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Knock John

Issue 2 Updated 25th November 2021

The Thames Estuary Naval Fort U4 (Uncle) in active service in 1943 during WWII with pictures and memories from a serving rating Tom Hepson age 90 on the 10th December 2012

Tom Hepson

Tom Hepson

Thomas Hepson was born in Paisley Scotland on 10th December 1922 he joined the Marines (POX 108855) when he was 19 years old

Knock John under tow

Knock John under tow to it's site 8.75 nautical miles off Essex on 1st August 1942

3rd March 2012 - I have found an interesting vessel in Shoreham Docks called the 'Challenge', there is a wonderful picture of her towing one of the Forts to site.If anyone's interested there's a working party on her most Saturday Mornings and she is open to the public at this time. Kind regards - Tony Lake

Steam Tug Challange

The 'Challange' assised in towing at least two of the Navel Forts out of Gravesend/Tilbury, Sunk Head (U2) & Knock John (U4) - Ed

Fort crew & cat

Knock John Crew with one of the Forts two Cats

"The Fort had it's full compliment of 120 officers & men during commissioning at Gravesend the construction site at Red Lion Warf" "The Crew stayed aboard during the tow across river to Tilbury for degaussing, but not whilst it was sunk in position, they returned shortly afterwards"

3.7 big gun

One of the pair of 3.7mm Vickers-Armstrong Heavy Anti-Aircraft (AA) Guns on the Knock John 

"I Made a good few few friends especially Tam & Geordie"

Cleaning the 3.7 guns Cleaning the 3.7 guns

Cleaning the 3.7 AA Gun

" I manned the X gun * & did maintenance on the gun during the day"

* The Bofors guns on the control deck were A & B, X & Y

Crew with a 3.7 shell

Knock John crew with 3.7 shell & cases

Shells were stored below in racks and brought up on the ammunition lift see the Sealand Series for more detail

"We were on the Fort for six weeks at a time with two weeks leave, spending leave at home in Paisley" "We were issued with travel passes which made
it easy to go home"

Lt Langley Bofors gun in action

Crew with Deck Officer Lt Langley Bofors Gun in action

"We mainly shot at planes as a gunner my station was X gun, these Bofors guns recoiled heavily on their bases"

Fort crew & plane wreckage

Crew with plane wreckage

Thames Eastuary Telegraph page 1 Thames Eastuary Telegraph page 2

Thames Eastuary Telegraph page 3 Thames Eastuary Telegraph page 4

Original copy of 'The Thames Estuary Telegraph' the newspaper of the Forts

The journal consisted of two A4 folded sheets printed on a bander

Very little else is known about how many editions were produced, contributors, editor, how many copies printed and distributed?

Sweeping the decks

Hard at it cleaning the decks

"We passed a lot of time with hobbies I carved a horse but don't remember the piano"

HMS Ships

HM Ships

"The Liberty boat used to bring supplies out of HMS Wildfire at Sheerness which had to be hauled up the ladders, this was the way we boarded & left the Fort up and down those steel ladders"

Ship under tow from the Fort

Ship passing under tow

"One funny situation was when the cutlery went overboard which I talk about in the following video clip"

Click Video

Tom was stationed there for about eighteen months in all, then went on to other things Normandy landings

Rest and recreation

R&R 'rest and recreation' (1957)

The last year that a cretaking crew were aboard the Thames Estuary Forts which were abandoned by the MoD in 1958 for more details see Fort Fax

With grateful thanks to Thomas Hepson and his daughter May Convery for providing the material for this feature

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

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