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With its abundance of boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants, Mumbles is a well-loved area of Swansea we all like to visit. However, during World War Two life in the seaside village was quite different.

During the 1940s Swansea was a large industrial town, important to the war effort at home. Its docks and shipping to and from them needed protection from both air and sea attack. Therefore, because of its position at the entrance to the bay, fortifications were built at the headland at Mumbles as part of a national system of coastal defences during the Second World War.

The 299th Coastal Defence Battery

The 299th Battery consisted of two separate units, called ‘A’ and ‘B’.

Unit A (The 299th Battery ‘A’) on Mumbles Hill (near to where we see the large antenna today) had two 6 inch guns that could be used to fire on enemy ships. The unit also consisted of a control room, observation post, ammunition stores, and workshops, needed to ensure the battery could function without support. There were about 140 men posted at Battery ‘A’ – a minimum of 7 men were needed to fire each gun, with a further 6 men to supply ammunition for sustained firing.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Unit B (The 299th Battery ‘B’) consisted of two searchlights at Mumbles Tutt (where the coastguard station and Castellamare are now) and two guns and searchlights on the lighthouse island. The two 4.7 inch quick-firing guns and two searchlights on the lighthouse island were an examination battery, used to prevent unauthorised entry into Swansea Bay by firing across the bows of any vessel that did not stop. Bill Morris, a soldier stationed on the island during the war, says that this “usually had the desired effect and they very soon stopped for checking”.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

There were about 50 men posted to Battery ‘B’ that was connected to the mainland by a causeway uncovered at low tide. Duty shifts continued until the tide allowed crews to leave and the relief crew to arrive. When off duty, the soldiers lived in Nissen huts on what is now Bracelet Bay car park.

After the war, the guns of the 299th Battery were removed and the buildings above ground destroyed. The causeway to the lighthouse island was blown up in the 1960s.

623 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery

West of the 299th Battery was the 623rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft battery. By 1941, there were four 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns, each bolted into the centre of a circular brick emplacement. The four guns firing simultaneously could fire twenty-four rounds in twenty-four seconds. The Royal Artillery Corps manned three of the guns with the fourth operated by the Home Guard. Conditions for the eight men operating a gun were dangerous, without plenty of practice and good teamwork the men could easily become deafened, blinded, or choked by the noise and fumes.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

In 1943-4 two square emplacements were built on Mumbles Hill with the intention of increasing the number of guns to six prior to the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944. Swansea was an embarkation point for the landings so extra protection from air attack was essential.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

After the war, the guns were removed from the 623rd Battery, but many of the buildings became temporary homes for many families bombed out during the war. Today you can see the remains of the command post and at least two gun emplacements.