Tipner Ranges – The First Phot. School

The first Royal Navy Phot. school was based in Tipner.

Tipner is a residential district of Portsmouth, located on the north western corner of Portsea Island. It includes a housing estate, built during the 1930s, that used to function as married quarters for the Royal Navy, a yachting club, allotments, a primary school, The Harbour special school, and indoor and outdoor rifle ranges. There is also a nearby sports centre at Alexandra Park. Tipner is now bounded to the north and west by the M275 motorway and Tipner Lake. To the south is Stamshaw.

The school was housed in wooden buildings at Tipner Ranges, Portsmouth, and was administered by HMS Excellent at Whale Island. Still with gunnery in mind the first six seamen who qualified were drafted to HMS Snapdragon, a sloop used for target towing and gunnery marking. Suitable text books must have been in short supply as one of the books Snapdragon’s photographers used as a bible was an American book “Airplane Photography” because it contained very good sections on chemicals and photographic theory. Aerial photography was taught by RAF instructors until the Navy regained control of the Fleet Air Arm in 1939.

The school remained at Tipner until 1943 when, after close calls in bombing raids aimed at the Naval dockyard, it moved to a collection of requisitioned houses at Felpham near Bognor Regis. Both the Tipner and Felpham schools ran basic and advanced courses in Ground, Aerial and Fleet Requirement photography for up to fifty ratings, on courses lasting from six to twenty seven weeks. Officers long, Womens Royal Naval Service and Polish Naval Photographic courses took place at the same time. Soon after the move to Felpham the largest of the requisitioned houses, Strand House, which had a thatched roof, was destroyed by fire and lead to the death of one trainee.

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