Round and About

By SPP Reporter

The ancient military history of Warminster is almost entirely centred on Battlesbury Hill, a great Iron Age fortress which overlooks the present barracks. The Romans used it as a garrison and as a staging camp for legions marching from Salisbury to Bath, and later it was held by the Roman-British people against the Saxons, and then by the Saxons against the Danes. It is perhaps appropriate that the Garrison should still live in the shadow of such a venerable military monument.

In more modern times, the area now occupied by the families quarters at Elm Hill was used regularly as a summer training camp, but no permanent military buildings existed until 1938 when the first barracks were built to accommodate two tank regiments.

These were occupied during the Second World War by a variety of units both British and American. They were taken over in 1945 by the School of Infantry, a new unit which had its origins in a GHQ Battle School at Barnard Castle in County Durham set up in 1941 although some of its assigned components had long histories. At that stage the only elements at Warminster were the Headquarters and the Tactical Wing but it also incorporated various other infantry training establishments which became wings of the main School which remained in their existing locations.

A demonstration battalion was appointed and for many years resided in the hutted Knook Camp, some four miles east of Warminster. It moved to the new Battlesbury Barracks in 1964, with the 1st Battalion The Welch Regiment being the first occupants. A resident tank demonstration squadron, detached from its parent regiment, had also been appointed but had to wait until 1975 to be housed in the custom built Harman Lines on Sack Hill.

The period 1965-9 saw major rebuilding within the School of Infantry in order to accommodate the Small Arms and Signal Wings from Hythe and the Infantry Trials and Development Unit from Netheravon. This left the School centred on Warminster except for the Support Weapons Wing, which remained in Netheravon, and the junior NCOs Division at Brecon. The Junior Division of the Staff College was also accommodated within the School around this time.

The Army Base Repair Organisation (ABRO) Warminster, is the present day successor of what was originally known as a Royal Army Ordnance Corps Depot that was established on its present site off the Imber Road in 1939 to provide support to the two resident tank regiments. In 1945, it was transferred to the newly formed Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and renamed 27 Command Workshop and later 27 District Workshop REME. Its present title dates from the formation of defence Agencies in April 1993 and it is presently being market tested with a view to its operation being privatised.

In 1991, arising out of the “Options for Change” Defence reorganisation, it was decided to establish the Combined Arms Training Centre (CATC) at Warminster as a centre of excellence for combined arms training and doctrine. It took over the School of Infantry’s All Arms Tactics Wing and in the following years, expanded further with the arrival of the Brigade and Battle Group Trainer (South) and the formation of the Armoured Tactics and Reconnaissance Division out of the Royal Armoured Corps’ Tactics School at Bovington and the Infantry Reconnaissance Division at Netheravon. It also took over the Fighting in Built Up Areas Training Team and complex at Copehill Down and formed part of the Battle Group Training Unit at Westdown Camp, Tilshead. To facilitate this expansion a new complex was built on Gale’s Field, and the Junior Division of the Staff College was moved to Camberley. CATC also took over the Demonstration Battalion and Armoured Squadron to form the basis of a permanent CATC Battle Group to which has been added an armoured reconnaissance troop, an engineer close support troop and a REME light aid detachment as part of it. The Battle Group Trainer at Catterick has also become part of CATC.

At about this time, the whole Infantry Training Base was re-organised including the re-titled Headquarters Infantry and Infantry Training Centre (ITC) Warminster became the residual parts of the old School of Infantry.

In recognition of the change of responsibilities, on 1 April 1993 Headquarters CATC assumed the command of Warminster Garrison from the now defunct Headquarters School of Infantry and the Barracks Warminster became known as the Warminster Training Centre (WTC).

On 4 May 1995, as one of the last ripples of the Options for Change re-organisation, the Infantry Support Weapons Wing at Netheravon closed and its components moved to WTC as part of the ITC.

The next development was the building of the large Combined Arms Tactical Trainer on a green field site between WTC and Battlesbury Barracks. The state of- the-art interactive virtual reality system is one of the most advanced simulation trainers of its kind in the world.

On 1 April 2000, the newly appointed Director General Training Support set up his headquarters within WTC so bringing back to Warminster a major general, a rank previously held by Directors of Infantry. Subsequently, its subordinate, HQ Army Training Estate, has also moved in adjacent to it.

To bring its title more in line with its evolving role, CATC changed its title to Land Warfare Training Centre in June 2000 which was further refined in 2002 to the Land Warfare Centre (LWC) with HQ Training Support Command (Land) becoming HQ LWC. This resulted in similar changes to the titles of some of its subordinates also but most relevantly, WTC became known as the Land Warfare Centre.

Despite all the changes in name and composition, now very much an All Arms in nature Warminster remains the main and spiritual home of the Infantry, an association which all infantrymen are proud to carry on.

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