Castlemartin Training Area

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Castlemartin Training Area
Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire
Western Walls - - 30830.jpg
Western Walls
Castlemartin Training Area is located in Pembrokeshire
Castlemartin Training Area
Castlemartin Training Area
Location within Pembrokeshire
Coordinates51°37′51″N 4°58′47″W / 51.630895°N 4.979633°W / 51.630895; -4.979633
TypeTraining Area
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
Operator British Army
Controlled byDefence Infrastructure Organisation[1]
Site history
Built forWar Office
In use1939-1946

The Castlemartin Training Area is located within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park at Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and covers 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares)[2]

The ranges are active for 44 weeks of the year and when in use can include a coastal exclusion zone of as much as 12 nautical miles (22 km) off the coast, or as little as 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) depending on which weapon system and ammunition is being used.[3][4]


Castlemartin shield

The Castlemartin Training Area was established in 1938[5] from both deserted and inhabited farmland, and from parts of the defunct Cawdor Estate. The ranges were abandoned by the military soon after the Second World War, but were re-instated in 1951 when the Korean War started.[6] In 1961 there was a shortage of suitable tank training areas in the Northern part of Germany for the then recently reactivated German Tank Units. The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), extensively used the ranges at the Bergen-Hohne Training Area which totalled 72,000 acres (29,000 ha) as their training demands could not be met by the short acreage available in the United Kingdom. Therefore, a NATO accordance was agreed in Paris whereby the fledging German forces could use the 5,000-acre (2,000 ha)[note 1] range at Castlemartin.[7] This relationship between the German Armoured Units and Castlemartin lasted until October 1996,[8] when after Germany reunification, additional ranges in Eastern Germany became available.[9]

Defence Training Estate[edit]

Centurion Mk12 tank at Merrion Camp, Castlemartin

In 1999 the Defence Training Estate was formed and units from all over the UK and NATO have trained on the ranges.[1] Within the Pembrokeshire Estate are:

  • Castlemartin is one of two armoured fighting vehicle ranges in the UK with direct live firing gunnery exercises and armoured vehicle manoueuvres. The other is Lulworth Cove. Castlemartin is the only Defence Training Area normally available for armoured units to fire live rounds on land and littoral environments including live firing into the sea.[2]
  • Royal Artillery Range Manorbier, Penally Training Camp and Templeton Airfield - air defence systems,[1]
  • The Pembrokeshire Coast Path, part of the Wales Coast Path, has to avoid the range and in 2011, the MoD created a diversionary route which was safer for walkers by protecting them from having to negotiate the narrow country roads with fast-moving traffic.[10]


In May 2012, Ranger Michael Maguire from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment died in a live fire incident on the range.[11] Ranger Maguire was resting in a safe area where he had removed his body armour and helmet when a stray round entered his temple.[12] The machine gun fire that was responsible for his death also put civilians at risk on neighbouring beaches although there was no report of injuries. Ranger Maguire and his unit were training for deployment to Afghanistan.[13]

On 14 June 2017, at approximately 15:30, two soldiers of the British Army were seriously injured and two killed in what was described as a 'major incident'.[14]


  1. ^ The size of the range is now described as 6000 acres, in Hansard it is listed as 5000 acres by Mr Harold Watkinson, Minister of Defence in 1961


  1. ^ a b c "Pembrokeshire Ranges". Archived from the original on 31 October 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b Dudley, Marianna (2012). An environmental history of the UK defence estate 1945 to the present. London: Continuum International. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-4411-1357-3.
  3. ^ "Castlemartin Firing Range" (PDF). mhpa. Milford Haven Port Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-08-17. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  4. ^ Castlemartin Ranges - Home
  5. ^ "Castlemartin Pembrokeshire" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  6. ^ "DTE Pembrokeshire" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. p. 2. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Visiting Forces (Application of Law)". Hansard Millbank Systems. 19 July 1961. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  8. ^ Childs, David (2012). Britain since 1945: a political history (7th ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 267. ISBN 978-0-415-51952-6.
  9. ^ Turner, Robin (27 March 2013). "When German troops and tanks invaded Wales". Wales Online. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Castlemartin access project scoops MOD's top environmental award". Tenby Today. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Molloy, Mark (12 March 2013). "British soldier 'unlawfully killed' by stray bullet at Army shooting range". Metro. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Wales tourist beach 'risked being sprayed with machinegun fire'". The Telegraph. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  14. ^ "'Ongoing incident' at MOD Castlemartin firing range". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-06-14.

External links[edit]