Home Page Wildfire III. Ship Database. Dunkirk. Battle of the Scheldt. Sweeping the Scheldt. D-day. The Relief of Holland. The Enemy. Ships sunk.
Trawler/Drifter Minesweepers. MMS, Motor Mine Sweepers. BYMS, British Yard Mine Sweepers.
HMS WILDFIRE III, Shore Base, Queenborough. HMS WILDFIRE Shore Base, Sheerness.
Dieppe. Fortress Sheppey. Montgomery. Channel Dash. Amy Johnson. Thames Boom. A Bad day in December.
Queenborough Lines Rampart today. Queenborough Lines Rampart 1939
Royal Artillery gunners manning a 6-inch coastal defence gun at Sheerness, November 1939.
Ramp for mobile searchlight at Shellness Battery.
10, HEAVY ANTI AIRCRAFT BATTERY THAMES AND MEDWAY, TS21.
Located at Bell Farm the Heavy Anti-aircraft Thames and Medway Battery was armed with four 3.7 inch static guns with GL Mark II radar. It was manned by 272th Artillery Unit of the 90th Royal Artillery Regiment. In 1943 the 272th regiment was replaced by the 628th Artillery Unit.
In July 1944 it was uses as a “Divers” (anti V-One) battery and then armed with eight 3.7-inch Mark IIc guns. On 22nd September 1944 it was manned by 628 (I) Battery, and equipped with BTL Predictor, and SCR584 Radar.
Heavy guns mounted on the tops of the Martello towers, Central Bastion, during WW1.
Musket Loop Holes in the Revelin Wall, off Tesco Roundabout, part of the Sheerness Lines Defences.
Emergency exit it top of bunker at Q Station Decoy Site for Chatham Dockyard at Harty Ferry.
Harty Ferry “Q” Site was known to be in use from 1941 to1942, and was probably operational throughout the rest of the war.
Decoy sites were often successful, drawing many attacks away from cities, factories, ports and airfields with bombs falling into empty fields saving many lives.
Six inch gun ready to fire. Troops of the Royal Artillery practising at Sheerness, Kent.
For centuries the Isle of Sheppey has stood guard over the Medway and that great waterway and access to London, the Thames.
The wooden walls of England, the Royal Navy was stationed at the Great Nore anchorage, while on land the guns of the Garrison Fort stood watch over the Medway and Thames Estuaries.
Since its earliest days Sheppey has always been a natural fortress with the sea protecting its front and the Swale protection its rear. So much so that in 832 and again in 854 great Danish armies arrived in their longboats to overwinter on the Isle of Sheppey.
For the “defence of the realm” and as a royal residence, Queenborough Castle was built in 1377 by Edward III. Advanced for its time, Queenborough Castle is the earliest example of a concentric circular castle in England. Its design is thought to have influenced the construction of Deal Castle and Walmer Castle. A Parliamentary survey of 1650 described it as much in need of repair. It was sold and dismantled in 1650 with much of its stone and timber being used in the construction of London buildings.
In 1665 King Henry VIII ordered the first Royal Navy dockyard and fort to be built at Sheerness to protect the River Medway from invasion by the French. The Navy Board wanted a dockyard where “warships might be provisioned and repaired”.
Following the Dutch attack in 1667, when they captured British ships in the Medway and landed at the Garrison, fortifications protecting the Navy dockyard were strengthened. These included the Garrison Fort, Sheerness Lines and later the Queenborough Lines which are defensive military canals with ramparts.
Completed in 1872, Garrison Fort is a casemated fort in two tiers with placements for 36 heavy guns (cannon) Built of granite the walls are 14.5 feet thick. During World War II three six-inch guns were installed there to defend the Thames Estuary.
Sheerness Lines consisted of four Bastions with a wide defensive mote in front and was built to protect Sheerness Dockyard and Naval Base by attack from landward. A fifth Bastion, the Rjavelin, a triangular fortification was located on the Sheerness side of the moat to defend the bridge and entrance to the Nava Base. Each of the Sheerness Lines Bastions consists of two faces for firing ahead and two flanks where fire can protect adjacent bastions.
Centre Bastian, facing seaward is largely intact and has WW1 and WW2 fortifications in reasonable condition.
No 1 Bastion remains largely intact although the defensive moat has been filled in at its apex.
No 2 Bastion (Queenborough side of bridge) on which the Garrison Hospital is situated has mostly been destroyed.
No 3 Bastion and the moat on each side of it has been completely destroyed.
It can only be hoped that something remains below the surface of the ground which can at some time be restored.
Fuel tanks at a “Q” Bombing Decoy Site.
As the war went on the Decoy sites got more and more sophisticated with Dummy rubber tanks and wood and canvas landing craft around Dover to suggest a cross channel invasion.
Operation ‘Fortitude’ (D-Day deception) with inflatable tanks and lorries and fake lights to pretend Army lorries were moving towards the channel coast kept the Germans thinking that the invasion would be across the Straights of Dover.
Historic England considers all “Q” sites with significant surviving remains, such as the bunker at Harty Ferry, to be of national importance.
Ravelin Battery before it was demolished to make way for Tesco Car Park.
All that remains today is a holdfast for an anti-aircraft multiple “pom-pom” gun. This is located in the car park on the tarmac path near the Zebra crossing. The gun plate has the inscription C.M. 523. Sir Wm A & Co Ltd. 1939 and was for a Naval, twin 2 pounder QF Mk 8 anti-aircraft Pom-Pom gun.
Albemarle Battery sitting on top of the old Indented Line Fortifications. Machine gun post in front.
3, CENTRAL BASTION BATTERY.
The Central Bastion was originally constructed in the 1670's as part of De Gomme's program of fortification and went on to see service during WW1 and WW2.
The onset of World War Two found the Central Bastion with out its guns. The two Martello type towers, constructed in 1913 (real Martello were built between 1804 and 1812) which had been mounted with guns in World War One were built on to provide fortified observation towers. Between the two Martello Towers was the Battery Command Post which has been built to resemble a house with a hipped roof and chimney pots. Suspended walkway connected the Martello Towers to the Command Post.
The Central Bastion Battery was manned by three officers and fifty men of the 167th Royal Artillery.
The Martello Towers are constructed with a central concrete column to give strength. During WW1 the Martello Towers each mounted a 4.7-inch quick firing gun.
This beautiful 350-year-old monument was largely destroyed only recently. The 1968 Ordinance Map shows it still there. The 1973 Ordinance Map shows the newly built Steel Mill and most of Sheerness lines destroyed. This can only be described as a scandalous act of gross vandalism. Aerial photographs, show that Sheerness Lines (Military Canal) was still there in 1960. So what went wrong and why was anyone given permission to destroy it?
Would anyone get permission to destroy three of Dover castles four walls, or to demolish three quarters of the stones at stone henge. Then why did our heritage get destroyed for commercial benefit with the full knowledge of local government?
Queenborough Lines are uniquely important as they are the last earthwork defensive line constructed in Great Britain. Known locally as “the Canal” they are a defensive Moat and Earthworks built from Coast to Coast across Sheppey to defend the Sheerness Dockyard and Naval Base in the event of attack from landward..
3-inch gun crew of 303rd Battery, 99th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, in action at Hayes Common in Kent, May 1940.
Further on along the top of the bank you’ll cross over yet another air-raid shelter before arriving at the Magazine. The magazine has two barrel chambers with its roof of nine courses of brick on edge and walls six feet thick.
There are two magazines sited on Queenborough Lines (the canal) one is located 0.22 miles to the north-east of the road and the other (mainly destroyed) 0.63 miles to the south-west.
Queenborough Lines defensive works, similar to the Royal Military Canal which was built to protect against invasion by Napoleon, is a 2.18 mile (3.51 km) linear earth rampart with a Military road behind and a wide water-filled ditch between 75 feet and 200 feet wide in front and narrow catch-water drainage ditch both in front and behind and with two brick-built magazines The earthworks is 16 metres wide and between 2.00 and 2.5 metres high. On the rear face of the rampart was a firing step, although this is not evident today.
Concrete block (Far side of road) and anti-tank traps (dragon's teeth) used as a road block.
Garrison Gun emplacements today
(Note the metal posts for the chain fence, seen behind the 6 inch guns in 1939, can still be seen today.)
SIX INCH GUN MK VII
Calibre: 152.4mm, 6 inch.
Barrel Length: 5.58 metres, 219.inches.
Range: 16,595 metres, 18,150 yards. 10.3 miles.
Projectile weight: 45.4 kilos, 100 pounds.
Muzzle velocity: 770 mps, 2525 feet per second.
2, ALBEMARLE BATTERY
Two hundred metres away from Garrison Point Fort is the Albemarle Battery which was built in 1899 and was used during both World Wars. Named after George Monck, duke of Albemarle, who Charles II sent to Sheerness to consolidate the defences after the Dutch Fleet attacked Sheerness and the Medway.
During World War One it mounted four 12-pounder guns, two 6-pounder Hotchkiss heavy anti-aircraft guns and Coastal artillery searchlights. The search light emplacements still survive today. Throughout World War Two the WW1 Artillery was still in place at Albemarle Battery.
Queenborough Lines, defensive moat and rampart protecting Sheerness Dockyard and Naval Base from landward attack.
Area in red has been destroyed.
Messerschmitt BF 110 as flown by 19 year old pilot Heinz Jaeckel.
26 Feb 1941 the 1st Canadian Light Ack Ack were to replace the 35th and 12th Light AA regiments.
Flying Bombs, Buzz Bombs, Doodlebugs, V1’s they called them, known to the Germans as Kirschkern (cherry stone) Hitler’s new terror weapon and they were heading towards London with 850 kg (1,870 lb) of high explosives in their warhead. Faster than most planes they made a strange warbling noise. If you could hear them, you were safe but if the noise stopped it was coming down right on top of you. From their launching ramps on the French coast the first one was targeted at London on the 13 June 1944.
More than a hundred a day fell on London and the South East of England, totalling more than 9,521, destroying and killing indiscriminately.
To counter the V1 anti-aircraft batteries were hurriedly installed across the South east of England to Protect London. Known as Divers Battery’s, (Divers was the code for the V1) a number of these were sited on Sheppey. They had considerable success when upgraded to include gun laying radar and an analogue computer anti-aircraft predictor fire-control system.
Divers Battery’s, set up to protect London from attack by the V1 rockets, were mobile unite and often deployed in a number of locations as and when required.
13, DIVER BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref.TS29)
In July 1944 this Divers Battery heavy anti-aircraft Battery was established in the grounds of what is now Oasis Academy on Minster Road. It was armed with eight 3.7-inch Mark IIc guns and manned by 176 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment.
This battery was also deployed off the A249 close to Kings Ferry Gun Club.
14, DIVER BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref TS31)
On the July 26th 1944 this battery was deployed in the Minster Marshes. It was armed with eight 3.7-inch Mark IIc guns and manned by the by 115 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment.
It was later redeployed to TQ944711 a field behind the Rugby Club along the lower road.
15, DIVER BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref F7)
On 13th August 1944 this battery was deployed at Minster on Sea, along the Lees. It was armed with six 20mm guns. It was later redeployed on 28th August 1944 to TQ993907 to Foulness Island across the Thames Estuary.
16, DIVER BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref TS1)
On July 26th 1944 this battery was Site Minster on Sea, off Scrapsgate Road. It was armed with eight 3.7-inch Mark IIc guns and manned by 28th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade.
17, DIVER BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref TS37)
On 28th August 1944 this battery was located on the cliffs off Plough Road and was armed with eight 3.5-inch guns.
18, LIGHT ANTI AIRCRAFT (DIVER) BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref F4)
On the 28th August 1944 this Battery was located on the cliffs at the end of Imperial Avenue, Minster. It was armed with four 40mm and sixteen 20mm guns. The battery was also deployed across the Thames Estuary at TR016911 on the coast of Foulness Island.
19, LIGHT ANTI AIRCRAFT (DIVER) BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref F6)
On 28th August 1944 this battery was located along the Lees at Minster on Sea. It was armed with four 40mm guns and was manned by 2828 RAF Regiment.
20, DIVER BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref TS52.)
Late in the war in March 1945 this Battery was located on the Lees, Minster-on-Sea close to the Player. It was armed with four 3.7-inch Mark IIc guns equipped with Predictor AA No.10 Mark 1, and Radar AA No.3 Mark V. It was manned by 495 Battery of 143 (Mixed) Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment.
21, DIVER BOX DIVER BATTERY, Anti-V-1, (Historic England Ref TS31)
On 26th July 1944 this battery was positioned on Southlees Marshes. It was armed with eight 3.7-inch Mark IIc guns and was manned by 115 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment which formed part of 28 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade. It was redeployed here from TQ925696, off the old Ferry Road, near Kings Ferry Bridge.
BOMBING DECOY SITES.
Harty Ferry was the location of a “Q” or “Bombing Decoy” Site, during World War Two. All that survives today is a concrete bunker.
The remains of the Revelin Wall (in red) today, off Tesco roundabout.
TWO: We have all driven past this thousands of times and like me most of you would not have known it was there. Here it is, a perfect (except for the rubbish inside) Anderson Air-raid Shelter from World War Two.
Mobile triple 20mm Oerlikon gun during an anti-aircraft artillery demonstration at Sheerness, 2 July 1943. (A number of photographs of artillery from the Imperial War Museum state the location as Sheerness. This is thought to be in the general area of Sheerness, somewhere on Sheppey.)
BATTRIES POSITIONED ON SHEPPEY. (Coastal Defence and Anti-Aircraft)
1, GARRISON POINT BATTERY.
2, ALBEMARLE BATTERY.
3, CENTRAL BASTION BATTERY.
4, NO.1 BASTION BATTERY.
5, RAVELIN COASTAL BATTERY.
6, BARTON POINT BATTERY.
7, CANAL BATTERY.
8, FLETCHER BATTERY.
9, SHELLNESS BATTERY.
10, HEAVY ANTI AIRCRAFT BATTERY THAMES AND MEDWAY. TS21 (Historic England Ref).
11, NAVAL RECREATION GROUND HEAVY ANTI AIRCRAFT BATTERY.
12, RAF EASTCHURCH.
13, DIVER BATTERY. TS29 (Historic England Ref.)
14, DIVER BATTERY. TS31 (Historic England Ref.)
15, DIVER BATTERY, F7 (Historic England Ref).
16, DIVER BATTERY, TS1 (Historic England Ref).
17, DIVER BATTERY, TS37 (Historic England Ref).
18, DIVER BATTERY LIGHT ANTI AIRCRAFT, F4 (Historic England Ref).
19, DIVER BATTERY LIGHT ANTI AIRCRAFT, F6 (Historic England Ref).
20, DIVER BATTERY TS52, (Historic England Ref).
21, DIVER BATTERY TS31, (Historic England Ref).
Multiple launcher “Z” Rocket Battery.
By 1942, 2.4 million rockets were being produced annually.
To defend the vital Thames sea lanes, to repel invasion from the sea and retaliate against attack from the air, Sheppey bristled with gun batteries. Many of the gun batteries used in WW1 were upgraded and used again in WW2.
During WW1 a chain of coastal and inland defences, pillboxes, gun emplacements and anti-aircraft gun emplacements were constructed. These were known as the Chatham Land Front and divided into three areas, the central sector being Sheppey. Along the Sheppey coast stretching from Sheerness to Shellness there were 14 redoubts and 16 concrete pillboxes armed with Vickers machineguns. The pillboxes covering Eastchurch and Laysdown airfields were manned by the Royal Flying Corps.
Battery, Observation Post and Extended Defence Officer Post. The Extended Officers Post controlled the minefield defending the Medway Channel. Additional concrete structures have been built on top of the Martello’s for WW2.
The eastern Martello tower, the one to the left in the above photograph, was used as an observation post. The western Martello tower, the one on the right in the photograph, was the Extended Defence Officer’s Post commanding the controlled minefield in the Medway approach.
The missing guns were soon replaced and for the remainder of the Second World War the Central Bastion battery was armed with two 6-inch guns and two light anti-aircraft guns. The ground was built up in southern corner of the battery to mount a direction finder.
4, NO.1 BASTION BATTERY
Number One Bastion Battery, as the name suggests, is positioned on number One Bastion of the old fortifications of Sheerness Lines. It is located across the canal (the Sheerness Lines Moat) opposite Tesco’s behind the Dockyard fence. Built in 1940 it has two casemated emplacements for 6 inch guns and a Second World War Spigot mortar emplacement.
Covered Walkway at Rifle Range, Barton’s Point.
7, CANAL BATTERY
Two QF, One Pound, Pom Pom, Anti-aircraft guns. were positioned at the canal crossing during WW2. These would also be used to protect the canal crossing against land attack. The base plates are still there today.
(8, FLETCHER BATTERY.
Now less than a hundred yards from the cliff’s edge, Fletchers Battery is situated north of Eastchurch.
During WW1 Fletcher Battery was armed with two 9.2in. BL guns on barbette mountings. A third 9.2in gun emplacement was added to the eastern side of the battery during WW2.
Steel Base for Static 3-inch Anti-Aircraft Gun, as sited on earth rampart of Queenborough Lines. (Canal Bank near road causeway)
Anderson Air-raid Shelter, WW2, situated off Docks roundabout.
Of the few remaining examples of Anderson Shelters most are situated on private property, but this is easily accessible just behind the Peel Ports sign near the moat off the Sheerness Docks roundabout.
6, BARTON POINT BATTERY.
Completed in 1891, Barton Point Battery was equipped with two 9.2-inch Mk. VI and two 6-inch Mk. IV breech-loading guns. During the First World War it also operated as a heavy anti-aircraft battery armed with two 6-pounder Hotchkiss and one 3-inch gun.
During WW2 it was the site for two artillery searchlights and a machine gun emplacement. The emplacement was hexagonal and made of concrete with a south facing entrance, no evidence of this emplacement remain today.
Across the Queenborough Lines canal there was a firing range. The covered walk can still be seen today. In dry weather the 300 yard and 200 yard firing steps can be seen. At the 200 yard firing step there remains a stone with "200" engraved into it.
Bunker of “Q” Site at Harty Ferry.
Since the start of WW2 decoy sites known as “SF” or “Starfish” sites (SF stands for Special Fires) were positioned outside of major towns. Fires were started to suggest to a pilot viewing from above that a town had been hit by incendiary bombs and was burning. Follow up waves of German aircraft were deceived into releasing their bomb loads over empty countryside instead of over inhabited towns where there were important manufacturing plants.
The name “Q” Sites comes from the Royal Navy's use of "Q" ships which were armed ships disguised as merchant vessels. The ships were nicknamed Q-ships after the original 'Q' numbers given to these special service decoy vessels.
Types of decoy bombing sites were:
“K” sites. Day sites of false RAF Airfields which include imitation buildings and dummy aircraft and were not very effective.
“Q” sites. Night sites of false RAF Airfields with replicated flare paths of runways and were effective. These were also used as Royal Navy, port and dockyard decoys.
“QF” sites. Diversionary fires sites. This is the type at Harty Ferry.
“QL” Sites. Night time sites simulating urban lighting, replica factories and buildings.
“SF” or “Starfish” sites. Special Fires to distinguish them from the smaller QF sites. “SF” sites were built to deflect enemy bombing from cities and large towns.
The Royal Navy dawdled with the innovation of Decoy Sites until Rear-Admiral Harris from Harwich pointed out that a lot of German bombs had fallen around Brightlingsea and that German Aircraft were mistaking the Estuary of the Clone and Blackwater rivers for the similarly shaped estuary of the Orwell and Stour rivers. The German planes were being decoyed away from the strategically important Navy Base at Harwich.
A “Q” Site was quickly built at East Mersea (opposite Brightlingsea) to decoy German Aircraft away from the Naval Base at Harwich.
On Sheppey a “Q” Site was built at Harty Ferry to divert night bombers away from their intended targets of Chatham Dockyard.
A “Q” Site to divert bombers away from Sheerness Dockyard and Naval Base was sited just across the Swale from Harty Ferry at Graveney and Cleve Marshes.
Elaborate arrays of muted lights, intended to look like the lights of ships reflecting on water were set up around estuaries and ponds to resemble dockyards and ships during a blackout when viewed from the air. Sequences of controlled oil fires, operated from a bunker were lit during an air raid to look like a target struck by bombs.
Before leaving the Defences around the Navel Garrison and Dockyard two absolute gems should be mentioned.
ONE: The Ravelin Wall. Built as part of the Sheerness Line defences in 1816, the Ravelin Wall is a brick built musketry wall, 0.74 metres thick and 2.42 metres high, pierced by gun loops covering the approaches to the Ravelin.
The Ravelin was a triangular fortification, located in front of the inner works of the Sheerness Lines protecting the bridge across the moat. It had a narrow ditch in front and a wide moat behind and was surrounded by a wall with loop holes for muskets.
“Q” Station Decoy Site for Chatham Dockyard at Harty Ferry.
Tanks containing paraffin (or diesel) and tanks containing water were located on the tops of towers with valves much like toilet flushes used to release fuel on to burning coal. Alternately oil in troughs were ignited with electric remotely controlled detonators. Once well burning, water would be released. This created an instant fire ball (much like pouring water into a chip pan) engulfing the area in black smoke. The fires were then drench with water to send a column of steam into the night sky. From the cockpit of a German Bomber this looked like a realistic bombing raid with bombs hitting their target.
Of the 630 Decoy Bombing Sites built during World War Two very little now survives as most was cleared after the war.
Number Bastion 6inch Gun emplacement on Number One Bastion. The concrete roof is designed to break up it outline making it harder to see.
5, RAVELIN COASTAL BATTERY,
Completed in 1905 as part of the River Medway Costal Defence’s it was mounted with two huge 9.2 inch mark X guns during WW1. When these guns fired it broke windows in Sheerness.
A newspaper of the time records “ In Sheerness the workmen live in the daily anticipation that their houses will be shaken to their foundations by the firing of the 9.2 in. guns of the Ravelin Battery, which was constructed about 10 years ago in the centre of the town. Fallen ceilings, broken windows, and structural "settlements" are of frequent occurrence. Beach Street, occupied principally by Dockyard workers, is within a stone’s throw of the battery, and when the gun’s fire windows are broken by the dozen and ceilings come down.”
Unidentified object possibly a spotlight for the WW2 road block or an air-raid siren mount. (Wrong type of spigot for a spigot mortar mount)
Should you walk along the top of the grassy bank (the Rampart) instead of along the tarmac path below, you will observe a number of WW1/WW2 artefacts.
Hidden beneath your feet a bricked up air-raid shelter, or bunker.
A round concrete block with a bolt on top. This at first appears to be a Spigot Mortar base, but the “Spigot” is incorrect. The indentation possibly for an electric wire and switch box would suggest it is a mount for a spotlight or air-raid siren.
A second air-raid shelter or bunker.
Two metal base plates for Anti-aircraft guns. These are believed to be QF, One Pound, Pom Pom, Anti-aircraft guns. These anti-aircraft guns were used as early as 1914. Continuous upgrading assured that these guns were still effective at the outbreak of war in 1939. It was originally designed in the 1880 by Sir Hiram Maxim with the intent of producing a long range rapid fire gun with explosive projectiles. Turned down by the British Government, they were first used in the Transvaal against British troops! The AA guns on Queenborough Lines (the canal) are naval versions with a pedestal deck mount to be installed on steel beds by sixteen bolts securing the gun to its base.
Calibre: 1.457 inch
Length: 73.5 inches
Length of bore: 43.5 inches
Ammunition: High explosive 1pound
Charge weight: 1 ounce of cordite
Cartridge: Short neck brass case
Case Length: 3.7inches
Case Diameter: 1.7 inches
Barton’s Point Battery, Anti-aircraft Gunnery Training School and Rifle Range.
At Barton Point Battery there was a Training School for Naval Anti-Aircraft Gunnery which operated from 1938 to the late 1960s. The training establishment included a large temporary accommodation camp, permanent offices, mess and a range control tower, together with both dummy and live anti-aircraft artillery firing out to sea. The office, mess and control tower are still in use today.
Type of soldier and guns at Fort Townshend.
In 1781 at Fort Townshend the King’s Well was being dug. It would be continued to be dug for a year and a month.
With the nearest reliable supply of clean water being at Queenborough (the well in the demolished castle grounds) a supply of fresh water was essential for the Docks and so that “warships might be provisioned” as per the Naval Boards requirements.
The work to dig a well began on the 4 June 1781 and finished on the 4 July 1782.
“At 328 feet water began oozing from the clay. At 330 feet deep the whole bottom of the well blew up. It was with difficulty that the workmen escaped. Water which was mixed with quicksand following them and rose forty feet from the bottom of the well. The water rose in six hours 189 feet and in a few days to within eight feet of the top of the well. The circumstances are fortunate for the soldiers of the garrison as they will not be liable to complaints that are so frequent amongst troops.”
Today Fort Townshend, like most of our Island heritage has been destroyed.
There are not many of us, having lived on the Islands most of our lives, have heard of Fort Townshend.
Fort Townshend was built 1780 to defend Sheerness Naval Base and Dockyard. Fortified with cannons and garrisoned by “Redcoats” who were armed with muskets, Fort Townshend was situated in the area between the gnome factory and the disused railway lines to the Docks which cross the Brielle Way.
Ravelin Battery WW1 with two 9.2 inch guns. (Today, it is Tesco Car Park)
Site of Fort Townshend 1780
In 1780 George III was King of England. A year later General Cornwallis surrendered at the siege of Yorktown, in the American Colonies, to the combined forces of the American Continental Army and French Army. Shortly after the American War of Independence came to an end.
Fort Townshend was of the “Star” or “Bastion” design. With the introduction of cannon, Star Forts were first built in Italy where they were known as Trace Italienne. In the star fort design there are no blind spots and it is built of triangular bastions, specifically designed to cover each other. Defensive walls were made lower and thicker with an earth bank in front to absorb the power of the cannon ball. To offset the lower walls, which were easier to climb, wide ditches were built around Star Fort.
The basic requirements of a fort in the age of gunpowder were
1, Low flat ramparts to serve as platforms for artillery.
2, To be able to withstand the impact of enemy shot.
3, A moat and wall sufficiently robust to prevent enemy incursion.
4, Design in such a way as to leave no blind spots were the enemy can reach the wall.
Fort Townshend met all the requirements of a Trace Italienne or Star Fort
Single launcher “Z” Rocket Battery.
Because of the inaccurately of the Single launcher and the poor effectiveness of the proximity fuses Multiple launcher were quickly introduced. These could fire rockets in large salvos with devastating effects.
1 pound Anti-Aircraft Gun, as sited on the earth rampart of Queenborough Lines. (Canal Bank near main road causeway)
One of the two Magazines along Queenborough Lines (the canal) built in 1859 and last used during WW2 (1939 to 1945)
In addition to the know fixed armaments there were also mobile artillery, anti-aircraft search lights, barrage balloons and the first ever Rocket Battery.
Z BATTERY OR ROCKET LAUNCHERS.
One of the first four “Z” or “U.P.” (Unrotated Projectile) Rocket Batteries was installed at Sheerness in 1940.
The Z Battery was a short range anti-aircraft weapon system, which launched 3-inch (76 mm) rockets from ground-based single and multiple launchers, at enemy aircraft.
These rockets were developed at Fort Halstead which is situated on the top of the North Downs, overlooking Sevenoaks. The base became home to the Projectile Development Establishment, and later was the headquarters of the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment.
Amongst the staff at Fort Halstead was the noted scientist William Penney. Penney grew up in Sheerness, Kent, where he attended Sheerness Technical High School for Boys. He was the principal scientist on the Manhattan Project in the USA which developed the first Atomic bomb. He later went on to help develop the British nuclear bomb.
Because the Z battery rocket launcher were comparatively simple to work they could be operated by the Home Guard. The upper age limit to work on Z Batteries was 60, because of its lighter ammunition.
3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns. Some battery's were armed with eight of these guns.
11, NAVAL RECREATION GROUND HEAVY ANTI AIRCRAFT BATTERY.
Situated in the Navel Recreation Ground on New Road Sheerness this WW1 Anti-aircraft battery was armed with two 6-pounder Hotchkiss guns.
12, RAF EASTCHURCH.
On the 1St May 1940 the 46th Light Anti-aircraft battery was replaced by RAF personnel. After Eastchurch was bombed the 35th and 12th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiments were sent to RAF Eastchurch on the 16th August 1940.
During the Air Raid many of the pilots on hearing the order to scatter rescued their most precious possession, their cars, and drove them to near-by Norwood Manor.
Almost immediately 12th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment were successful when two days after their arrival on the 18th August 1940, a Messerschmitt BF 110 having been damaged by Squadron Leader Manston of 56 Squadron over Clacton flew low over RAF Eastchurch. The 12th Anti-aircraft opened fire with Bofors and the Messerschmitt BF 110 crashed near Leysdown. The Radio Officer, T. Rutters survived the crash and was taken prisoner, the pilot, Heinz Jaeckel, only 19 years old was dead and later buried at in Leysdown Church Yard.
Fort Townshend showing the “new” Sheerness Lines (bastion’s one and two) in the process of being built. Number three bastion would be incorporated in Fort Townshend.
World War Two, coastal and anti-aircraft, Gun Battery's on Sheppey.
1, GARRISON POINT BATTERY.
Garrison Point Battery has the unique distinction of being the first place in the world to use guided missiles!
First introduced in 1887 the Brennan torpedo was launched from land and guided to its target by wires. In the spring of 1883 an experimental station was established at Garrison Point Fort, Sheerness where three conning positions for the Brennan torpedoes can still be seen today. Garrison Point Fort was also where Brennan torpedo operators were trained.
In 1939, before the outbreak of World War Two, two 6 inch guns were installed on the Roof of Garrison Point Fort and one six inch gun in front of the Fort. They were eventually removed eleven years after the war ended in 1956.
Queenborough Lines. Not just a canal, a 157-year-old Defensive Fortification.
The Queenborough Lines were last used during World War Two but were constructed much earlier when in 1859 a Royal Commission on the Defences of the United Kingdom recommended they be built to defend the Royal Naval dockyard at Sheerness from landward attack.
Their use during World War Two is still in evidence today. A concrete block and several anti-tank (dragon's teeth) traps used as a road block can be seen on both sides of the road causeway at its south end.
WW1 Machine Gun pillbox in front of Albemarle Battery, Sheerness.
9, SHELLNESS BATTERY.
Prior to WW2 Shellness was taken over by the military, the Coast Guard Station was turned into a strong point protected with barbed wire entanglements and four machine gun pillboxes which were shielded with sandbags. It was armed with two 6-inch breech-loading guns. A concrete ramp was added to a WW1 pillbox for a mobile search light. The Coastguard Look-out was converted into the Battery Observation Post and the hamlet of Shellness provided barrack accommodation for the officers of the nearby RAF Station at Eastchurch.
Fletcher Battery WW1