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