December 27, 2013 | Posted in ARE, Cordite, DERA, DRA, DSTL, ExploreMobile, Holton Heath, MoD, portland, Qinetiq, RAE, Red Bull, Reservoir, RNCF, Royal Navy, RSRE, Underground, water, WW1, WW2 | By sYnc
It was six in the evening and I was hanging, I’d been awake for 2 days and no amount of Red Bull or caffeine was going to improve the situation. My synapses were popping slowly and muffled, as if in the distance….in my brain everything was going 5 frames a second instead of 40 and I think I piloted the ExploreMobile the 30 miles to the final site using Jedi Power alone.
We parked up in a layby carpeted with broken glass waiting for Newage’s crew to arrive, eating anything and everything we had left to try and boost the energy reserves. I really really needed to go home and sleep but we were here and home was a solid 4-5 hour drive. ‘Here’ was RNCF Holton Heath with the sole purpose of exploring the 3.5 million gallon underground reservoir in the middle of this vast complex. The RNCF was setup during WW1 to manufacture cordite for the Royal Navy, it then closed briefly but was brought back into service during WW2 and then after the war the explosives manufacturing areas were shut down and the remainder of the site used by the Admiralty Research Establishment in the 1980’s. The Admiralty Research Establishment (ARE) then became the DRA (Defence Research Agency) and eventually in the late 1990’s the entire site closed down.
Unrelated for this site but of possible interest is that the DRA, which also contained the RAE, A&AEE, RARDE, RSRE became the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in 1995 (with other agencies) who in turn evolved into DSTL (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) and Qinetiq.
A massive amount of the RNCF site still survives with many interesting structures still standing but this visit was just a quickie, maybe one day we will return.
We fought our way through gorse and other thick undergrowth to spend and hour shooting the pair of resi’s, both curiously of slightly different design before staggering back to the ExploreMobile and pointing it north, finally getting home just before midnight.