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Tongue Tower

Issue : 6 Updated : 14th February 2017

Construction had begun on all three Naval Forts in early 1942

The Third designated U3 was named HMS Tongue Fort on 3rd June

The tow to the grounding site at Tongue Sands commenced at 05.20 am on Saturday 27th June 1942

U3 HMS Tongue Fort off Margate

1. U3 arrives at the site 5.5 nautical (6.32) miles off Margate at 16.15 pm

U3 HMS Tongue Fort ready for sinking

2. Final preparations prior to grounding (sinking)

U3 HMS Tongue Fort sinking

3. 08.35 pm sea cocks open the Fort sinks to the prepared sea bed 27th June 1942

U3 HMS Tongue Fort settled

4. By 08.52 pm the operation was complete with the Fort settled in position

Tongue was to be the penultimate Naval Fort it saw action for 3 years until decommissioned in 1945 due to the Forts instability caused by poor grounding and severe under-scouring

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Naval Message Pad 1

5. Original WWII Naval Message Pad retrieved from Tongue

The Tower was left under care & maintenance but hastily abandoned after the Fort shook violently with parts falling into the sea in December 1947

The crew returned until 1949 when the Fort broke its back - See Fort Facts

Tongue Tower 1950's

6. Tongue Tower pictured in the early 1950's

Distortion of the Southern leg apparent

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Naval Message Pad 2

7. Alternative WWII Naval Message Pad retrieved from Tongue

Following photographs 8 - 11 of Tongue Fort circa 1960

Tongue Fort view East 1960

8. View East even then the leg distortion apparent

Tongue Fort view West 1960

9. Looking West, note the Tower still boasted it's observation turret & radar house

Tongue Light Vessel just visible through the haze (enhanced)

Tongue Fort view North 1960

10. Looking North at South Leg, remarkable the Fort would stand 36 more years

Tongue Fort under South Leg 1960

11. Under the distorted South Leg

Photographs 6 - 9 By Ted Ingham a former Merchant Naval Officer in his career had often passed the Thames Estuary Forts

These pictures are Tongue Fort circa 1960 from GSNC* MV 'Royal Sovereign' on a special pleasure trip to Tongue Fort & Light Ship

* General Steam Navigation Company

MV Royal Sovereign postcard

12. The MV Royal Sovereign (Postcard)

Launched in 1948 she normally sailed along the North Kent coast to North Foreland from Tower Pier to Southend, Sheerness, Margate & Ramsgate

Sister ship MV Queen of the Channel can be viewed in Old Ships

She would follow a similar pattern but would call at Herne Bay, Margate & Deal piers before setting off for Calais


In the summer of 1966 the Fort was boarded by a small crew led by Fort Captain Dick Palmer from Radio Essex

Despite the Tower's run down & dangerous state, Roy Bates talked about starting Radio Kent from Tongue. You can hear recordings in our documentary the Radio Essex Story between Knock John - Tongue about the preparations and pending arrival of a transmitter from America

An radio anorak boat visited & circled the Fort then came alongside. Disheveled and dirty sporting a pair of leatherette shorts Tony Mandell clambered down the Dolphin to sign autographs

With funds depleted the idea was dropped; Dick, Tony & Dave Belesco set about stripping electrical cables and burning off the insulation for the copper & lead to buy diesel, food, and perhaps pay some long due salaries!

On a Sunday afternoon attracted by the smoke, an air-sea rescue helicopter was dispatched from Manston. A line lowered in readiness for boarding was grabbed by Dave Belesco, the static discharge throwing him across the Fort deck

The Helicopter backed off returning to Manston, soon after the RNLI Lifeboat appeared, asked who they were. A quick thinking Dick Palmer shouted 'we're a radio station' even though by now just 'totting' for scrap

* A little later Roy Bates raided the Army Forts taking away the crane lanterns

The RNLI shouted 'Which radio station' Dick replied 'Radio Albatross'

That evening on Radio Essex, Guy Hamilton said hello to all the guys on Tongue especially Albert Ross!

The official visit had apparently prompted questions in the House of Commons

Daily Telegraph 5th September 1966

13. Daily Telegraph 5th September 1966

Roy made the most of the fiasco releasing a Media story

Various useful parts including the ammunition hoist motor, which was missing on Knock John, benches & odds and ends were removed (telephone exchange had already be taken by others) and taken to Knock John, some items survive & are still on Roughs Fort (Sealand)

* The hoist & brake mechanism was reconditioned and fitted on Knock John, until then they'd tried running a pulley from the generator drive shaft by physically throwing a drive belt onto the moving shaft

The replacement motor Radio Essex an effective crane hoist for taking on supplies

See Sealand & Fort Fax for more detail

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Naval Contril Deck U3 HMS Tongue Fort Bridge Deck Interior

Tongue Fort in 1969

14. Looking South from Control Deck
15. Deck Bridge 'Row' looking South

Thanet Gazete 1st May 1970 a Thanet Gazete 1st May 1970 b Thanet Gazete 1st May 1970 c

16 17 & 18. Thanet Gazette 1st May 1970

The National Institute of Oceanography Tongue Wave Survey from the Tongue Light Vessell by August 1971

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Interior

19. Mike Bass, Roger & Terry Vacani below

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Concrete Testing

20. Laboratory samples taken from Tongue Fort a report from 1977

U3 HMS Tongue Fort From Air

21.Tongue Fort from the air in 1980

The easiest way to distinguish Tongue from Knock John is that Knock John's Northern 3.7" Gun pointed skywards, also note remnants top of the Control Deck which had been cut away at Knock John but remnants remain on Tongue

More photographs from Ted Ingham, these taken from a Wessex Air Sea Rescue helicopter from 22 Squadron RAF Manston in 1981

Tongue Fort from air 1981

22.Tongue Fort from the air in 1981

Tongue Fort deck-bridge from air 1981

23. Close up deck-bridge view

Tongue Light Vessel LV13 1984

24.Tongue Light Vessel (LV13) 1984

The last manned Tongue lightship LV13 was built by Philip & Son Limited Dartmouth Yard in 1952, decommisioned in 1991 & towed to Hamburg where she was converted into a Bar Restaurant with accomodation

LV 1 Tongue Light Vessel in 1985

24. Last of the Tongue Light Vessels the modified Automatic LV1 pictured in 1985

More pictures of the LV1 - Mary Mouse 2 in Eurosiege

Information on Trinity House Light Vessels at Tongue Sands

U3 HMS Tongue Fort May 1992

25. Tongue Tower in May 1992

Tongue Fort June 1992 a

26. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (a)

Photographs 21 - 29 of Tongue Fort in June 1992 shortly before the 3.7" guns were removed

Tongue Fort June 1992 b

27. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (b)

Tongue Fort June 1992 c

28. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (c)

Tongue Fort June 1992 d

29. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (d)

Tongue Fort June 1992 e

30. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (e)

Tongue Fort June 1992 f Tongue Fort June 1992 g

31. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (f)
32. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (g)

Tongue Fort June 1992 h

33. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (h)

Tongue Fort June 1992 i

34. Tongue Fort in June 1992 (i)

In the early 1990's Orkney resident Ray Hughes originally from Kent made inquiries about having the 3.7" Guns removed from Knock John & Tongue Forts

The British Grand Fleet were based in Scapa Flow in WWI & II & it was the scene of the tragic losses in both conflicts, despite fierce Naval battles none of the armanments survived

Involved with the Lyness Museum Ray's undertaking was to have the guns for exhibition in the Orkney Islands

Through protracted negotiation Ray persuaded the Admiral of the Fleet to take off the guns as a special exercise

Not undertaken lightly the estimated hourly cost of a Chinook at the time being around £20k

Pictures 30 - 32 by RAF Manston from June 1992

U3 HMS Tongue Fort from air in colour 1992

35. Tongue in June 1992 about to have it's teeth pulled

The Royal Engineers landed a team from a Sea-King Helicopter to burn away the multitude of securing bolts & fitted strops for lifting the heavy guns

Royal Engineer cutting 3.7" Gun bolts

36. Royal Engineer acetylene cutting the 3.7" Gun fixing bolts

Royal Engineers on Tongue ready for lift

37. Royal Engineers set about preparing for the lift

U3 HMS Tongue FortFrom Air 1992 Up up and away 3.7" gun lifted from fort

38. Chinook Crew observing
39. The last 3.7" Gun leaves Tongue Fort

U3 HMS Tongue Fort from air less guns 1992 U3 HMS Tongue Fort from air less guns 1992 Colour

40. Hovering over Tongue
41. Tongue now depleted of armaments

An RAF Chinook using Manston as operational HQ pulled the guns taking them back to Manston on the proviso they were removed within 48 hours

Ex-Merchant Naval Officer, Master Mariner & local historian John Guy intervened making a case to keep one 3.7" gun in Kent

This was accomplished with a home being found for a Tongue gun at Fort Gardens in Gravesend, Kent close to where the Forts had been built, fitted & armed

The other three guns we're transported to the Orkney Islands

Tongue Fort July 1992 a

42. Tongue July 1992 (a)

Photographs 37 - 47Tongue Fort July 1992 soon after loosing her 3.7" guns

Tongue Fort July 1992 b

43. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (b)

Tongue Fort July 1992 c

44. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (c)

Tongue Fort July 1992 d Tongue Fort July 1992 e

45. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (d)
46. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (e)

Tongue Fort July 1992 f Tongue Fort July 1992 g

47. Barry & Clive Tongue Fort in July 1992 (f)
48. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (g)

Tongue Fort July 1992 h

49. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (h)

Tongue Fort July 1992 i

50. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (i)

Tongue Fort July 1992 j

51. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (j)

Tongue Fort July 1992 k

52. Tongue Fort in July 1992 (k)

Sailing close to the Fort throughout the mid 1990's it was apparent that the leg distortion was becoming very much more pronounced

U3 HMS Tongue Fort 3.7" gun Ex-Thames Naval Fort 3.7" gun in Orkney

53. The only remaining Sea Fort 3.7" Gun in Kent
54. Ex-Thames Naval Fort 3.7" Gun at Lyness Museum, Orkney

3.7" gun in Orkney

55. Refurbished 3.7" Ex-Naval Fort Gun in Orkney

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Leg Stump 1996

56. March 1996

Finally, during a violent storm overnight on 21st & 22nd February 1996, the whole Fort structure toppled disappearing into a huge hole, all that remains is a single 18 foot stump of the Southern Leg

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Leg Stump from air 1996

57. The Southern Leg Stump of Tongue Tower from the air

U3 HMS Tongue Fort Leg Stump 1996

58. Tongue Towers Leg Stump

01/03/11 - The Tongue Sands photos are awesome! Chris C&E Computer Services


With grateful thanks to Ted Ingham, John Guy, Ray Hughes, Terry Vacani Binocular & Cine Collectors & Captain Graham for their help in producing this feature

More information on the Coastal Defense of Kent can be found at the Kent History Forum

For a comprehensive guide to all the Sea Forts go to Fort Fax

For all our Offshore Radio & Radio Fort Features navigate from the ScrapBook Index

[HOME] (c)Bob Le-Roi 2011