Equipment Ammunition Depot Magazine No. 116 had been established as part of a nationwide defence initiative at the outset of preparations for WWII, where the storage of weapons for a large number of mobile gun sites and associated equipment was necessary. With the declaration of war against Germany, the national requirement for these stores amounted to one hundred and eight buildings, split down into three following hierarchy:
- Central/Command Ammunition Depots (CAD) such as that at Bramley, Corsham & Chilmark.
- Nine Intermediate Ammunition Depots (IAD) and,
- Thirty-four Equipment Ammunition Magazines (EAM), which comprised the smallest, most numerous type of depot in the system.
Once operational, ammunition was distributed to these smaller units via the CADs and transported via rail or road by the Royal Army Service Corps, also trained as Ammunition Examiners. These troops would monitor ammunition in the depots for deterioration. Typically, such monitoring would consider a sample batch of 5%; should faults be identified, all batches were subject to inspection.
The site at Banstead represented one of the thirty-four EAMs and was one of three depots constructed between 1938 and 1939 to store and supply ammunition for anti-aircraft batteries surrounding and defending London. The other locations around London were a depot at Mill Hill that supplied North London, a site at Sevenoaks that supplied East London and the Thames Estuary, whilst Banstead supplied the southwest London sector from Dulwich to Raynes Park. In addition to its usual catchment, in 1940 the Banstead depot was briefly tasked with supplying the southeast. Locally, the War Department’s 1937 purchase of farmland attached to Banstead Place formed a part of wider defence proposals in Banstead. By September 1939, the Banstead Urban District Council had set up an Air Raid Precaution Committee in line with nationwide civil defence measures. Trenches were dug in the Lady Neville Recreation Ground and by 26th August 1939, council telephone wires were under constant monitoring in anticipation of government instruction. Traffic lights were masked and warden posts established.
The site’s construction was overseen by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and its principal function was to store shells for 3.7” and 4.5” aircraft guns and rockets, with a maximum capacity of 960 tons of ammunition. The depot was fully stocked by mid-August 1939 and its first distribution was in September 1939, four days before the declaration of war. Between March 1939 to August 1955, the foreman in charge there was a Mr. Trusler, a civilian previously employed at the Bramley CAD. His role was supported by local employees comprising eight civilian staff and four night watchmen, all of whom began service in March 1939.During the war, the site was first defended by a detachment from the Honourable Artillery Company, and then by detachments of the East Surrey Regiment and Royal Pioneer Corps. The Honourable Artillery Company were accommodated in tents during their early billeting, but as operations increased, these were replaced by wooden huts with sanitary and cooking facilities, establishing the site more firmly. The Pioneer Corps were to become responsible for both guarding the depot and ensuring the site’s daily operation. By the war’s end, the site was occupied by No. 28 Group and No. 80 (Indian) Company, then based in Wimbledon. Both were withdrawn in August 1945, after which time, no troops were engaged at the site. This was formally closed as an active storage and distribution centre in 1953. The wooden huts were utilised as temporary housing for returning servicemen until 1955 however, due to the general shortage in housing.
The site was sold off as surplus in 1966, since then it has been used as a farm yard and storage yard; the earth berms were removed at some point since the sale. The site is now up for demolition and redevelopment, with a single magazine being retained.