The Army and Salisbury Plain

By SPP Reporter

The very mention of Salisbury Plain conjures up memories for serving and ex-Servicemen alike, of days and nights spent on exercise on the Plain. It would be hard to find a soldier who, at some time during his service, had not taken part in some activity on this famous training area. It was at the turn of the century that the War Office began to acquire land on the Plain for training. Over the years more and more land has been purchased so that now nearly the whole of the Plain is owned by the Ministry of Defence. The training area stretches from Ludgershall and Tidworth in the east to Warminster and Westbury in the west. It is an area approximately 25 miles long and from six to eight miles deep containing some 93,000 acres.

The Salisbury Plain Training Area is the largest in the United Kingdom. Facilities exist for all arms training and include live firing ranges for Armoured, Artillery and Infantry units. The area east of the River Avon is restricted to dry training only.

Although units come from far and wide to exercise on the Plain, the major users are those stationed near by at Tidworth and Bulford, the School of Artillery at Larkhill, and the LWC at Warminster on the western tip.

The withdrawal of the Army from overseas bases and the resultant concentration of units in the United Kingdom has greatly increased the use of all training areas in the British Isles, and the Plain is no exception. It is an area of great interest to historians, archaeologists and naturalists, and every care is taken to preserve its unique natural and man-made features as far as possible. It is, for example, essential to avoid over use of particular areas so as to allow the land to recover. It is the duty of all users to ensure that as little damage as possible is done to this unique stretch of country.

The Weapons Collection

When the School of Musketry was established at Hythe in Kent in 1853 one of its tasks was to carry out trials on weapon and their ancillaries. When those early trials were concluded a number of the weapons and ancillaries were retained which led to the foundation of the Weapons Collection. This retention policy from trials has continued to the present and when combined with weapons acquired from the ‘enemy’ during the turbulent periods in history in which the British Army has been involved, plus the many purchases made by respective ‘Curators’ over the years, then it was inevitable that a very special collection would materialise.

To date the Collection has acquired approximately 2,500 exhibits which are displayed in eight large rooms. The location is clearly signposted whenever one enters the LWC.

Although the majority of weapons date from 1853 there are a considerable number dating back to the 16th Century which will wet the appetite of the enthusiast. The Collection covers small arms, mortars and anti-tank weapons from all over the world and includes a comprehensive collection of contemporary weapons which are taught to students attending the courses in the LWC.

The Weapons Collection is unique as not only is it a working collection it is also held in trust to the Small Arms School Corps (SASC) and is a registered charity (No 277168). It is open to the public as well as to members of the Armed Forces. There is no entrance fee, however, donations are encouraged. Visits are by appointment only. Further information can be obtained by writing to the Officer in Charge (OIC) or telephoning Warminster 01985 222487.

The Library

There is a Library and Information Centre in Building 103, which is open Monday to Friday for use by permanent staff and their spouses as well as students. There is a stock of military resource and fictional books.

The Library is equipped with Internet terminals allowing access to the World Wide Web. The Library acts as an Access point for the Army Learning Centre offering a full range of Learndirect Courses. Microsoft Office applications; Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint are also available. For further information please contact the Librarian on extension 2249 or the Library Assistant on extension 2628.

Imber Conservation Group – How about joining?

The Imber Conservation Group, one of three conservation groups across Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA), forms a key part of the overall management of the Plain by the MOD and Defence Estates in particular. The Imber Conservation Group is involved in conservation and archaeology across the whole of SPTA (West) between Warminster and Westbury in the West and the A360 Devizes to Salisbury road in the East where it cuts through the training area near Tilshead.

New members are always welcome, particularly serving military and their dependants. We are looking for people with energy and interest in the countryside, and great knowledge of ornithology, mammals and raptors, or the Bronze Age and Romen Britain is not necessary. We have sub-groups covering many different areas of conservation and archaeology where you learn more about the wonderful area on our doorstep and assist with projects as they occur.

If you would like to join, please contact the Chairman, Lt Col (Retd) Mike Jelf on 01985 222325 (94381-2325) or the Secretary, Ms T Gregory on 01985 222120 (94381 2120) for more information. Members must be over 18 years of age.

Membership is free, but access into the Danger Areas requires you to attend a Safety Briefing at HQ Army Training Estate, Salisbury Plain in order for you to be issued with a Red Card Pass, which lasts for 3 years and can be renewed. Please join us. You do not know what you are missing!

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