Winnie and Poo - Hellfire Corner
Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines
Period/ Conflict: World War II
Having withdrawn in the Dunkirk evacuation and winning the Battle of Britain, the British did not have an immediate answer to this threat but the high ground to either side of the Port of Dover was fortified on the personal order of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who had visited to see the situation in person) and large calibre guns dug in there.
The only British cross-Channel guns already in place were Winnie (named after Churchill) and – later in 1940 – Pooh (named after the story book character Winnie the Pooh who in turn was named after "Winnipeg" the bear at the London Zoo.).
These were two BL 14 inch Mk VII (35.6 cm) guns positioned behind St Margaret's. They were spares taken from the stock of guns of the battleship HMS King George V. One used a mounting from HMS Furious and the other a mounting from a test range; neither was turret-mounted.
They were manned by the Royal Marine Siege Regiment; and remained operational until September 1944. the Regiment was also responsible for three 13.5-inch railway guns (named ‘Sceneshifter’, ‘Piecemaker’ and ‘Gladiator’).
Winnie and Poo were operated from a separate firing-control room and were manned by 25 men of the Royal Marine Siege Regiment.
Winnie fired the first shell to cross from England to France on Aug. 22, 1940. Targeting one of the German gun batteries, it caused minor damage and wounded a corporal. Good for morale they were slow and ineffectual compared to the German guns.
They conducted extreme range counter-battery operations against the German guns (though they were too inaccurate and slow to fire on ships) and were protected from German aerial attack by anti-aircraft emplacements.
Their separate and well-camouflaged cordite and shell magazines were buried under deep layers of earth and connected to the guns by railway lines.
Read more about the guns here;
Royal Marines Heritage Trails: The Royal Marine Siege Regiment 1940-44