Princess Anne’s Battery is located on the north side of the rock below the Great Siege Tunnels of 1782 and overlooking Gibraltar Bay and Spain. It was originally known as Willis’s Battery and later renamed Princess Anne’s Battery being named after the eldest daughter of George II; it was first armed in 1732.
The whole north side of the rock was heavily fortified during the 19th century with Princess Caroline’s Battery and Princess Amelia’s Battery a short distance to the west and Princess Royals battery to the east.
In 1942, during WW2 there was a proposal to install seven new 5.25” anti-aircraft guns on the rock, three of these eventually went to West Battery on the south of the rock between Windmill Hill and Europa Point. The other four guns were mounted in a rebuilt Princess Anne’s Battery with work being completed in 1956. The new guns were Ordnance QF 5.25” MKII on a 1B mounting and performed a dual anti-aircraft and coast defence role. Where 5.25” guns are deployed solely in an Anti Aircraft role they have open backs (on a 1A mounting) but those at Princess Anne’s Battery were totally enclosed with the ability to return fire from an armoured ship as such were designated as an armoured turret. They were able to fire an 80lb shell up to 55,000 feet with a maximum horizontal range of 27,000 yards (13.5 nautical miles).
Three of the emplacements have a semi sunken magazine and machine room to one side, while that for No. 4 gun is completely underground.
There are ready use ammunition lockers set in a circle around the gun pits with chain fed cartridge and shell conveyors on the left hand side of the gun house to supply ammunition to the gun. In open backed AA gun houses the ammunitions would have been manually loaded at the rear.
Unfortunately the guns have suffered from the weather and vandalism over the years and although they have recently been repainted further maintenance is required to stop any further deterioration. This is the only intact battery of 5.25” AA guns anywhere in the world and it is therefore imperative that the site is preserved.
The battery command post is located to the rear of the guns together with the gun store and engine house. A number of older buildings from Princess Amelia’s Battery have been retained and reused.
In 2000 there was a proposal to develop the battery and the middle galleries behind into a tourist attraction. The site was cleared of vegetation and some new fencing was erected. Lighting was installed in the tunnels along with a large number of CCTV cameras and further cameras were mounted around the battery. Sadly there was opposition to the proposal to open the site and all plans are now on indefinite hold.
Access to the site is from a junction with Willis’s Road alongside Princess Caroline’s Battery_which has been restored as part of the same initiative. A short distance along the access drive there are stout metal gates topped with barbed wire preventing casual access to the site. A number of dogs are kept in a compound alongside the gate. Access to the site can be arranged through the tourist office although the doors to the machine rooms and magazines are all welded shut to prevent further vandalism and all the CCTV cameras overlooking the site are live.
- Bob Jenner
- Strong as the Rock Of Gibraltar by Quentin Hughes & Athanassios Migos published by Exchange Publications, Exchange Travel, Gibraltar