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Bernard Kelly

Shares his memories of Sheerness, the Floods and serving on the Red Sands Army Forts in 1953

Thames Estuary Army Forts ready for action 1943

1. One of the three sets of Thames Estuary Army Forts ready for action in 1943

Bernard Kelly right with his pal Yorkie

2. Bernard Kelly right with his pal Yorkie

Bernard & members of the 24th Heavy Artillery Group were based at Garrison Point Peninsula Fort, Sheerness the Isle-of-Sheppey, they acted as a one of the caretaker groups in the 1950's before the Forts were finally abandoned by the MoD in 1958

Thames Estuary Army Forts 1943

3. A set of Army Forts pictured in 1943

Thames Estuary Army Forts telescopic catwalk

4. Army Fort Telescopic Catwalk and Heavy Artillery Gun Tower pictured in 1943


Audio

Bernard Kelly remembers 1953 recorded at his Eastry home near Sandwich, Kent on 4th September 2017

Red Sands Forts Red Sands Forts

5 & 6. Red Sands Forts - G4 Tower, Control centre, Bofors left, G1 far left, G3 out of view far right

Garrison Point, Sheerness

7. Garrison Point Fort far right (Cambridge Air Photos)

Garrison Point is a natural peninsula ideal to place a fortification to defend the confluence of the Rivers Medway & Thames

Built of concrete, granite and brick, the construction of Garrison Fort at Sheerness began in 1861 where batteries had existed since the 16th Century, the Fort remained in use from 1872 - 1956

The Fort was reduced to care and maintenance in 1944 once the threat of invasion had diminished. Thereafter the Royal Navy Auxiliary Service took it over as an emergency port control centre in the event of nuclear war

In 1956 it was decommissioned and sold to the Sheerness Port

Garrison Point, Sheerness, April 2018

8. Garrison Point Fort on 22nd April 2018

Medway Ports Limited made some alterations to the listed scheduled monument, fitting radar to the roof in 1962, a vehicle ramp and a passenger walkway through the Casement for the Olau Ferries in 1977 that ran until falling into debt in 1980

In March 2016 Peel Ports announced they were moving Medway VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) to Liverpool this came into effect in April 2018

Address: Garrison Point, Garrison Road, Sheerness, Isle-of-Sheppey, Kent, ME12 1RS

Bernard recalls the big floods of 1953 when on the night of the 31st January and early hours of 1st February 1953 a combination of high Spring Tides, a huge tidal storm surge, high winds and waves overwhelmed the sea defences and much of the low lying regions of east coast

Regions of Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire & further afield, Scotland, the Netherlands and Belgium resulting in over 2,553 deaths

Orkney recorded winds of 126mph, the North Sea tidal surge exceeded 5.6 meters (18.4ft)

In the Britain over 160,000 acres of land was inundated with sea water and put out of use for years, property damage was estimated at £50 million in 1953 ( £1.5 billion 2017)

British frigate HMS Berkeley Castle F379 Capsized

9. British frigate HMS Berkeley Castle F379 Capsized by the 1953 flood waters lies on her side in Sheerness naval dockyard, she was scrapped (George Little)

HMS Sirdar

10. HMS Sirdar (1943 - 1965) sunk in the 1953 floods at Sheerness she was later re floated & refitted

Royal Engineers blow a gap in the seawall

11. Royal Engineers near to the Kingsferry Bridge blow a gap in the seawall to let the flood waters out

RAF Plane surrounded by flood waters in the Thames Estuary

12. RAF Plane surrounded by flood waters in the Thames Estuary (PA/PA Archive/Press Association)

Red Sands Forts

13. Red Sands Forts - G3, Control and Bofors Towers

Bernard remembers the starling murmurations in late 1953 when flocks of the birds gathered over the Forts before the roosting for the night beneath the Towers

Thames Estuary Army Forts at dusk 1943

14. Army Fort pictured at dusk in 1943

Thanks to Bernard for sharing his memories and Dave Phillips for his help providing additional material for this feature

For all the Red Sands Fort Radio Stations go to the ScrapBook Index

For a brief history of all the Thames Estuary Forts see Fort Fax

For the range of documentary CD's in the Offshore Radio, go to Offshore Shop

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