Purdown Percy

30Aug10

I’ve always been fascinated by old wartime sites. Probably goes back to exploring pillboxes along the Somerset coast as a kid. So I’m not so much of an amateur that I don’t know Rule One, which is: Don’t Bother In Summer.

Because there’s way more vegetation in the way in summer, especially brambles. You can’t see things, you miss things, and it’s that much more difficult to get to them.

Still and all, it’s a nice sunny Bank Holiday and I’m getting all interested in Bristol’s experiences in the Blitz, so we go off in search of Purdown Percy.

Purdown is one of the many huge green open spaces that make Bristol all worthwhile, but which isn’t much visited by anyone except the locals. It’s not like there’s an especially big entrance or anything.

But everyone knows Purdown on accout of the bloody great tower there.

What we’re looking for is close by the tower.

‘Purdown Percy’ was the name given to a legendary supergun supposedly placed here during the war. There was no such weapon. What there was was a battery of 3.7-inch guns and the occasional 40mm Bofors gun(s).

People apparently believed, though, that Purdown was home to a sort of ack-ack version of Big Bertha. The legend of Purdown Percy might have arisen because of the elevated position of the battery; the racket it made would have carried very widely. It’s also, and slightly more credibly, been suggested that up to four of the guns could be fired electronically at the same time from the battery command post. Four or even two 3.7″ guns going off at once would have made a lot of noise, and a bright flash.

If you ask the internet, you’ll find several mentions of Purdown Percy, and of people saying how the noise made them feel better by hitting back at the enemy.

… But of all the hundreds of German aircraft which flew over Bristol between 1939 and 1945, you know how many were shot down by the city’s anti-aircraft guns?

Two.

Google Map of Bristol Blitz (it keeps getting bigger …) is at bit.ly/aPcZl7 if you’re interested.

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10 Responses to “Purdown Percy”

  1. 1 SteveL

    -of course, the fencing doesn’t help either.

    Purdown camp is popular with dog walkers, and it’s a good MTB commute from UWE to the Farm Pub and beyond, but no, for most people it is something they only see on the motorway.

    There may be some coverage on the Bristol Traffic site in a week or two.

    • Oooh Bristol Traffic! One of my favourites. Have just added link to blogroll
      , which should have been there ages ago …

  2. 3 Mike Drew

    The site was know to local kids (at least in the 50s) as the Dungeons.
    It was a great play site for children who lived in the Lockleaze estate. I was lucky that a jump over the garden fence and a few hundred yards past what we called the Army camp (now the site of the Telecom tower – this is the second one – the first built in the late 1950s)

    I last visited it a three or four years ago. I was surprised how little it had deteriorated since I moved away from Purdown in 1960.

    • 4 colin smythe

      are you the mike drew that lived in romney avenue the last house next to the bungalows ,it would be a fair hop to purdown .

  3. I was a small boy living at Eastville during THE WAR and well remember
    being huddled in our Anderson Shelter, usually at night, listening to the
    guns blasting away on the the nearby Purdown Hill. We were a mother and 5 boys. Dad was away abroad killing Germans. My mother tried to
    ease the strain by inventing that Purdown Percy was just one friendly gun
    and introduced some humour to the dreadful night attacks and bombing.
    e

  4. As a kid I used to wander over Purdown after the air raids, collecting bits of shrapnel and unexploded incendiaries. The latter we used to re-ignite on bonfires – you had to get the magnesium casing of the bomb very,very hot before it would ignite. There were lots of craters but also lots of 12″ wide holes where HE bombs had gone in without exploding. How many Lockleaze householders must be sitting on unexploded bombs under their living rooms or gardens!!??

  5. Very interested in the Embankments indeed!. Where are the other “SEVEN”?. Do a lot of walking Cotswold Way etc. Recently found out my Gramps fought in WWII, although he did actually Fight abroad. Very proud of him.

  6. 8 mark pegler

    My grandad was the sargent major at the purdown battery during 39 to1945

    • 9 Dominic Jefferies

      My da says his dad served here during the war, because of his poor eyesight.


  1. 1 War Still Echoes – Precast Reinforced Concrete Heart

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