Page 6 of 6
The final years
The final years
In the aftermath of the Second World War reorganisation and cutbacks were imposed upon the Royal Marines. In 1950 the Corps closed Chatham Barracks, but at Eastney the changes were slower.
The area between the Officers' Mess and Fort Cumberland was the first to be affected as the Admiralty took over land for Naval Married Quarters. In 1956 the admiralty created three estates. The Esplanade Gardens estate stood on the former allotments between Eastney Fort East and the Infirmary.
At the same time constructor built an estate of 50 houses for other ranks and ratings on the land north of the Gunnery School (Fort Cumberland Road). Three shops followed later. They built a third estate beyond the rugby pitch and Hutment Camp. This comprised the two twelve-flat blocks, four six-flat blocks and five houses called Halliday Crescent.
There were some additions to Eastney, too. After the closure of Chatham, the Royal Marines Drafting, Pay and Records Office moved to Eastney. For thirteen years they were sited in the old Gun Battery and Hutment Camp (known as Melville Camp in 1960); 43 Commando briefly stayed at Melville, then renamed Comacchio Camp, before disbanding in 1968. The Royal Marines Museum, founded in 1958, was established in the old School building north of the main gate.
By the late 1960s Britain's military and naval commitments were changing radically. Sea Service for Royal Marines was largely a thing of the past. The capital ships (battleships and cruisers) had gone from the fleet. The Royal Marines now fully embraced the commando role and Eastney was no longer needed.
In 1971 the main blow fell on Eastney. It was announced that the Technical and Signals Training Wings would leave; only the Headquarters Training Group, Corps Museum, the office of the RM journal, the 'Globe and Laurel', the Royal Marines Association central office and the Portsmouth Royal Marines Band would remain. Read a report of the barracks from 1970 showing how the Barracks was organised and the Royal Marines units present.
By 1973 the 'contraction' of Eastney had taken place. Only 200 people remained and there was now a great empty estate around them. The Ministry of Defence ordered that the Hutment Camp be demolished in 1976, and seven years later, sold the land for private housing (the present Cockleshell Gardens). They also had the northern barracks of the old School, Signals School and Canteen demolished to make way for the housing estate, Lidiard Gardens.
Following the final departure of the Royal Marines from the Barracks on 31 October 1991, the Ministry of Defence sold the site to property developers. The remaining buildings of Eastney Barracks became listed and from the esplanade, the barracks appears much as many of the former Portsmouth Royal Marines would have remembered it.