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History of the Drill Hall Library

Our History

The Drill Shed, now known as the Drill Hall Library, is a Grade two listed building that is approximately 228.6 metres (250 yards) in length and 22.86 metres (25 yards) wide with solid brick walls and offices to one side. It was completed by 1902 as part of the first phase of developing the Royal Naval Barracks in Chatham. The Architect was Sir Henry Pilkington and building started in 1897 and it was constructed to provide an indoor space for Navy personnel to exercise and train during inclement weather. Often referred to as the Drill Shed, it has also been used as an overflow barracks, exhibition centre, naval store and building materials warehouse.

On Monday 3rd September 1917 the Drill Hall was being used as an overflow dormitory for around 900 naval ratings either sleeping or resting in their hammocks, when, at about 23:00 hours, it suffered two hits from bombs dropped by German Gotha aeroplanes. One of the first of the First World War ‘moonlight raids’, it resulted in the loss of some 130 lives. The Drill Hall suffered a direct hit, the bomb shattered the glass roof, sending dangerous shards of glass flying through the Drill Hall. The clock upon the Drill Hall tower stopped at 11.12, giving the exact time the bomb hit. The men had little chance of survival, those that were not injured from the explosion suffered cuts by pieces of glass falling from the roof.

The Drill Hall Library, as it is now, was opened by the Rt Hon David Miliband MP on Monday 13th February 2006.

A film about the bombing of the Drill Shed in 1917 and the event held to commemorate it, along with a film of the health care professionals of 1917 are available on You Tube using the following links.

Drill Shed from 1907
Fig 1: "Drill Shed", View Album R.N. Barracks, Chatham, Charlesworth & Morehen Photographers, Old Brompton, Chatham c1905, p. 25.
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If you wish to report a disturbance between 5pm to 8am please talk to our security staff at the Drill Hall Library entrance.