guns, then 4 x 3.7 inch, and finally 4 x 5.25 inch.

 Part of the site was reused at one time by the 'The Portsmouth Astronomical Society' where they had their Observatory and club hut.

Google Earth Aerial View
Location of Nelson HAA

 Location of the Nelson HAA battery.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.


 nelson HAA - long shot of gunsite

 There are four gun emplacements making up the battery, all of the same design. The large concrete building housed hydraulic equipment to move the heavy equipment inside the gunpit, steps lead down to it, out of shot, on the right. The steps at centre left lead up the actual  gun mounting. 

Nelson HAA - magazine doors

 A combined slope and steps lead down to the power room. The original doors were steel and were removed around 1959, these replacements are from a factory in Fareham. Inside the chamber is some 12 foot high and has a  ventilation shaft running up to the roof, and an access tunnel to the gunpit.

Nelson HAA - gun enplacement

 The gun emplacement is a substantial piece of work. Expense lockers ring the structure, and a massive gun mount sits in the deep gunpit.

Nelson HAA - gunpit

 Inside the gunpit is a tunnel leading back to the semi-sunken chamber where the power for moving the gun was generated.

Nelson HAA - nissen hut

 The site has many of the original battery support buildings still standing. Here is a Nissen Hut, only one of two still left on Portsdown - the other is at 40 Acre Farm. It is protected by a 9 inch concrete block blast wall. This was the sites sole magazine as due to the proximity of Fort Nelson and its bulk supplies of ammunition a concrete magazine was considered un-necessary.


Here is an extract from an email received about the Nelson HAA Gunsite. Any italicised comments in [] brackets are mine. 

NEW 15-01-2006

My Dad was the caretaker there [Nelson Gunsite] from 1950 to 1956 along with another chap. We and the other family lived on site. We had one and a half Army huts arranged in a T shape as a house. My Dad had as much land as he wanted to cultivate. We were pretty self-sufficient as he also kept chickens and rabbits to eat. The tradesmen, baker, butcher etc all called in vans and became personal friends. I was at school in Fareham at the time and we had a taxi from the Cedar Garages in Fareham to take us to school. It picked us up and then called at other local farms to collect other children. It was certainly an idyllic place to grow up.

Rosemary Turner (nee Merritt)


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