The end of the war
The last piloted aircraft ever to be shot down by AA Command over Britain crashed into woodland near Barham between Dover and Canterbury on 23 August 1944. Nevertheless, work proceeded to modernise D2 with short wave radar, electronic predictors and powered guns that did not need to be aimed by hand-cranking.
With the emergence of the first jet-powered reconnaissance aircraft, it was apparent that future aircraft would be flying at higher speeds and at greater altitudes, beyond the limit of the existing anti-aircraft guns. A new D2, equipped with more powerful 5.25-inch (133 mm) guns was constructed at what is now Sherley’s Farm. Progress on building this new site was slow and continued beyond the end of the war in Europe into at least late 1945.
The 3.7-inch D2 site remained in occupation until at least the end of 1945, but on an increasingly ‘care and maintenance’ basis. Later, the guns were removed and placed into storage with other equipment. Although not permanently staffed, the site was maintained, and a high wire security fence was constructed around the core of the gun site. The rusting remains of the fence posts remain around the site today - some are visible in the foreground of the photograph above.
Technological developments of jet interceptor aircraft and guided surface-to-air missiles led to the disbanding of AA Command in the mid-1950s and D2, which by then had been renamed DV2, fell into disuse and was abandoned.
The site was returned to agricultural use, with the emplacements, buildings and roads largely intact in the late 1950s, but the cost of demolition was prohibitive, and the site was left to return to nature. During the 1990s a concrete road that connected the accommodation huts to the D2 site was lifted to allow more economic use of the land.
The 3.7-inch D2 site was acquired by the National Trust in 2017. In 2019 a project to conserve and preserve D2 for future generations was drawn-up and in 2022 a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £199,000, along with substantial local donations enabled work to start, conserving the site and its buildings.
We would like to thank White Cliffs' volunteer Robert Hall for his extensive research into D2's history and for his generous contributions to this article.