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Maelor Saesneg Historic Landscape

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Maelor Saesneg

The Defended Landscape

Military Activity

The most intensive use of Maelor Saesneg for military activity was during the 20th century. Large areas of Fenn's and Whixall Mosses were commandeered by the military authorities during the two World Wars. At least eight army rifle ranges between 300 and 1100 yards long and with shooting butts formed of timber and peat, with associated huts in some cases were set up on the mosses. One of the ranges appears to have been in existence before 1909 and probably had its roots in either the South African war years or the expansion of local territorial or militia units. Access to the ranges by large numbers of troops was made easier by the canal and railway which cross the mosses. One group of ranges on the western edge of the moss, known as The Batters, was accessible to troops arriving by canal barge. The main use of the ranges was during the First World War, when troops normally arrived by railway, disembarking by means of an extra long siding provided off the passing loop at nearby Fenn's Bank Station. A new army tented camp was established at Fenn's Bank in 1916 for troops training on the North-East Fenns rifle ranges, which could house up to a thousand men.

During the Second World War the mosses lay within a few minutes flying time of a number of military airfields, and consequently a gunnery and bombing range and a decoy site were located here between 1940-45. Visible remains are slight, but include a brick picket hut, concrete plinths that once carried a control building, quadrant towers and a Strategic Starfish decoy site up to several hundred metres across designed to protect Liverpool, together with iron rods protruding from the peat which once supported machine-gun targets for air-to-ground gunnery practice and as a bombing range. The mosses were also the site of a number of air crashes during practice, including those on Cadney Moss and at Little Green, Bronington. As noted above, peat from the mosses was also commandeered during both the First and Second World Wars for the production of munitions.

Maelor Saesneg also became an important focus for military hospitals during the Second World War due to its proximity to military airfields, its relatively good communications by road and rail to the Atlantic seaport at Liverpool, its peaceful rural environment, and the ready availability of parkland associated with a number of country houses. Consequently the parkland associated with country houses at Bryn-y-Pys, Bettisfield, Iscoyd, Penley Hall and Llannerch Panna were all requisitioned for military purposes. In addition Gredington Park became an out-station of the Gobowen Orthopaedic Hospital and military depots were established at Lightwood Green, Gwernheylod and The Brow (Overton). Large US Army hospitals were constructed at Penley Hall, Llannerch Panna and Iscoyd which between them catered for almost 10,000 battle casualties during the course of the war and considered at the time as 'a little bit of US territory in Wales'. After the end of the war the hospitals continued in use for the post-war settlement of Polish communiites into the 1950s and early 1960s. The former military hospital still dominates the landscape of Penley, part of which remain in use as a hospital and part as an industrial park.

Memorials commemorating the dead of the two World Wars were first erected at various centres of population during the period after the First World War in a number of the larger centres of population, including Overton, Bangor Is-y-coed, Hanmer, Bronington, Iscoyd and Tallarn Green.

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