Pembroke Military History

Post World War Two and Castlemartin Tank Range

Drill Hall by Pembroke Castle

The Castlemartin Training Area is found at Castlemartin and is located within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It is used for 44 weeks of the year and when it is being used it includes a coastal exclusion zone of between three to twelve nautical miles (6 to 22 km), dependant upon what types of weapons systems and ammunition is being used.

The Training Area is owned by the Ministry of Defence and was established in 1938 using compulsorily-purchased local farmlands and some land on the neglected Cawdor Estate. This devastated over fifty local farming families who had been using the land for many years. Just after the Second World War the ranges were abandoned by the military and were returned to farming use; although in 1951 when the Korean War began the ranges were reopened.

In 1961 a NATO accord was reached in Paris which permitted the new German military to use the range in Castlemartin, because there was a lack of suitable areas for tank training in the north of West Germany. Ironically, at the same time the British Army of the Rhine was using land at the Bergen-Hohne training area in Germany because insufficient land was available for its needs in the UK.

The presence of the German Army in Castlemartin only ended in October 1996 following the reunification of Germany, because land in East Germany was now available for training.

The Defence Training Estate [DTE] Pembrokeshire was formed in 1999 and as well as the Castlemartin Range it also includes the Royal Artillery Range at Manorbier, the Templeton Airfield and the Penally Training Camp. The Castlemartin range is the only Defence Training Area in the UK permitted to fire live rounds on land and into the sea. Obviously this has implications for walkers along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path which crosses the range - so in 2011 the Ministry of Defence designated a new route which protected walkers both from live fire from the range and also from the fast moving traffic and heavy vehicles on the nearby narrow roads.

The Castlemartin Ranges hit the national headlines in 2012 when a soldier whose unit was training for deployment to Afghanistan was fatally wounded. The soldier - named Ranger Michael Maguire - believing he was in a safe area, had removed his body armour and his helmet when he was struck in the temple by a stray bullet.