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Thames Estuary Maunsell Sea Forts Index by MoD alpha-numeric code:

U1 Roughs ................................................................. U2 Sunk Head

U3 Tongue ................................................................. U4 Knock John

U5 Nore .................................................................... U6 Red Sands

U7 Shivering Sands ............................................................................

This page is updated as new information becomes known & available

Issue 50: Updated : 4th October 2017

All calculations based on 1 nautical miles @ statute 1.15 miles

Map of British Defences

1. Map of British Defences

Introduction: The notion of defence Forts was planned in the 1920's a chain of Towers was planned across the Eastern approaches to the Solent just one Tower was constructed & remains to this day

See the NAB Tower in Afloat & Solent

Also view Pathe Britain Clip of one of the 'Mystery Towers' NAB Tower

NAB were The 2nd World War Naval Forts off the Kent, Essex & Suffolk Coastline were initially called Thames Estuary Special Defence Units No's 1-4 (TESD or TESDU's) which was changed to the the MoD code "Uncle" and subsequently given the abbreviation "U" followed by their number. More commonly these days the Forts are simply known as the Maunsell Sea Forts after their designer Guy Ansell Maunsell

Guy Maunsell

2. Guy Ansell Maunsell (1884 - 1961)

With the Luftwaffe dropping a new German Magnetic Influence Mine by parachute from Seaplanes on dissolving tallow lines, the mines sank to the sea bed to be detonated by the steel mass of passing ships

With resulting heavy shipping losses the Germans effectively had a stranglehold on London & the Eastern Seaboard

PS Medway Queen

3. PS as HMS Medway Queen part of a flotilla that patrolled Dutch waters

Something had to be done to stem the losses, the Admiralty commandeered old wooden pleasure paddle steamers, these were painted battleship grey, fitted with a 40mm Bofors Gun, patrolled the waters of the Thames Estuary, the Eastern Seaboard, North Sea coast and waters off Europe

Eric Woodroffe at Medway Queen Gun

4. Eric Woodroffe at the gun on HMS Medway Queen (Whitstable Times)

But a more permanent deterrent was needed to protect what was then the busiest shipping lane in the World. Originally there were to be 3 Martello style Forts placed strategically at 6 mile intervals across the Thames Estuary between Margate & Clacton

This was reduced to 4 Forts & after much consultation & amended criteria, Guy Maunsell came up with a new Naval Fort design for the Admiralty manned by Marines & Blue Jackets

To meet the special needs of the Admiralty & War Office 1: Break up enemy aircraft formations. Prevent laying of mines & E'boat shipping raids in coastal waters. Act as early warning outposts of hostile aircraft & release patrol vessels for other duties

Preparation: Surveys of the seabed were conducted to find flat level sites on 'earmarked' sandbanks. Grounding would be made during calm fair weather, with an infill of 500 tons of brick rubble and chalk dumped around the Fort to prevent erosion and under scouring

See the Tugs that towed out The Thames Estuary Sea Forts

The Naval Forts

Naval Fort Elevation

5. Naval Fort Elevation

These were the first design/construction: Their 24' diameter legs were built on a hollow 14' deep pontoons, at 4500 tons these monsters raised 110' from the sea-bed to the top of the radar to house, deck level was 75' above the sea-bed having an estimated weight of 4,500 tons

Exposed at sea the Forts would be open to attack by the enemy but Maunsell stated that the Naval Forts would, failing being struck by a ship or other object would last 200 years

The Naval Fort design was the basis for the Mulberry Harbours. Sinking large reinforced concrete structures onto an unprepared seabed hadn't been tried before. Examples of the Mulberry Harbour can be seen in Portland Harbour in Dorset

With an impressive build, fitting out & commissioning turn round of just 53 days the Naval Forts were towed out & grounded in around 40' of water with a tide range of approximately 20'

The 1st Fort took around 20 seconds to sink & a just 30 seconds to settle

The Forts were the first line of defence for spotting enemy aircraft, submarines & ships, with then state of the art radar prediction equipment

The Naval Forts were armed with two Vickers-Armstrong 3.7" static MK2c Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns at each end of the 110’ x 32’ deck. Woolwich Arsenal issued the specification in 1933, two designs were submitted in 1934, a trial gun was made & approved in 1936, the first production model delivered in 1938. They fired a 28lb shell @ 2,600 ft per second, had a maximum range of 20,600 yards horizontal & a velocity ceiling of 41,000 ft. By hand they could achieve 10, or by automatic loader 25 rounds per minute. The Forts also had two light 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft Guns; With a total weight 4368 lbs they had a barrel bore length of 7'38" With a 360 deg traverse & recoil of 8" they fired a 2lb shell at 2,700 ft per sec. Range was 10,800 yd's with a ceiling of 23,600 ft. The effective range & ceiling sought 5000 ft at 120 rounds per minute, Lewis Guns were also available. * Each Fort was Manned by 120 men: 90 Marines, 30 Sailors, 3 officers. The Officers living at deck level & the men on 4 of the 7 lower decks

* There are differing reports on manning initially said to be 100 men, 96 ratings, 3 Officers & 1 NCO

The Naval Forts never, as some believe had proper Air Conditioning, but the air was heated in cold weather by oil fired boiler within the main deck, known as the 'Bridge' and circulated by a huge electric Boxer style fan throughout the Fort

The deckhouse contained the CO’s (Commanding Officers) cabin, a cabin for three other officers, washrooms, and toilets and on the outside a meat and bread locker

The deck above had two Bofors Guns, with sponsons (wings), which had direction and height predictors for the AA Guns. A 27’ Whaler & Sea Motor Boat were slung below the wings. Hastily made V shaped steel framed and wooden decked ‘Dolphins’ were fitted to each Naval Fort to aide tendering

Two centrally place tanks contained 5,000 gallons of fresh and 1,600 gallons of salt water. Electric hoists conveyed ammunition from the magazines, to the open-ended main deck

The deck above housed the Control Room, which had plotting table, voice pipes and telephones for communication with the guns, sister Forts* and shore. Radio transceivers and control panel for the Type 273 Radar Dishes & S.L.C radar antennas above. Outside two Bofors predictors with four Lewis Guns later removed & replaced with Twin Browning .303 Guns

Manned by Royal Marines under Naval RNVR Officers. Naval Sergeants, Corporals & Ranks basic trained at various UK Naval Schools

Conditions for the ratings on the Naval Forts wasn't so good with crew, forced to spend long periods below Naval Crews were persuaded to take up hobbies: Painting & Drawing, Model Making, Tapestry, Knitting were all to help stay off the dreaded "Fort Madness" a condition diagnosed by medics in the latter part of the war

North Leg

7. (G) Lowest deck Oil & Fuel & sump

6. (F) Navel Store & Magazine with fire flooding facility

5. (E) Accommodation for 12 men, with 6 double bunks, tables, benches, mess racks & cupboards. Drainage & pumping sea water at this level was accomplished by a 3” pipe

4.(D) 3.(C) 2. (B) Accommodation as 5 (E)

1.(A) Engine room with 2 x Gardiner 30kVa generators, switchboard & workbench, the second generator being a stand-by unit

South Leg

Followed a similar the same pattern to the North Leg with following differences:

7. (M) (G) 500 gallon fresh water tank & an electric L.E.C refrigerator

6. (L) (F) Provision store, Magazine with fire flooding facility

1. (H) (A) Reserve 30kVa Gardiner generator, switching, workbench and canteen

Navy ratings had 6 weeks turn of duty with 10 days leave, and 3 days at shore base

The Roughs U1 & Sunk Head U2 crews off Essex were billeted at HMS Badger in Nissen Huts in railway sidings at Parkestone Quay, Harwich, Essex

‘HMS Wildfire’ Naval crews from Tongue U3 & Knock John U4 were accommodated at Sheerness Docks in former Napoleonic buildings

Interesting pictures at Wildfire 1 Forums at Wildfire 2

The Army Forts

The Army also needed Forts to break up heavy bomber formations using the Thames as a navigation aid to London's Docklands. In the North of England, Liverpool was also seen as a target by the enemy. Initial model trials were conducted off Southend Pier & samples of seabed in the Mersey Bay taken resulting in a completely new design of Fort

The Mersey Bay off Liverpool were to get 3 sets of Heavy Anti-Aircraft (AA) Army Forts constructed by the Cleeveden Bridge Company

Army Fort Plan

6. Army Fort Plan

The specification the Army Forts comprised 7 Towers each weighing an estimated 580 tons: Control (Command) Bofors, Searchlight & 4 x 3.7" Gun Towers spaced at around 100 feet apart in a similar formation to a shore Anti-Aircraft Battery linked by telescopic catwalks

Army Fort Plan Legend

7. Fort Plans with perspective from the North Kent (UK)

Bottom is South to top North - Legend: (a) Control Tower (b) Bofors Gun Tower (c) Searchlight Tower (d) Tubular Steel Bridges (e) 3.7 inch Gun Towers

War Office Army Fort Construction Plan

8. War Office Army Fort Construction Plan

Slung between a pair of Tugs the Army Forts were lowered rather than sunk in position which took up to eight hours to accomplish

The Bofors Tower was sited first to offer protection as the following Towers were completed, taken out & lowered

War Office Thames Estuary Army Fort Plan

9. War Office Fort Army Plan showing Thames Estuary Gun Tower numbering

N.B Numbering of the Liverpool Bay Mersey Fort Gun Towers was Counter-Clockwise

Sunk at slack tide in around 40' of water they rose 117' from the sea-bed to their top. Wartime personnel access was normally by ladder, the first climb of 10'onto the landing stage, 25' to the second stage level & a further 25' into the Fort

Initially three Mersey Forts 1, 2 & 3 were sunk off Liverpool Bay, between 7th October - 25th July 1943 & came under control of No 33 Anti-Aircraft Brigade, 4 AA Group

The first Mersey Fort No 3 was taken over by No 637 Independent HAA Battery, within 28 Brigade, 2 AA Group formed on 26th February 1943 to operate the three Mersey Forts

In March 1943 lack of activity dictated the transfer of the unit to the imminently ready Thames Forts on 10th March 1943 to their new HQ at the Drill Hall, Springfield Road, Northfleet, Kent transferring to The Drill Hall, Watling Street, Gillingham, Kent on 23rd June 1943 responsible for U6 Red & U7 Shivering Sands. On 23rd July 1943 they were formed into No 1 Anti-Aircraft Fort Regiment RA

Meanwhile 585 HAA Battery was assigned to take on the Mersey Forts manning just the Bofors & Searchlights

Bofors Towers; also the Galley/Mess Tower were positioned first defending the site as the other 6 Towers followed to be lowered into placed. The Bofors & Searchlight Towers as had four steel tanks slung beneath the lower level floor containing 500 gallons of fuel 2000 gallons for each complex. The Gun & Control Towers had a 2,000 gallon fresh & 1,000 gallons salt-water tank. ‘Crittal’ made the windows fitted with ‘black-out’ Shutters & Louvre's. Solid fuel boilers provided hot water and warmed the radiators throughout each Tower. Again three 30 kVa Gardiner Generators plus an extra 11 kVa set to supply the complex crane hoists, guns, searchlights, signaling, radio and radar, Trinity House navigation signals, domestic and refrigeration equipment were on the Searchlight Tower

An 14’ open ‘clinker’ wooden motor lifeboat was slung beneath the Control Tower provisioned with three months reserves. Carley floats & life buoys were distributed around the complex

Proposals to construct Forts off the Humber, Portsmouth & Rosyth, Belfast & Londonderry never materialized

In the difficult ever shifting seabed conditions of the Mersey Estuary, the Liverpool Bay Forts were demolished soon after the war

The Army Forts were fitted with four later model MK6 3.7" Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns manned by an NCO & five men. Automated firing of up to 30 rounds a minute was achieved via the Control Tower. Each complex had two 40mm Bofors Guns

Royal Engineers, Royal Signals, Medical Corps, Army Catering & Naval Units for challenging vessels entering Fort zones by Aldis Lamp all served aboard the Forts

* A full compliment being 4 Officers, 9 Sergeants & 121 Ranks (134) This increased at the height of the war to 6 Officers, 11 Sergeants & 185 Ranks (202) but it's believed that at one stage a compliment of 265 occupied Shivering Sands

Army Crews spent a month at sea then two weeks ashore

* Manning varied with reports of compliments being 120 & 165 at various stages

Conditions were comfortable with plenty of light, oil fired central heating, daily hot salt water baths & excellent food & prepared in the Control Tower Cook House

Air Spotters (Lookouts) scurried down the ladders to retrieve flotsam, for hobbyists. Old rope was spliced coloured & made into slippers, wood most sought after was made into model boats in the Royal Engineers Workshop

Supplies of ammunition, diesel fuel, freshwater, mail & stores was a minimum of once a week. In clement weather daily supply ships weren't uncommon

Where are the Sea Forts

10. Where are the Thames Estuary Sea Forts?

Thames Sea Fort Locations

11. Locations of the Thames Estuary Naval & Army Sea Forts

All of the Forts were were were all built of reinforced concrete & steel & aligned in a North-South direction

The Thames Forts were supplied by R.A.S.C. Water Transport Company, Sheerness

The Thames Estuary Naval & Army Forts were all constructed at Red Lion Wharf on the lower reaches of the Thames at Gravesend in Kent, by Holloway Brothers (London) Ltd using semi-skilled labour

The project was overseen by appointed resident engineer John A Posford, who became a partner in the Maunsell Company on 6th April 1944 as reward for his diligent work on the project

Sarasota Herald Evening Independent Spokane Daily Chronical

12. Sarasota Herald Tribune 2nd October 1944 13. Evening Independent 2nd October 1944 14. Spokane Daily Chronical 3rd October 1944

 Together the Thames Estuary Forts are accredited to shooting down 22 enemy planes, 30 "Doodle Bug" V1 flying bombs

A German E-Boat operating out of Ijmuilden Holland was also claimed by Tongue Fort

Telegraph Mapple Leaf

15. Telegraph Ori 14th October 1944 16. Maple Leaf 12 February 1945

17. Video: The Forts in 1944

Following May 3rd V.E Day Celebrations, on the 14th June 1945 soon after the declaration of the end of the war, the Forts were decommissioned & placed on care & maintenance

18. Video The Army Forts in 1948

Serviced by the Motor Fishing Vessel MFV 1037 of Harwich attached to HMS Wildfire, crews aided by civilians spent 4 weeks aboard before being relieved & spending between 7-14 days ashore. The Naval Towers were considered briefly for use by Trinity House for Lighthouses but this came to nothing. In 1956 the Ministry decided the Forts were of no further use, but continued to man the Forts for another two years with caretaker crews, they were to finally leave all the Forts & Towers by 1958 abandoning them to their own fate & the elements

Deserted before the Pirates rediscovered them in 1964 the Forts were scavenged for scrap metal & useful items by fishermen & others

The Naval Towers in particular were targeted for their brass portholes & fittings

The Army Forts had their Guns, Searchlights, Radar & other military paraphernalia removed by the MoD

The Naval Forts had their Bofors Guns & Radar removed, but for some unknown reason, perhaps their older vintage, their 3.7" Guns were left behind, minus their breech blocks

In July 1992 a team of RAF & Royal Engineers from Chatham in a Chinook helicopter removed the 3.7" Guns from Knock John & Tongue Sands, one went to New Tavern Fort Gardens at Gravesend the rest to a museum in Scapa Flow. Ray Hughes, formerly of Herne Bay had proposed a training scheme in which he'd get the guns without cost for display, as Scapa Flow's own had long gone

A good many people have the romantic notion that the Radio Pirates left the Forts like a deserted house

That's not the case, virtually everything has been removed from the Forts

In the 1990's the Forts were used for a period by the SAS for simulated oil rig assault training

The Army Forts were provided principle designs for Oil Sea Drilling Rigs

The Sea Forts U1 - U7 in Detail

Roughs Fort

19. Fort 1 U (Uncle) 1: Roughs Naval Tower - Sealand (1968)

Roughs Naval Fort "U1" pictured in 2000 grounded at 51 53'.40.8" N & 1 28.'56.7" E with telephone link to Languard Fort G.O.R, Harwich Naval Plot & Sunk Head

WGS 84 Chart Checks 1st March 2006: 51 53.71 N & 1 28.83' E Enduring snow & high winds towing the 100-foot high 4,500 ton mass the tugs had problems controlling the unwieldy fort. It hit a number of buoys the Thames Boom in place between Minster (Sheerness) on the Isle-of-Sheppey to Shoebury Essex. Roughs was the first Fort to be grounded on Wednesday 11th February 1942 & was sunk in 37 feet of water in just 15 minutes on the Roughs Sand, some 6.0 nautical (6.9) miles off the Felixstowe, Suffolk coast. In 1944 the compliment of men was reduced as the war turned in favour of the allies, a floor was converted into a library, recreation room. Decommissioned on 14th February 1945 Knock John was reduced to care & maintenance until 1956

Post war interest was shown in the Roughs as early as 1965, when on 11th August Jack Moore & his daughter Jane were onboard. They were acting on behalf of Radio Caroline who were said to have had potential investment from George Harrison & Mick Jagger amongst others, in a failed project to turn the fort into a fun palace & health complex. Something of a cover for an enterprise that was almost certainly broadcast related. The top house of the Fort had been cut away making a helicopter landing platform. Left for a period Roy Bates claimed the Roughs in December 1966, having closed down Radio Essex he'd decamped from Knock John some 24 nautical (27.6) miles away, a battle ensued over the occupancy of Roughs. Unattended briefly a boarding party from Radio Caroline grabbed the Fort back, they were forcefully removed by Roy Bates & his crew. With anti-pirate legislation going through Parliament, it's quite likely the Fort was taken in favour of continuing to use the Mi-Amigo, even then she was 45 years old or at least a potential supply dump for servicing both the Caroline South ship off Essex & North ship the MV Caroline off the Isle-of-Man. On the night of 27th June 1967 Caroline dispatched a team of raiders on the Offshore II from Harwich to get Bates off. The stakes were high, the Marine Etc Broadcasting Offences Act would become law on 14th August 1967, as one man tried to board petrol bombs & missiles rained down & he was left clinging to the ladder as the Offshore II pulled away. Walton-on-Naze lifeboat went out & after negotiations rescued the man. Police intervened but no charges were brought. Later in a helicopter raid by foreign investors Prince Michael was locked in his own Goal. Eventually released he was put ashore but returned mob handed to reclaim the Fort back. The squabble over ownership resulted in a German being held captive on Roughs. Exercising squatters rights & with the passing of time ownership, the Bates family have kept the Fort which is occupied to this day

20. Video: Sealand in 1969

On the 2nd September 1976 Roughs was declared the Independent Principality of Sealand, & today in many quarters is legally recognised as a the Worlds smallest Country. The idea to declare their Fort a Country was first muted by Dick Palmer to Roy Bates on a return trip from Knock John in the spring of 1966. Cutting it fine they'd left the Fort on a ebbing tide and gone aground on the middle sands close in view of the Red Sands Fort. Nothing more was thought about the passing comment until 1967

In the 1980's an American contingent invested in Sealand with an electronic haven: Haven Co. No one wanted the two 3.7" Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns so sadly in a mass clear-out were Unceremoniously tipped over the side

Other than one turntable removed earlier, all of the Radio Essex gear was also thrown overboard

A single transmitter output valve, & some paperwork left behind on Knock John to be saved in 1969, that's are all that physically survives of the brave little station

Navigate from ScrapBook Index for all our features on Radio Essex

Whilst no Radio station has ever actually broadcast from Roughs, they might. Plans have included a Television Relay, a Top 40 Station which was close to launch in the 1980's, & in 2006 a Transmitter, Generator & Versa Tower along with Studio equipment was purchased to set up two FM stations on Roughs, but unsurprisingly Sealand declined to house the proposed radio services

Whilst occupied to this day Roughs isn't wholly representative of how a Naval Fort looked when built, having had its Radar Top House & Control Tower removed in the 60's

On 23rd June 2006 thick black smoke was seen rising from Roughs Sealand on Fire A deck sited generator had caught fire which caused major damage to the Fort

9th January 2007 - Sealand Press Release, with Michael Bates on Regional BBC Anglia Television, announces Sealand are seeking investment, figures of up to a £10 million are floated

Navigate from ScrapBook Index for all the stories on the Principality of Sealand & plans of the Naval Forts

Take a look around & inside the whole of Roughs on our VCD Sealand the Grand Tour

Hear from Prince Michael of Sealand in the Sealand Adventure in our documentary

Sunk Head Fort

21. Fort 2 U2: Sunk Head Fort (1967)

Sunk Head Naval Fort "U2" was grounded at 51 46'.51" N & 1 30'.21" E for reasons unknown is sometimes referred to as Churchill One, others quote position as 51 46' 29" N 1 30' 26" E with telephone link to Languard Fort G.O.R, Harwich Naval Plot & Roughs

WGS 84 Chart Checks 1st March 2006: 51 46.63' N & 1 30.5' E at 9.74 nautical (11.2) miles from the nearest land at Frinton Essex, The Second Naval Fort was partly built by 26th March 1942 but delayed as the Admiralty were considering alternative Radar, this idea was dropped. After weeks delay & held by bad weather the fort was grounded at the maximum MLW (Mean Low Water) depth of 43 ft on 1st June, & was ready for action on 3rd June 1942. A distance out & close to the shipping lanes in June 1944 a violent storm took away the already damaged landing stage. Decommissioned on 14th June 1945 & reduced to care & maintenance until 1956; Trinity House considered taking over this Fort to mark the outer end of the Sunk Head Sands at the Barrow Channel. Mr J P Bowen of Trinity House had been on Tongue Fort when it was positioned, having surveyed both Tongue & the Sunk Forts he recommended that Trinity House only be prepared to take responsibility from the Admiralty as Lighthouses & nothing more. He sighted NAB Tower sunk in 1918 as a concern, this Tower had listed some 4 degrees & the worry was that any settling would upset the delicate lights, so the idea didn't come to fruition

The Fort was flooded in both legs to tide level with rising & falling tides, since each the legs is in dependant, it's thought that the sea-cocks had been open when abandoned by the MoD, it might be that some ammunition had been left below but unlikely

It's rumored that the Fort had been hit by an unnamed ship in the mid-1950's but we've been unable to substantiate this

Sunk though was used by Tower Radio/Radio Tower (see our feature) & a rumoured Tower TV Channel for 7 months between October 1965 - April 1966. Started by a Colchester TV dealer Radio Tower never launched properly, but weak tests were heard on various frequencies settling on 236 mmw up until 28th April 1966 . The much hyped TV broadcasts never materialised, out of money the team abandoned the Sunk Head leaving a virtually new generator & all the broadcast equipment behind

The Fort though was re-inhabited for a period by squatters C Payne of Bexley Kent & D Stoneham of London they'd no connection with broadcasting. They'd been on-board until their supplies were exhausted, lighting a fire seen by Walton & Frinton Lifeboat they were rescued on 9th November 1966

For the Sunk Head Radio Tower TV Story & pictures navigate from ScrapBook Index

Clearly well outside territorial waters & with no sand banks to bring it within UK jurisdiction, the Government were worried it might be taken over again. For a time there were stories circulating the Fort was being used for smuggling. Boarded on Friday 18th August 1967 by a contingent of the 24th Field Squadron of Royal Engineers from Maidstone from the Chatham Tug Collie, under the command of Major David Ives, the Fort was weakened by acetylene cutting torches. 3200 lbs of PE 4 plastic explosives were set, & on 21st August 1967 at just after 16.00 hours Sunk Head was blown up to prevent further use, & perhaps deter those on Roughs from becoming too complacent

The shock waves were felt in Harwich & the detonation noise carried over 12 miles, just a 20 feet of the leg stumps remain

22. Video: Sunk Head Destroyed

An undated collision occurred when an unnamed liquid gas carrier crashed into the leg remains resulting in significant hull damage

Tongue Sands Fort

23. Fort 3 U3: Tongue Naval Fort (1992)

Tongue Naval Fort "U3" pictured above just after it was said to have been sealed by welding* & the 3.7" guns pulled by RAF Manston in June 1992

* Evidence does not support sealing

Grounded on 27th June 1942 at 51 29'55" N & 1 22'.11" E also quoted as 51 29' 5" N 1' 22. 0" E with telephone link to Fort Luton G.O.R, Chatham Plot & Knock John

WGS 84 Chart Checks 1st March 2006: 51 29.57' N & 1 22.0 E some 5.5 nautical (6.32) miles off Margate. There are two versions of this story; On the night of 22nd/23rd January 1945 fifteen German E-Boats were seen on Radar, five close by, the S.119 or S.199 operating out of Ijmuilden, Holland was just over 4 miles away, coming under heavy fire from Tongue's 3.7" guns, unsure of from where the shelling came, the Captain maneuvered to avoid being hit & rammed another E-Boat, badly damaged he scuttled his vessel. Version two is that a plum of smoke & flames were seen by the deck observers on Tongue & reports that casualties were picked up & the E-Boat destroyed. Tongue was decommissioned on 14th February 1945 & reduced to care & maintenance. This Fort had settled badly & as a result became under scoured and unstable. On the 5th December 1947 the Fort shook violently & parts began falling into the sea. The caretaker crew put out a distress call & were rescued by HMS Uplifter. Divers later investigated & found the foundations solid, but in a storm shortly after the Fort rocked & took on a 15 degree list. The Margate Lifeboat evacuated 4 remaining men who were understandably eager to abandon

Caretaker crews were to return, but the Fort was finally abandoned in 1949 after its pontoon broke its back flooding the lower levels

Stripped of Bofors Guns & Radar however, much of the Forts paperwork & other items were left behind to appear later

Like Sunk Head Fort Tongue was briefly considered for use as a Lighthouse by Trinity House, but instead a lightship was moored close by until Trinity House began its programme of withdrawal in the mid-1980's

No Offshore Radio ever broadcast from Tongue, though Radio Essex from Knock John some 8 nautical (9.2) miles away considered using the Fort, they boarded in the summer of 1966 retrieving scrap to sell. By then under-scouring had further distorted the Fort. The ceiling of level (A) the generator room had partially collapsed & large holes had appeared in East leg which were big enough to crawl through. Sea water had flooded the lower levels & the platform had become detached with huge gaps between the deck

The Radio Essex team attracted attention, burning insulation from copper & lead plums of black smoke raised a call to the Coast Guard who allerted RAF Manston

A Search & Rescue Helicopter was dispatched & circled the Fort, soo after the Margate Lifeboat arrived & hailed the Fort. When confronted a quick thinking Dick Palmer shouted "We're a new radio station" and produced the name Radio Albatross promoting questions in the House of Commons about the arrival of more Radio Pirates. Amusingly, even though broke Roy Bates made noises in return saying he'd begin new stations Radio Kent & Radio Eros from the Knock John

Radio Essex scavenged metal benches, scrap metal & the ammunition hoist motor,which survives, firstly taken to Knock John then to Roughs in 1966

In June 1992 the 3.7" guns were pulled by Chinook Helicopters from RAF Manston. One of Tongues 3.7" Guns can be seen in the New Tavern Fort Gardens, Gravesend, the other joined the two from Knock John at Scapa Flow

Thames Naval Fort 3.7 HAA Gun

24. Thames Naval Fort 3.7 Heavy-Anti-Aircraft Gun at the Scapa Flow Museum & Visitor Cente at Lyness Naval Base

Tongue Forts damaged leg continued to distort & resulted in the collapse & loss of the whole Fort into the under scouring hole during overnight storms on February 21st & 22nd 1996, all that remains is a single 18 foot stump of the South leg

You can see Tongue Fort pictured during the mid-1980's with its heavily distorted leg in Caroline 83 & Eurosiege

A concise history of the Fort from 1942-1996 can be seen in Tongue Tower

You can read & hear more about the exploits of Radio Essex in our Radio Essex Gift Pack

Our DVD Sealand Grand Tour gives an in depth view of life on & inside a Naval Fort

Knock John Fort

25. Fort 4 U4: Knock John (2003)

Knock John Naval Fort "U4" 51 33'.72" N 1 09'.83" E is 4 nautical (4.6) miles from Shivering Sands Fort also given as 51 33’ .40” N 1 09’ 45” E with telephone link to Fort Luton G.O.R, Chatham Plot & Tongue

Pictured above just after it was said to have been sealed by welding* & the 3.7" again had her guns pulled by RAF Manston in June 1992

* Evidence does not support sealing

WGS 84 Chart Checks 1st March 2006: 51 33.74' N & 1 9.71' E grounded on 1st August 1942 around 8.75 nautical (10.06) miles from Foulness Island the nearest Essex coastline, & 16 nautical (18.41) miles from Southend its later Pirate Radio Station base. It was decommissioned on 14th June & evacuated on 25th June 1945 & reduced to care & maintenance until May 1956

Whilst negotiating the sale of the Radio City operation on Shivering Sands, to either Radio Caroline as a relay, & when that deal faltered to Radio London for the UKGM (United Kingdom Good Music) Station. Radio City planned to use the Knock John Fort for another radio station, they'd pressed ahead sending a small team to Knock John taking with them the redundant 188 metre Cossor Transmitter, a small Lister Generator & various other bits of broadcasting equipment. Radio Essex also had designs for the Fort, the net result was that respective crews were regularly deported off & on the Fort before an uneasy truce was reached. Radio Essex finally took full control & commenced testing on 27th October 1965 until 25th December 1966. Leaving on Christmas Day they took everything, & some parts they'd salvaged from Tongue Fort & Shivering Sands, 4 & 5 nautical miles away respectively, & set off for the Roughs 20 nautical (23.01) miles away off Felixstowe

Hear the whole story of the Radio City boarding in our documentary CD Radio City 2

For the story of Radio Essex see our Radio Essex Gift Pack

Navigate from ScrapBook Index for all our features on Knock John & Radio Essex

In June 1992 the 3.7" guns were pulled by Chinook Helicopters from RAF Manston for onward transportation to Scapa Flow

Map of Scapa Flow Visitor Centre & Museum

26. Map showing the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre Centre & Museum

A few minutes walk from the Lyness Ferry Terminal the museum is at the old Naval Lyness Fuel Pumping Station (HMS Proserpine) illustrates the importance of Scapa Flow in WWI & WWII

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre & Museum, Lyness, Hoy, Orkney, KW16 3NU (01856 791300)

10/09/09 - I am enquiring about the Knock John fort. I want to do a Facebook group for this fort & would like to let people know about the group. One question I have is in regards to it condition. I have read that it's pontoon has broke and that it's leg is leaning. I have not noticed this in any photo's. Can you enlighten me? I would like to raise awareness of this fort as it's the only one left, Sealand has been converted too much. I would be great if it could be preserved in some way along with Redsands. Regards, Mark Pedder

2009 - We have been out to the Knock John a number of times & notice a slight distortion of the legs when viewing the Tower from West to East. However, there is no evidence to support statements that the pontoon has broken its back. It's likely that underscouring is the cause of the discernable condition but even this could only be confirmed by underwater survey - Ed

Nore Bofors Tower

27. The Great Nore Bofors Tower

Nore Army Fort "U5" said to be at 51 25'.45" N & 0 50'00" E

WGS 84 Chart Checks on 16th March 2009: Converting co-ordinates from a 1940's Admiralty Chart (extract above) places the Great Nore Tower at 51 29.2' N & 0 52.2' E at the head of the Yantlet Channel before the now Sea Reach #1. The Nore Bofors Tower was the first of the Fort complex floated out on 20th May, lowered in 35 feet of water. All 7 Towers were sited by 3rd July 1943

1940's Admiralty Chart Zoom View

28. Admiralty Chart showing Nore Army Forts 1943

The Fort set positioned at approximately 3.2 nautical (3.68) miles from from the nearest land at a point between Shoebury & Havengore Creek. After hostilities ceased in May 1945 the Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery left in September & the Anti-Aircraft Fort Maintenance Detachment took over Nore until 1956. In 1948 the MoD visited the fort when considering a new design of Heavy Anti-Aircraft Fort comprising 9 Towers, by 1953 this proposal was deferred through cost. On 1st March 1953 a Swedish pulp carrier the 'Baalbek' ran into the Bofors & G4 Gun Tower killing 4 civilian crew, 6 other caretakers were taken ashore. Throughout the rest of 1953 ideas to continue using Nore as a defensive Fort in part by the PLO were muted

Glasgow Herald

29. Glasgow Herald 3rd March 1953

Nore Fort Searchlight Tower

30. Fort 5 U5: The Nore Searchlight Tower & submerged G2 in 1954

In late 1954 there was another collision when the 'Mairoula' crashed into the Great Nore Fort damaging a Towers reinforced concrete leg which was repaired

In 1955 with the Fort at the head of one of one of the Countries busiest shipping lanes, the War Office couldn't shun responsibility & decided that with no operational use the Nore Fort complex should be completely removed. In 1956 Armaments, Searchlights & Radar was lifted by floating crane barge & taken to Chatham Dockyard. The Fog Horn & remaining lighting was taken off in 1957

On 30th January 1958 with the Great Nore the only Fort within then UK Territorial Waters was deemed a hazard to shipping in the Thames approaches & so was dismantled between 1959 - 1960 The top house's were bought for scrap by Matthew Lynch & Son Ltd on the River Medway

31. Nore Fort bases (1992)

The reinforced concrete legs were blown off & their bases & towed ashore and discarded at Alpha Wharf near Cliffe Fort in Kent, pictured above in 1992. The rest of the debris was spread around the Nore Sand & traces of which can be seen on echo sounder

See our feature on the Great Nore Fort

32. Fort 6 U6: Red Sands Forts in 1965

Red Sands Army Fort "U6" second set of the Army Forts at 51 28'06" N & 0 59'06" E pictured above in June 1965

WGS 84 Chart Checks 1st March 2006: 51 28.6' N & 0 59.4' E at 5 nautical (5.75) miles from nearest land at Warden Point Isle-of-Sheppey, & 7 nautical (8.05) miles from Whitstable the Forts were floated out between July & November 1943

33. Video: Red Sands in 1943

11/3/11 - Charles Wolfe (aged 76 - G6HRY) of Bury St Edmunds spent a memorable short spell on the Red Sands Forts 'I was with 2nd Para, Colchester. We were sent out on an exercise, once alongside we scrambled up the landing stage then hauled our 25lb gun up in sections. The wind was howling, it rained then a proper storm broke with thunderclaps & lightning. Spent a week or so there, what dismal place. I was happy to get back to dry land'

Like the Great Nore it's equipment was removed & a short time to serve care & maintenance crew staying until 1956, the MoD finally decided to abandon the Forts in 1958

In 1959 consideration was given to re floating the Red Sands Forts & bringing them ashore, but the costs were cost prohibitive

Radio Invicta boarded & began testing from 3rd June 1964, following the tragic death of their owner Tom Pepper (Harry Featherbee) Radio Invicta became Radio K.I.N.G in March 1965 up until 22nd September 1965, initially identifying as coming from the Nore? (Clearly Lost Pirates) K.I.N.G's format & poor signal due to a bad antenna, failed to attract an audience. After considerable re-investment & the building of a new antenna mast, said to have been 297' in fact it comprised 15 x 10' sections (150') placed on top of 117' from sea bed Tower. In reality the mast could have been claimed to be 267' high but allowing 30' for mean tides was more like 237' high. The new station Radio 390 opened on 23rd September 1965. In 1966 a TV production crew went aboard Red Sands Fort along with lead actor Patrick McGoohan to partly film an episode of 'Danger Man' Patrick in as 'John Drake' was film running across the catwalks for scene setting & incidental footage

Middle Sand

34. Middle Sand

The Middle Sands (Beacon) is less than 3 miles from the low water shoreline & less than 2 nautical miles from Red Sands Forts. Shown above dry(ish) with Naval Officer Commander Mackay it was the 'proof' needed by the Government to bring the Red Sands Forts within the Territorial Waters. Radio 390 was susequently outlawed & finally closed on 28th July 1967

Their caretaker crew stayed until August & stripped the place completely, leaving nothing other than the "floating" wooden studios

The SciFi TV series Dr Who filmed part of the series 'Fury From The Deep' at Red Sands in 1968, the 'Tardis' lands in the North Sea & the Fort supposedly a gas drilling platform

Red Sands Development's Seatribe Project were in occupation in 1969, thereafter the Fort became abandoned for what we thought would be the last time!

Helicopter Filming Flame

35. Filming 'Flame' in 1975

Red Sands Bofors Tower

36. Red Sands Bofors Tower

Note: Red Sands Development Corporation signage

Close view Red Sands Bofors Tower

37. Close view of Red Sands Bofors Tower roof

In the late 1970's there were unconfirmed reports that either the PoLA (Port of London Authority) or at the bequest of the MoD Marines from Chatham threw grappling lines & pulled down the catwalks, though not substatiated

The action was to both prevent further use of the Fort & accidents, as visitors were again known to be going aboard the Forts

Almost by chance the accidental launch of a radio station from Red Sands came in 2007

The Fort was offered to a number of radio stations, most wanted to broadcast a very brief programme on a pre-ordained day at a designated time

Offshore Radio doesn't quite fit in with that! weather, tides, tenders and a whole host of aspects come into play so we decided to launch our own station Red Sands Radio

The commemorative broadcast began on 14th July 2007 forty years after the last transmissions from the Fort, a flavour of the station can be heard on the CD Life Live on Red Sands

Red Sands Radio was to go from strength to strength after returning from the Fort from 2008 at Whitstable Harbour since the Fort sustained winter storm damage that took away the heavy boat fendering

Navigate from ScrapBook Index for all the & Red Sand Features

The Offshore Shop has a range of Red Sands related Documentaries

Shivering Sands Army Fort "U7" third set of Army Forts at 51 29'95" N & 1 04'48" E

Shivering Sands Fort

38. Fort 7 U7: Shivering Sands Forts (1965)

WGS 84 Chart Checks 1st March 2006: 51 29.92' N & 1 4.8' E at 5 nautical (5.75) miles from Red Sands & 8 nautical (9.2) miles from nearest land at Herne Bay, & 8.75 nautical (10.06) miles from Whitstable were floated out between 18th September - 13th December 1943

39. Shivering Sands pictured above in the late 1980's

In the later part of the war the Shivering Sands had it's Searchlights removed, new equipment was installed & tested by the Radar Research Laboratory of Malvern. Again had later it's other equipment removed & a short time to serve care & maintenance crew staying until the MoD finally decided to abandon the Forts in 1958. Following the Great Flood of 3rd February 1953, the Port of London Authority (PLA) took over the isolated Searchlight Tower in the early 1960's installing automated wind & tide gauges. Some time after the Shivering Sands was used to conduct some radar prediction & special paint trials, an explanation to how well the fort had weathered

Abandoned but marked an all Navigation Charts it's surprising that on 7th June 1963 the Coaster Ribersborg collided with the G4 Gun Tower. In between the Searchlight & Control Tower the G4 Gun Tower was toppled which landed on deck before sliding into the sea, no one was hurt except the skippers pride & the ship limped away

David "Screaming" Lord Sutch the first to use the Forts for Pirate Radio began Radio Sutch on 27th May 1964. Initially an elaborate publicity stunt dreamt up by his manager Reg Calvert. They chose Shivering Sands as it was thought the Red Sands Towers were too close to the shore. Reg Calvert took over on 30th September 1964 & Radio City was borne, initially using the Southern most 3.7" Gun Tower. Radio City made a modest return mainly covering running costs from Religious Programming. A new antenna was erected the mast was said to have been 240' but in fact comprised 20 x 10' sections (200') sited on top of the Control Tower which are 117' from sea bed so in reality 317' allowing for tides 280' above mean sea water level

3.7" Gun Tower Elevation

40. Elevation of a 3.7 inch Army Fort Gun Tower

Legend: (a) Steel House (b) Pre-cast hollow reinforced legs section (c) In-situ reinforced concrete leg joit (d) Steel bracing section (e) Fenders (f) Hollow reinforced concrete base (g) Lifting hooks (h) High water (i) Low water

In the summer of 1965 the SAS staged a training exercise at the Shivering Sands, repeatedly climbing the Bofors Tower by aid of climbing nets the remnants of which remained for some years. They boarded the Southern Gun Tower & were entertained to Tea & biscuits by the City Crew

In the summer of 1966 the PLA attempted to remove the toppled G4 Gun Tower, the salvage ship grappled using a big hook & tore away steel fragments, all watched by the crew on Radio City

Brian Tyrell crew of the Radio 390 Tender 'Mallard' F19 states: We watched the PLA dump remnants of the Shivering Sands G4 Tower in shallow water by Red Sands Fort

Marine Chart of Red Sands Echosounder image of wreckage off Red Sands Fort

41. Marine Chart showing wreckage off Red Sands Fort 42. Echosounder image

Echosounder image of the wreckage 350 mtrs (top left) South East of Red Sands Fort (11th September 2015)

In the same year another wrecking crew from the Radio Essex Fort Knock John broke into the PLA Tower, to salvage the ammunition hoist & generator parts. The Radio City boys were rather shocked & feared a repeat of earlier events at Knock John!

At 03.15 on Monday of 20th June a contingent of Dockers aboard the Gravesend Tug 'Vanquisher' arrived at the Towers under orders from Oliver Smedley & Kitty Black of Project Atlanta (Caroline South)

The transmitter crystal was removed & the crew banned from the studio keeping the station of-air. The raiders left at 20.15 on Sunday 26th June with programmes re-commencing at 22.00 with a spare crystal that had been secreted away by engineers

In a resulting altercation over the boarding of Shivering Sands on Tuesday 21st June at Oliver Smedley's Wendens Ambo, Essex home Reg Calvert was shot dead

Following Reg Calvert's premature death his widow Dorothy Calvert ran the station, until it was finally outlawed & closed at just after midnight on Wednesday 8th February 1967. A caretaker crew stayed for a time after the station closed, removing much except the big Detroit Generator, remnants of the studio, library woodwork & some paperwork. Roy Bates again raided the Fort & removed the original gantry lights, which ended up in an antique shop close top his flat in Avenue Road Southend. Finally squatters with Alexander Dee (Dennis Swinnerton) a former Radio City DJ & his Girlfriend took over for a period until 1969 planning a Hippy Commune they took some discarded radio items as souvenirs, before the fort was totally abandoned

The Shivering Sands spirit was resurrected by Steve England in 1974 who modelled Radio Atlantis on  Radio City

In 1975 a film crew are said to have boarded Shivering Sands Fort to shoot the 1960's film 'Flame'. Evidence proves that Red Sands Fort was actually used, see Fort 6 U6 Red Sands above

Inspired by the book by John Pidgeon it starred the 70's Glam Rock band 'Slade' playing a fictious 60's group. The soundtrack comprised a number of unreleased 'Slade' songs, reworked for the screen-play

Part of the action is based on the antics of Screaming Lord Sutch who supported by his leopard skin clad backing band the Savages, would arrive on stage in a coffin, to appear from within wearing his trade mark black, purple lined cape & a top hat brandishing a large knife

Opening with 'Jack the Ripper' Sutch would outlandishly play act cutting the heads of live chickens as part of the rock horror stage routine

'Flame' captures 60's 'Tin Pan Alley' with small agents being sidelined as slick management takes over with big promises & money taking precedent over creativity. A 'spoof' Pirate Radio sequence, shot on Shivering Sands, a US tour, bickering wives, girlfriends, general inter-group rivalry 'Flame' is based on the true events of the period

N.B 'Flame' the Book & a DVD are available new & second hand

It's believed but not confirmed that the MoD visited both sets of Army Forts in 1977 to grapple the catwalks down that already fallen into a dangerous state of decay

The date is unknown but there are reports that one of the legs of the Bofors Tower was partially cut through as a test prior to removing the Shivering Sands, the idea was postponed & the Bofors Tower still stands despite it's weakened leg

In the mid 1970's there were unconfirmed reports that either the PoLA (Port of London Authority) or at the bequest of the MoD Marines from Chatham threw grappling lines & pulled down the catwalks

The action both to prevent any further use of the Fort & accidents, as visitors were again known to be going aboard the Forts

The PLA cut away the roof of the Searchlight Tower in 1990 so that helicopters could be used to service the gauges. In 1992 it was decided the Fort had become too dilapidated for continued use, & a new LANBY (Large Automated Buoy) was moored close by & now provides the wind & tide readings from Shivering Sands

Summer 2004 - Saw a survey commissioned by the PLA on behalf of the UK Government of both Army Forts with a view to demolition, there's concern that parts might fall on a boat or worst

The estimate was some £9 million, but with the activities of Project Redsand the Red Sands Fort is probably now immune, but Shivering Sands is close to the approach to Knock Channel shipping lane. So removal is a fate that potentially awaits Shivering Sands if the HM Government will stand the estimated Rough Order of Magnitude (RoM) costing's of £5 million to remove the Shivering Sands set of Forts

Discussions have taken place, & should a contract be placed, it's possible that one of the Towers would be re-sited close to the Kent shoreline, & possibly set up as a WWII & Pirate Radio attraction

For all the Shivering Sand features navigate from ScrapBook Index

The Offshore Shop has a range of Radio Sutch & City Documentaries

Observations on the Seafort Project

The Seafort Project Book by Stephen Turner has some minor inaccuracies which are acceptable artistic & poetic licence but for the purists:

The Searchlight Tower's ladders are intact & maintained until 1992 by the PLA so are still in good condition

The Towers movement in wind can be disconcerting but isn't dangerous, the Forts were designed to recoil with the guns, if they hadn't they would have shaken to pieces, undermining was cured early on & with the exception of Tongue wasn't a problem

Screaming Lord Sutch didn't create Radio City his manager Reg Calvert did, he was the driving force behind the whole radio project

There were 3 Gardner Generators on the Forts not 4

The picture of the Shivering Sands in the 1960's indicates how the Fort looked but is in fact Red Sands shortly after Radio Invicta began broadcasting in June 1965

Conclusions: Several proposals have been muted to preserve the Forts with interest being shown by a number of parties and individuals

Officially funds for refurbishing maintaining even older, & perhaps more important historically interesting buildings are limited so the Forts fall way back in line

The only way that would be to go out & take one over!

The Thames Forts are miles out in the Estuary & until 1967 were outside the 3 mile Territorial Waters Limit but were brought inside Territorial Waters by contrived 1960's hydrographic data. Later by extended Territorial Limits the Forts are firmly inside British Waters & sadly won't again become bases for Free Radio

To make them safe, habitable, & reasonably tidy would cost a small fortune, but they should be preserved for posterity. It's worth noting again that modern oil rigs owe something to the Sea Forts designer Guy Maunsell

The cost to build and equip each Army Tower in 1941 inclusive of armaments was £23.823.62 today (2010) that equates to £684,196.56 for each Tower and £4,789,375.92 for each seven Fort complex

That's £500.296.02 for the three sets of Thames Army Forts at Nore, Red & Shivering Sands (21 Towers)

The last estimated cost of the whole Maunsell Sea Fort Project encompassing trials, the Thames & Liverpool Bay Army & the Thames Naval Forts was £44.5 million in 1995

It was strongly rumored towards the end of 2003 that a heritage organisation was making a bid to purchase the remaining Maunsell Sea Forts

The registered charity Project Redsand has since 2003 been making attempts to halt the decay of U5 Red Sands but this is a massive undertaking

projectredsand logo

43. Preject Redsand

It's close proximity to the busy shipping lanes means that the Shivering Sands in particular is most vulnerable. The Shivering Sands Bank North East end extends into the South West junction of the Knob Channel/Knock John Channel

Traffic from the East enters this area via the Alexandra & Princes Channels. From the West Shipping approaches from the Yantlet Channel out of the River Thames & River Medway

With plans to dredge & perhaps widen parts of the Shipping Channel, during the summer of 2003 the PLA conducted a survey at U7 into the feasibility of removing the two remaining Army Forts complexes at U6, U7, & possibly the Knock John Naval Tower U4

But removal is estimated at 2 years with a cost in the region of £9 million

Since the demise of Tongue Tower U3 off Margate safety appears to be a consideration

On 22nd November 2010 we were approached by the Dutch Marine Company Vissen en Smit Hanab. They are laying burying the BritNed cable between The Netherlands and the UK & are looking to use one of the Forts as a base whilst they conducted survey work in the Prices Channel. The channel dredged to a greater 'safer' depth in 2008 runs just South of Shivering Sands Fort

Other Forts

Grain Tower Battery

44. Grain Tower Battery at mouth of the River Medway

45. Video: Grain Fort

Constructed in 1855 Grain Tower built on the Grain Spit supported the larger Garrison Fort at Sheerness, together they guarded & defended the mouth of the River Medway

See our feature on Grain Tower Battery

Spithead Fort

46. Spitbank (Spithead) Fort the Solent

47. Video: Spitbank Fort

The Forts are big structures & with big investment two of the Solent's Napoleonic Forts have been preserved & are now private dwellings. These granite Forts are close to shore & much easier to access

Constructed between 1868 - 1871 they were designed to protect the Spithead strategic deep waters into Portsmouth & Southampton

46. Video Horse Sands the Solent

See the Solent Forts in Sailing the Solent

Bull Sand Fort Aerial Bull Sand Fort

48 & 49. Bull Sand Fort in the Humber Estuary

Following the Napoleonic design two further Forts were built in the Humber on Bull & Haile Sands. They were manned during WWI 1916 - 1918 & again in WWII between 1939 - 1956

Well within territorial limits they weren't used for radio broadcasting

Gunfleet Lighthouse

50. Gunfleet Lighthouse off the Essex coast

The last marine structure worth mentioning is the old Gunfleet Lighthouse situated 5 nautical (5.75) miles off Frinton-on-Sea at 51.46'.45" North 1.21'.27" East

Constructed in 1850 by James Walker of Trinity House it's one of several East Coast Screw Pile Light Houses, with seven piles screwed into the seabed joined by steel latice work

74 feet (23 metres) to it's top, originally painted red it's at the Northern end of the Gunfleet Sands marking the NE limit of the Port of London, deactivated & abandoned in 1921

Some 53 years later a crew from Radio Atlantis including Andy Anderson (Andy Gemmel-Smith 'Alice Broadcast') boarded the small tower

The Belgium offshore station had been forced to close with ratification of the Dutch Marine Offences Act on 1st September 1974

Work fitting windows, replacing the roof, long stripped of lead. Reinforcing floors, making rooms to take generators, transmitter & a studio was undertaken

On the strength that an American sourced Collins 10KW transmitter would be installed, Adriaan van Landschoot of the former Flemish station persuaded to invest

The Collins Auto Tune transmitter, in reality a 4KW four cabinet unit said to have had most of the wiring looms cut, cost around £5,000 may have come from Cole More Electronics in Southampton

The Atlantis team forged ahead with plans for a new station to be called Radio Dolphin due to launch on 244 metres on Christmas Day

There after several stories are voiced; One that on the 26th October 1974 the British Home Office swooped on the lighthouse & removed items, leaving notice of their visit to warn off trespassers. Secondly based on inside intelligence, the Royal Marine Commandos thwarted the operation with a raid in the early hours of 19th December 1974

Two occupants who'd arrived on a small boat earlier were put in a siege situation & ultimately forced to leave & the equipment confiscated; Finally on the same day four Naval, Essex Police, Home Office & Trinity House vessels arrived at the lighthouse. Representatives from Trinity House inspected the structure, since they owned it. Subsequently the radio gear was dismantled, with the exception of the transmitter cabinet & those on board taken ashore but not prosecuted

Strangely the practicalities of operating a large enough generator to power a 10KW TX, erecting an antenna of sufficient height, and accommodate a minimal crew are questionable

Gunfleet Sands Windfarm 7km (8.05 Miles) off Clacton totals 48 turbines

A seabed structure rather than a Fort designed & built for 'Free' Radio TV boadcasting

47. Video: Building the Dutch REM Island

See the Radio TV Noordzee Story

Radio Forts Logo

51. History of the Sea Forts Banner

07/02/08 - Up to joining Trinity House Lighthouse Service in 2005 I had been 26 years at a firm called Posford, Pavry & Partners, that was John Posford's business earlier called Maunsell, Posford, Pavry & Partners. The name change occurred when Guy Maunsell & John Posford decided amicably to pursue separate paths. I always thought that John Posford was a real "fine figure of a man" even at 70, merely the sight of the man, so naturally straight, erect & square, shoulders back, chest thrust forward could not fail to impress even before he spoke. His firm was a close family in which everyone followed his lead playing their part. He never looked more at home than in the official photographs taken as he was being introduced to the Queen & speaking with her in the line of notables after she had officially re-opened the famous cast iron & glass Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew for which we, his firm, were the Consulting Engineers. He was completely comfortable & natural in that position unlike so many of other "lesser mortals". For many years of my time at "Posfords" I was Principal Electrical Engineer in the Maritime Division of the firm, had so many smashing colleagues & friends with achieved so many incredibly demanding things around the British Isles & all over the world. The innovative passionate engineering spirit of Guy Maunsell & John Posford did not retire or die with them, they inspired so many young & not-so-young engineers who passed on their knowledge to others. It was a way of life we know we did much good work thanks partially to their inspiration. Those guys achievements were hard to live up to, even when they had gone, but we enjoyed trying!

Sorry to have gone on a bit more than intended but I thought that you would find the above of interest given how some of the vintage work of Guy Maunsell & John Posford has impinged in your own life, their spirit is even now alive & well at work in Peterborough & around the world. I have moved to the Harwich area with Trinity House & on a clear day I can look out over Dovercourt Bay aging "naked eyes" & see Rough's Tower (Sealand) on the horizon & think "we" built that well over half a century ago, it has seen a lot of life over the years & the North Sea still struggles to claim it!

Keep up the good work, I will be back before long for more of those excellent CDs Regards - Joe Tierney

04/04/15 - I would like to ask something about the Maunsell Fort sinking procedures. Did they prepare the seabed to be flat for the fort to rest onto? It seems weird to think that the seabed is entirely flat. Also was there any margin of error to where the fort actually landed when the sinking process began as opposed to where they would want it to land? - Lefteris Dousis

The sites were surveyed for flatness, remember they were mostly soft muddy sandbanks. Calm seas and weather were conditions were sought for grounding, then infill of around 500 tons of bit bats (brick rubble) and chalk deposited to slow erosion and under scouring. The Naval Towere weighed around 4.500 tons so found their own level settling evenly

The 580 ton Army Forts, straddled between two barges were winched individually to the sea bed, their 'Oxford Picture Frame' bases sank quickly into the mud, other Towers followed all linked by telescopic catwalks - Ed

Visit the Offshore Shop for our range of Offshore Radio Fort Documentaries & the Sealand DVD

For pictures & the history Radio Atlantis & the Gunfleet Lighthouse

Download pdf Offshore Radio Antennas by Ian Anderson

Fishing Boat Registrations - Download : pdf or view : Website

During the summer months we run sailing trips from Whitstable & sometimes Herne Bay to see the imposing Thames Estuary Sea Forts see Boat Trips

References: Posford on the Construction of Britain's Sea Forts

Fort Fax logos by Jonathan S Farley & Barry Stewart additional Press Cuttings Francois Lhote

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