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North Mimms Rifle Range

Compiled by Peter Miller

2/13th Firing Party, North Mimms Musketry Camp. September 1915. Unposted and unknown publisher.

When the First World War began on 28 July 1914, Britain had a small, regular army of about 250,000 men, supported by Reservists, Territorials and Yeomanry. A major campaign was started to encourage men to volunteer, but most new recruits had no previous military experience, and required extensive training.

Military rifle ranges were brought into emergency use during 1915, allowing musketry training courses to be held at various locations. A MoD website dealing with lapsed military Byelaws lists the following ranges in Hertfordshire:

  • Bishop's Stortford (15 May 1915)
  • Chalk Hill (St Albans)
  • Gorhambury
  • North Mimms
  • Warden Hill

Unfortunately, all the above Byelaws (which contained details regarding the exact locations and dates of operation) have been lost, except for Bishop's Stortford.

Ranges built as an emergency measure in 1915 would have normally been constructed without using brick or cement, and consisted of two linear parallel banks of earth and firing points, from where the men would have been shooting towards the targets. The firing points were measured out every 100 yards, usually back to 600 yards, and some may have been slightly elevated, whilst others may have been built as trenches.

Any range would have been aligned towards the rising slope of a hill or an unpopulated area. The main range structures consisted of a high linear earth bank located behind the targets, which served as a stop butt or backstop, and retained the bullets. Sometimes, with some modifications, the slope of the hill would serve as a natural backstop.

In front of the stop butt would be a 'gallery', or trench, where the targets were slotted into a mechanical metal, or, in the case of emergency ranges such as North Mimms, more likely a wooden frame which could be raised and lowered by the markers.

The target consisted of a wooden frame with 'legs', over which canvas was stretched and secured. On top of the canvas the actual paper target, appropriate to the distance and particular exercise was then pasted/glued.

When the target had been fired at, the marker would lower it, insert a 'spotting disc' into the last shot hole, patch out any previous shot hole, and indicate/show the value/points scored by means of a pre-arranged signal using a marking or value panel attached to a pole.

The markers were protected from the line of fire by a second, but lower, parallel linear earthen bank called a mantlet. The inner mantlet support wall would have been constructed from upright wooden posts, behind which, horizontal timbers would have been stacked up.

The posts were anchored within the mantlet by metal bars. As a result it is not uncommon to find degraded earth mantlets with just metal bars sticking out; the timber having long since been removed, or just rotted away.

Belton Machine Gun Corps Range showing the construction of the mantlet support wall and metal target frames for raising and lowering the targets.

Belton Machine Gun Corps Range showing the construction of the mantlet support wall and metal target frames for raising and lowering the targets.

There are no known surviving archaeological remains of the North Mimms Rifle Range, and following extensive searches, the only evidence for its location is the unposted postcard view below of South Lodge, North Mymms Park, which shows a flagpole, notice board and warning sign stating "PATH CLOSED WHEN RED FLAGS ARE FLYING", which indicates that the rifle range was within North Mymms Park, probably at the base of rising ground.

The surviving Bishop's Stortford Byelaw states that "during such times as firing is taking place the Danger area will be closed to the public and that notice that the Danger area is closed will be given by red flags" hoisted at strategic points and that "notice boards with a copy of the Byelaws will be placed where any road or footpath enters the Danger area to warn persons who may be approaching it"

Winchester not a WW1 range as such, but showing all the right features, i.e. the lower mantlet behind which the targets are raised, behind that, the backstop, which here is part of the slope of the hill

Winchester - not a WW1 range as such, but showing all the right features, i.e. the lower mantlet behind which the targets are raised, behind that, the backstop, which here is part of the slope of the hill

Postcard images of North Mimms Musketry Camp

Both unposted with handwritten date of 28 August 1915 on reverse and published by
W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park, N.

Both unposted with handwritten date of 28 August 1915 on reverse and published by
W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park, N.

Both unposted with handwritten date of 28 August 1915 on reverse and published by W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park, N.

Both unposted and published by W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park, N

Both unposted and published by W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park, N

Both unposted and published by W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park, N

Posted 3rd September 1915, published by W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park

Posted 3rd September 1915, published by W.H. Christmas & Co, Photographer, 8 Queens Rd, Bowes Park

Amazingly, just four days after this photograph was taken, the postcard had been printed, delivered, written and posted!

Amazingly, just four days after this photograph was taken, the postcard had been printed, delivered, written and posted!

Miss L. Piper, Dunstall Hall, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Sep 3rd Dear L. Sorry I did not have time to stop and see you last Monday. Hope you had a good time at B. We have just got back to Saffron again worse luck. Had a good time for a week at North Mimms. I was up in town 5 times last week so it wasn't bad. I sent down hear last Sat & had a week-end pass put in & its gone through all right so will be up again tomorrow. Thanks very much for parcel Lill I told Alice to thank you . Hope to see you soon. Doug.

Miss L. Piper was undoubtedly Lily Morgan Gordon Piper (born 1887, Baxted, Sussex), who in 1911 was one of a number of servants living in the house of Sir Reginald Hardy, Colonel, Staffordshire Yeomanry, at Dunstall. The identity of Doug is unknown and there are no obvious clues, as Lily did not have a brother of that name, and her husband, when she married in 1931, was a Russell E Gates.

The Troops in the above images must be the 2/14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish) which became part of the 60th Division. The Battalion was formed in September 1914, moved to Maidstone in January 1915, to Watford in April 1915, to Saffron Walden in June 1915 and to Sutton Veny in January 1916. After a short time in Ireland in connection with the Irish Rebellion, they went to France in June 1916, and later to Salonika and Egypt.

2/13th Firing Party, North Mimms Musketry Camp. September 1915. Unposted and unknown publisher.

2/13th Firing Party, North Mimms Musketry Camp. September 1915. Unposted and unknown publisher.

Above: Officers, NCO's and men serving with the 2/13th Battalion, London Regiment [Kensingtons], at North Mimms Musketry Camp. September 1915. A number of the men are wearing full marching order [unusually - some issued with webbing & others with leather equipment].


Attribution

Feature compiled by Peter Miller, October 2017. Peter thanks Chris Reynolds and Bill Flentje for invaluable help and advice. All material released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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