History of Camp Langdon

Portsmouth Harbor Defense Headquarters, 1909-1946

Situated along the coast of New Castle Island, between Fort Constitution and Fort Stark, lies the former Camp Langdon, originally known as the New Reservation. The U.S. Army began acquiring the land in 1909 through several deeds, eventually totaling 32.3 acres. The original purpose of the reservation was to be an artillery post and a center for the anti-aircraft intelligence service for Portsmouth Harbor.

World War I Era

During World War I, Anti-Aircraft Battery No. 1 was located here. It consisted of two 3-inch anti-aircraft guns, Model 1917, on concrete gun blocks. A temporary ammunition shelter was also built, but most wartime stores were stored at either Fort Stark or Fort Constitution. A fire-control communication cable was connected to the reservation from both forts. Officers' quarters were also built. No other gun batteries were emplaced here.

After the war the guns remained, and the 197th Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), New Hampshire National Guard, was allowed to use the property for training. A 36-inch General Electric trailer-mounted searchlight (harbor position #4) was emplaced at the center shoreline of the reservation in 1921. An 8-foot high wooden tower was built for the light. The light was removed and shipped to Fort Heath, Boston, in 1925. In 1937 the reservation was renamed New Castle Military Reservation. The two AA guns were removed by this time. A concrete platform was built about 50 yards from the original gun blocks for the use of a mobile 3-inch anti-aircraft gun, but was never used. There is no record of any AA guns actually emplaced here after the original two guns were removed.

3-inch AA gun
courtesy Coast Defense Study Group
Coast Defense Study Group Journal, volume 12, issue 2
Anti-Aircraft Gun, 3-inch Fixed, Model 1917

1920 Site Map
Map based on 1920 US Army Corps of Engineers site map.
Other buildings are unknown to author.

1938 AA Defense Plan

digital scan courtesy of Jon Woolf
1938 Anti-Aircraft Defense Plan.
(click for larger image - 447 KB JPEG file)

World War II

In 1941 the reservation was renamed Camp Langdon, after the former state Governor and Senator John Langdon (see also N.H. war heroes), and construction of several buildings was undertaken by the Construction Quartermaster until 1943. Among these buildings were an armory, barracks, hospital, training buildings, storehouses, warehouses, and a concrete jetty and pier. A 60-inch Sperry searchlight (position #10) was located at the southern boundary on a steel-frame tower. The post became Headquarters, Harbor Defences of Portsmouth, and served as a training and recruiting center. The previous harbor headquarters was located at Fort Constitution, under the 124th Coast Artillery Company, U.S. Army from 1902 to 1907, and then under the 156th Coast Artillery Company (Mines), U.S. Army from 1907 to 1924. During the inter-war years, the Portsmouth defenses were put on caretaker status. A detachment of five men from Battery E, 8th Coast Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense), U.S. Army, from Portland, Maine served as caretakers, and resided at the Officers' quarters at Camp Langdon.

Camp Langdon Barracks
from "Waiting for the Enemy: Memoirs of a WWII soldier serving in wartime New England and Europe"
unpublished, courtesy of Ron Hope
PFC Norman E. Hope standing on the parade ground of Camp Langdon.
The outer harbor is in the background.

See Norman Hope's photos of the 1942 USO Camp Show at Camp Langdon

The 22nd Coast Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense), U.S. Army, formed in 1940, was originally organized as a reserve unit, the 614th Coast Artillery Battalion, First Army Corps, in 1924. In 1935 it became a unit of the regular Army. Camp Langdon became the garrison post for the regiment in 1941. In 1943 several units of the regiment were disbanded as the various batteries in the harbor forts were declared obsolete and deactivated. The surplus personnel were then mostly reassigned to combat units then shipping out overseas to Europe and the Pacific. The units remaining were then redesignated as the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth. Finally, in 1946 the remainder of the regiment was officially disbanded.

DI of 8th Coast Artillery Regiment
The distinctive unit insignia of the 8th Coast Artillery Regiment.
DI of 22nd Coast Artillery Regiment
The distinctive unit insignia of the 22nd Coast Artillery Regiment.

Read about the history of the Coast Artillery Regiments of the U.S. Army.

matchcover 22nd CA
1943 matchcover - 22nd Coast Artillery
matchcover Camp Langdon PX
1943 matchcover - Camp Langdon PX

Cold War Period

In 1948 the U.S. Army transfered 27 acres of Camp Langdon to the U.S. Navy. The disposition of the remaining acreage is unknown. The Navy then referred to the post as Camp Langdon Annex, or Camp Langdon Naval Reservation, which was placed under the U.S. Naval Disciplinary Command, Naval Base, Portsmouth. It was used as a retraining and rehabilitation center for courts-martial prisoners soon to be released. During the 1950s several new buildings were constructed, and most of the older buildings were demolished or rebuilt. Building T-116, which still stands today, was a small-arms indoor firing range built during this period.

1959 Site Map
Map based on 1959 US Army Corps of Engineers site map,
with former (1941) and current (1959) structures shown.
No key was given for identification of former structures.

See also 1951 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site plan

In 1961 the southwestern portion of 2.8 acres, with five buildings, including T-116, was transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps for administration and training of the 54th Rifle Company, USMC Reserve. The indoor range was also used by a local gun club during this time. In 1963 the remainder of the Naval Annex was transferred to the Town of New Castle for park and recreation usage, now known as "Great Island Common". In 1964 all military activity ceased at the post.

Post Military Period

In 1967 the USMC Reserve Training Center was transferred by the G.S.A. to the Town of New Castle. The New Castle Public Library is now on site, by the main entrance to the former post. The town beach is located at the northern portion of the park, near where the AA battery was located. The two concrete gun blocks still remain. The original concrete jetty and pier also still exist. Building T-102 also still stands, in the southern portion of the former post, as the park's caretaker residence. The Town of New Castle motor pool and garage is located in the former fire station (T-190), which was built by the Army in the 1940s. Several foundations of other former structures are still evident throughout the park. Admission per person is charged to enter the park. There is no interpretation of any of the former military structures.

List of Sources Used

Official website of the Town of New Castle's Great Island Common

New Castle Beach
north side

Great Island Common - West

west side

Great Island Common - East

east side
courtesy of Microsoft Terraserver
A 1992 USGS Satellite Image of Great Island Common

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