A ceremony has been held to mark the 80th anniversary of the opening of an RAF observation post on the East Devon coast, which played a major role in World War Two weapons testing and training.

Brandy Head was part of the Exeter-based Gunnery Research Unit and is located on the South West Coast Path clifftop, at Stantyway Farm in Otterton, a tenant-run farm owned by Clinton Devon Estates.

The commemorations on Sunday, July 12 come as sensitive restorations take place so the small derelict building can be used as overnight accommodation for groups of walkers on the coast path.

The works have been led by tenant farmers Sam and Nell Walker, in partnership with Clinton Devon Estates.

Sam explains: “When Nell and I took over the tenancy of the farm, Brandy Head was a total wreck and had become a target for vandalism. We were looking to do something about it as soon as possible. We have done our best to look after the farm since moving here, and we felt a sense of responsibility to do something about the observation post.

“The fact is, if something wasn’t done, it would have been lost. It’s got so much history and when planning what we could do with it, we wanted it to be as flexible as possible. It will provide basic accommodation that can be pre-booked by walkers and ramblers looking for a quiet and quirky place to stay.”

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The building was originally used as a base for testing gyroscopic gunsights, aircraft rockets and aerial ordinance, both on land and at sea during the war. These gunsights assist pilots in firing more accurately at their target. Aircraft would fly overhead and fire at targets in the fields behind the building, as well as in the bay. A blast wall at the rear of the building, which was designed to protect occupants from the firing that was taking place, can also still be seen today.

One of those remembered at Sunday’s commemorations was Sir Bennett Melvill Jones, a pioneering pilot and researcher of aerodynamics, who was appointed to the research unit in 1940 to improve aerial gunnery. It was here he developed and tested the gunsights, which became the standard aircraft sighting system for the next 40 years. His grandchildren Ann Ballantyne and Edmund Wright joined the commemorations.