HMS Vulture 2
Treligga was primarily an aerial bombing and gunnery range and although it is locally known as Treligga Aerodrome there were in fact few landing strip activities.
The Treligga range was known officially as H.M.S. Vulture 2. and was a satellite of H.M.S. Vulture a Fleet Air Arm base at St. Merryn near Padstow. The area was first used as a pre war gliding site and was selected by the Fleet Air Arm as a range in 1939. In 1940 some 240 acres of coastal land between Tregardock and Backways Cove were requisitioned by the Admiralty
and laid out as an air to ground and an air to sea firing range.
Because of the difficulty in carrying out an emergency landing in the area as there were no large fields or runways some ‘wheels up’ landing strips were constructed on the range. This involved a lot of earth moving and heavy machinery was brought in to complete the work. To the north of the tower the head of a valley was filled and levelled and between Tregonnick Tail and Treligga village 3 grass landing strips were laid out. Each of these strips were over 650 metres and marked out for possible landings by aircraft suffering engine failure or ricochet while firing on the range. This arrangement led people to think that Vulture 2 was a relief landing ground for St Merryn but this was not possible because the ground was quite rough and intended for belly landings. Later however the surface was improved and some traffic did use the landing strips.
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Several buildings were constructed the most obvious being a control/observation tower about 10 metres high in the middle of the area. Towards backways cove and nearer the sea there was a heavily reinforced observation hut which housed quadrant equipment to record angle of dives and accuracy of attacks made by aircraft. Both of these buildings are still standing as is the accommodation and service huts near Treligga village.
Off the site there were other associated buildings, at Treligga Downs near the Poldark Inn a building was used for counting holes in drogue targets. These were dropped on the old Trelliga Downs by towing aircraft retrieved and laid out on long tables were the holes were counted. A reward of 5 shillings was offered to any member of the public who found one. There was a further dive angle hut at Trebarwith village and targets were positioned in Port Isaac bay for air to sea attacks. Near the cliff at Dannon Chapel is an observation tower which was used to gather hit information on these floating targets. Accommodation for the Wrens was built on the Delabole side of Port Gaverne and early in its life Vulture 2 was unique in being run entirely by W.R.E.N.S. Later the base was run by Fleet Air Arm personnel, some living on the site and some commuting from St Merryn.
The squadrons using the range included the Fighter Pool 748 Squadron and the School of Air Combat 736 Squadron. The aircraft types included Seafires, Masters, Fireflies and the odd Barracuda. Numerous operational units form St Merryn also used the facilities including a B-17 Flying Fortress of the U.S.A.F. which put down on the strip. They had some problems and when the Americans stepped out of their aircraft they were amazed to find Trelliga in the hands of Wrens. The B-17 had to be stripped down for its later successful take-off out
over the sea.
Later action moved to the Japanese war in the Pacific and as a result the Treligga range was made to represent a typical area of Japanese held territory and was modelled on the island of Tarawa. Real and dummy tanks, a bridge and a road convoy were located near an airstrip and a small railway was constructed to provide moving targets. By December 1944 Treligga was being used for intensive training of squadron commanders and senior pilots of units destined for the Pacific Fleet.
The tanks which numbered at least 6 and possibly 10 arrived at Delabole by rail and were driven through the village from the station to Trelliga, several front steps and gates and at least one small building were demolished by the tanks during this operation.
After the war the Trelliga range continued in operation for the School of Naval Air Warfare and was in great demand by squadrons detached to St Merryn for armament practice until the early 1950’s. It has been recalled that Treligga was used as an air to ground rocket range and rocket firing became a daily occurrence and would continue for periods of several hours. In particular Fairy Gannets using the range would continuously fire rockets from a release point near Trecarne Quarry for several hours and must have kept the ground crews at St Merryn busy in rapid reloading and turnaround since these Gannets could only carry 6 rockets. As naval use declined the range was made available to the RAF and Shackleton squadrons from St Eval used it for air to ground gunnery practice.
Aircraft types using the range at Vulture 2 recalled by local people:-
Albacore (drogue towing)
The standard attack circuit was anti-clockwise and from the targets on the cliffs at Treligga turn left over the sea across Tregardock and inland over Westdowns, turning north around the quarry and commencing the rocket run somewhere near Barton Farm running over Delabole towards the rocket release point.
There have been a number of air crashes whilst the range was in use and there is a record of one which occurred when a Sea Fire crashed into the railway embankment near Barton Farm at 2.00 pm on Thursday 1st November 1951. The pilot was unfortunately killed. There have been other crashes near Barton including a Dakota carrying South African soldiers and I think these planes were attempting a landing on one of the large fields to the north east of Barton Farm. Other crashes include a Swordfish in Trebarwith Valley, a further Swordfish at sea and possibly a Bleinham near Tregonnick Farm.
With the withdrawal of flying units from St Merryn in 1954 and the removal of turrets from Shackletons during 1955 the range was closed at the end of the year and reverted to farmland.
28/1/97 — Mrs Thoms of Tregardock recalls other happenings a Liberator landed as well as a Flying Fortress The liberator took off parallel to coast over Tregardock. Flying Fortress took off out over Tregunnick tail. They both landed from Trecarne direction. Also there were two instances of simulated deck landings when several aircraft were lined up after landing as on Carrier (type unknown). Drogue droppers came in very low one instance when a Hurricane or Spitfire came so low after dropping on drogue from north over Tregardock Farm and clipped and broke telephone lines leading to farm house .There was a crash in first field but plane was recovered.
by Chris Keat