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SOUTH WEST ENGLAND 

BATTLEFIELD AND MILITARY HERITAGE 

If you are  looking for something to do for an afternoon while on holiday somewhere in Britian, we can find a local expert guide for the battlefield and arrange a tour for you.  

 

The setting for numerous battles of the Civil Wars, the South West also has some fine examples of coastal fortifications and some outstanding military museums. 


Events in the South West

If you are planning a tour to Britian, and would like to take in some of the spectacle of our military heritage we can help you to take advantage of the dozens of re-enactment and other events staged around the country.


We will be adding an events calendar so you can see what is on and where!

Cobbaton Combat Collection 

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A private military museum covering mostly World War II but with other exhibits ranging from the Boer War to the First Gulf War. Contains tanks, guns, helmets, artillery, grenades and bombs, from British, Canadian and Russian forces. Vehicles are restored not to pristine condition but to how they may have looked in action. There is also a home front display covering Civil defence and ARP, National Fire Service, Home Guard etc.

Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall at War Museum

Based at the former RAF Davidstow Moor and devoted primarily to the history of that airfield during World War II. The museum also covers the history of other RAF airfields, army and Royal Navy in Cornwall. Other displays include artefacts, vehicles and weapons from the Royal Observer Corps and the Light Infantry. 

Cromwell's Castle / King Charles Castle / Old Blockhouse, Scilly Isles

Three fortifications on the island of Tresco linked with the Civil Wars. The Royalist Scilly Isles surrendered in 1646 but in 1648 they rebelled and became a privateering base attacking British and Dutch ships. In 1651 Parliament sent an expedition led by Robert Blake which landed near the Old Blockhouse gun tower on Old Grimsby Harbour. After fierce fighting they moved on to take King Charles’ Castle, the former Royalist stronghold. Cromwell’s Castle was built nearby as a new defence after the invasion.

Dartmouth Castle

Standing guard over the Dart estuary, the castle was begun in 1388 by John Hawley, Mayor of Dartmouth. The gun tower, added about a century later, is the earliest English fortification built specially for ship-sinking heavy cannon. More gun platforms were added by Henry VIII. Besieged for a month in the Civil War it was taken and held by the Royalists for three years until Sir Thomas Fairfax retook it in 1646. The 19th century gun battery remained in use through both world wars. Exhibition includes film recreating a Victorian gun-firing.

Pendennis Castle

Built by Henry VIII, like the smaller St Mawes Castle on the other side of the River Fal, to guard the south coast of Cornwall against the French and Spanish. One of a chain of coastal forts built in a clover leaf shape, with a keep surrounded by semi-circular bastions to house artillery. In the Civil Wars it withstood a five month siege and was the last Royalist castle in England to fall. Exhibitions include a Tudor gun deck, the restored Royal Garrison Artillery Barracks and a replica First World War Guardhouse.

Somerset Military Museum, Taunton Castle

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Part of the Museum of Somerset housed in the 12th century great hall of Taunton Castle. The Military Museum’s collection covers the history of the County Regiments of Somerset from 1685 onwards. Its exhibitions are organised in two groups, one on historic conflicts and the other on life in the regiments. Exhibits include a silver model of the Gateway of India (a monument on the waterfront in Mumbai) presented to the Somerset Light Infantry as the last British brigade to leave India in 1948.

Fleet Air Arm Museum -Yeovilton

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Dedicated to the flying arm of the Royal Navy, with a large collection of military and civilian aircraft, as well as models of Royal Navy ships. Divided into four halls, the first covers the development of naval aviation from early bi-planes on. Hall 2 has aircraft from World War II and Hall 3 houses the aircraft carrier experience. Hall 4 explains the theory of flight and contains the first British built Concorde and two Delta wing test aircraft.

Stratton Battlefield (1643)

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Despite superior numbers and holding a hilltop position near Stratton, the Earl of Stamford’s Parliamentarian army was attacked and overcome by Sir Ralph Hopton’s Royalist force. Stamford lost half his army and left the way to Devon open for Hopton. Though houses have been built on the top of the hill, much of the slopes are undeveloped and defensive earthworks used by the Parliamentarians can still be seen, with access via footpaths and lanes. 

Sedgemoor Battlefield 

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The last pitched battle fought on English soil and the last chapter of the Duke of Monmouth’s attempt to seize the crown from James II. Faced with a smaller but more experienced royal army, the rebels made a botched night attack but at daybreak the king’s troops advanced and destroyed the rebel army. Monmouth was captured three days later and executed. The marshland of the battlefield has been drained but otherwise little changed. A Pitchfork Rebellion Trail is displayed at Chedzoy church.

Battle of Braddock Down 

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A swift victory for Sir Ralph Hopton’s Royalist army. Faced by a Parliamentarian force advancing from Devon under Colonel Ruthin, the Royalists charged and overwhelmed them, taking large numbers of prisoners and securing Cornwall for the King. There is some dispute as to the site of the battle. The English Heritage registered site is at Braddock Down, now divided into fields with limited access. The alternative site favoured by some historians lies partly in the parkland at Boconnoc.

Royal Citadel, Plymouth

This 17th century fortress in still in use by the military. It was built in the 1660s, mainly as a defence against the Dutch, though its guns also faced the town which had been a Parliamentary stronghold in the Civil War. Its irregular outline is due to the incorporation of an earlier fort dating from Elizabethan times. The Citadel was strengthened several times over the years, notably in the 1750s. Today it is the base of the 29th Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery

Exercise Tiger memorial -Slapton Sands

On 28th April 1944 a German patrol of fast motor boats torpeded a convoy of ships fuill of US soliders prepargin for D Day on a training exercise.   The 4th US Infantry Division lost more men off Slapton Sands on  28th April 1944 than it did on Utah Beach.  There is a sherman tank memorial at Slapton Sands.

Nothe Fort, Weymouth

A 19th century coastal defence fort situated at the mouth of Weymouth Harbour, in the 20th century Nothe Fort remained an important defence for the naval base in the adjacent Portland Harbour. In the Second World War it housed an anti-aircraft emplacement. Constructed on three levels, with a labyrinth of underground passages, the fort is now home to a museum featuring World War II vehicles along with original cannons and guns. Regular events including displays of musketry and cannon firing.

Tank Museum, Bovington Camp

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The museum of the Royal Tank Regiment & Royal Armoured Corps, its collection has almost 300 vehicles from 26 countries. Exhibits include a British First World War Mark I, the oldest surviving combat tank, and a German Tiger I tank in working order. The collection is divided into four exhibitions: The Tank Story, from 1915 to the present; the Trench experience, on the First World War and the invention of the tank; Battle Group Afghanistan, recreating a modern Forward Operating Base; and the Discovery Centre, with interactive display and a cut-in-half Centurian.

Royal Signals Museum, Blandford Camp

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The UK’s National Museum of Army Communications. Tells the story of military communications from torches and semaphore through telegraph, Morse Code and wireless to satellites and cyberspace. Exhibits also cover the work of Special Forces and covert operations, cryptography and deception, code breaking and clandestine radio equipment. As well as historic equipment used in both world wars there are hands-on interactive displays involving cutting edge technology encompassing electronic communications and cyber warfare. 

Langport Battlefield

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General George Goring’s Royalist army was heading for Bridgwater when attacked by a Parliamentarian force at the Wagg Rhyne stream near Langport. The Royalists broke under the Parliamentarian cavalry charges and fled. Langport and Bridgwater fell soon after. The battlefield now consists of fields crossed by a railway and a road running across the Wagg Bridge which was at the centre of the fighting.

Nunney Castle

A picturesque moated castle built in the 1370s by Sir John de la Mere. Distinctive for its tower-keep with four corner towers and conical roofs. Possibly built in the style of French castles, the keep once stood within a larger courtyard. It was extensively modernised in the 16th century. During the Civil War the castle was a Royalist stronghold, and was besieged and damaged by Parliamentary cannon before surrendering in 1645. A portion of the damaged walls collapsed as late as 1910.

Lostwithiel Battlefield

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The last major victory for the Royalists in the First Civil War. The Earl of Essex’s Parliamentarian force, attempting to take Cornwall, was pursued by a larger army led by King Charles and surrounded at Lostwithiel, above the port of Fowey. While the Parliamentarian cavalry broke through and escaped, the infantry and artillery surrendered to the King. Fighting took place over ten days on two main sites close to Restormel Castle and Castle Dore. These have only recently been identified with the help of archaeological work and have now been registered by English Heritage. 

Portland Castle

One of the best preserved of Henry VIII’s coastal forts, built in 1539 on the Isle of Portland, overlooking the harbour. The castle offered a low profile to the seaward side and was moated on the land side. In the Civil War Portland was Royalist though briefly held by Parliament in 1643. During the Anglo-Dutch War, the naval Battle of Portland took place not far offshore. Garrisoned for the last time in the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was an ammunition store in World War One and an anti-submarine base in the Second World War. Features audio tours and informative displays.