Looking today at this rural idyll of scattered hill farms, small villages and market towns set around the Mawddach Estuary, it is easy to imagine that life has continued much as it always has, far away from the European theatres of war and separate from the world’s troubles.
The truth however is that this area has had strong and lasting links with the military throughout the 20th Century, many of which have had a dramatic impact on the inhabitants and their surroundings. In the earliest days of the Century, troops trained for the Boer war in the Bronaber Artillery Ranges above Trawsfynydd, and the sparsely populated hills and moorland have subsequently provided the rugged terrain and space to train aircrew, assault troops and artillery teams. Few villages escaped the personal costs of the Great War, and in the Second World War (WWII), the threat of invasion also loomed large. Coastal defences and inland ‘Stop Lines’ of tanks traps and pillboxes still mark the hasty preparation for defence, and a scattering of anti-aircraft training ranges at Tonfanau and RAF Llanbedr trained men how to meet the air-raids with force. As the tides of WWII started to turn in favour of the Allies, a different set of camps arose.
In anticipation of the Normandy Landings, The Royal Marine Training Group Wales set up camps Burma, Iceland, Gibraltar and Matapan to train Royal Marines in the art of beach assaults, while the Amphibious school at Tywyn trained those responsible in maintaining the supply lines of such landing. Sites like Ynyslas went from defensive to offensive with the top secret development of Rocketry.
Beyond WWII many of the Airfields, Ranges and Army Camps maintained a training role into the latter years of the century, and the valleys and ridgelines still provide an important training-ground for the RAF Pilots from Valley on Anglesey.
Despite the hastiness of preparations, many of these military bases and installations can still be found on the ground, along with memorials to the men and women who gave their lives whilst serving in bases like these.
View Military Mawddach on google maps
To help you explore this important aspect of the area’s history, a guide of more than 50 pages long, with details of more than 50 sites of interest and over 90 links to further information, is available in a PDF format The sites detailed in this guide are marked on an accompanying Google Map entry and many sites can be seen in detail using the Street View facility.
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