Its strategic position on Britain’s western seaboard, coupled with the magnificent sheltered harbour of Milford Haven, has afforded Pembrokeshire a military and maritime significance which has long been recognised. To prevent enemy invaders taking advantage of the many landing places around the Pembrokeshire coast, various defenses have been erected over the centuries – from Tudor blockhouses and Napoleonic forts to Victorian gun batteries, WWI boom defenses and WWII mine-fields and tank traps.
The building of Pembroke’s Royal Naval Dockyard in 1814 gave added impetus to the need to defend the Haven, while the onset of the Second World War saw the creation of a string of airfields from which air-crews flew perilous missions in support of Atlantic convoys or to hunt hostile submarines.
Searchlight and anti-aircraft batteries sprang up to intercept enemy planes, and elaborate decoy systems were established to bamboozle any bombers which made it past the guns.
Remnants of defensive systems from every era still exist all over Pembrokeshire. The Norman castles are probably the most obvious examples, but there are many other sites from later years which are of considerable military significance but which tend to be overlooked – everything from gun towers to pill boxes, bomb shelters and radar stations.
The county’s battlefields also tend to be unremarked. Several battles and skirmishes were fought on Pembrokeshire soil during the Civil Wars, while the county famously played host to the last invasion of mainland Britain in 1797 when a rag-tag French invasion force quickly surrendered to the local yeomanry.
It is the aim of our little group of historians – with the help of the local communities – to uncover and highlight these sites of military and maritime activity so that their significance can be better appreciated by the public in general and so that they can be preserved to give future generations an understanding of our military heritage.
Introduction by Roger Thomas, Chairman of Pembrokeshire Military and Maritime Heritage Group