1969: Army opens gunnery beaches to public

From a staff reporter

Lulworth, Dorset, Aug. 4

The restricted beaches inside the Royal Armoured Corps Gunnery School range areas which civilians were asked to leave two weekends ago were opened to the public today, the start of the school’s summer leave. The operation of clearing the approaches to the beaches at Mupes and Worbarrow Bays finished shortly before civilian access was allowed.

Residents had complained that the beaches were being used by army personnel while the public was banned.  A protect “invasion” of the beaches was planned for last Sunday but only one family and a couple of holidaymakers went to Mupes Bay. The army did not interfere.

After firing last Wednesday, 40 men spent 1,000 hours patrolling the authorized approaches. A final sweep across the shingle and rocks of Mupes Bay was made a short time before it was decided to let the public on to the beach.

Colonel A.H.N. Reade, commandant of the gunnery school, said it would take months to cover the necessary terrain with mine detectors and would require the checking of every possible bit of metal. The Army point out that if they tackled the area in the way the beaches would “never be open to the public”.

Instead, the patrols search with eyes, boots and sticks, systematically stamping the ground and prodding it to see if there is anything lying on the surface. They cover the paths and verges and 10 yards across the fences, signposted with warnings.

The main dispute between the civilians who want access to the beaches outside firing hours at other times of the year and the authorities is that the military personnel and their families can go down to the beaches with special permission.

Mrs. Margaret Kraft, of Milborne Wood, Dewlish, a vigorous campaigner for the release of the Tyneham Valley from the range area said she was prepared to help anyone who wanted free access to what she regarded as the finest beaches between Eastbourne and Devon.

Lord Salisbury’s plea:

Lord Salisbury, aged 76, said on the I.T.N. programme World in Action last night that the residents, who gave up their homes in 1943 so that the area could be used as a shooting range, responded to the coalition government’s appeal out of patriotic duty. They were told they could return when the war ended but they still had not returned.

Lord Salisbury, a former M.P. for South Dorset, urged the Government to try to right the wrong “which these good people have suffered”.

Published by The Times, Tuesday 5 August 1969

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