The British armed forces used them as military bases once upon a time. The British forces planned to destroy the German fighter jets from there during the WWII. Now, the Britons abandon the Maunsell Army Sea Forts – armed towers built in the Thames and Mersey estuaries in 1942 to help defend the UK. The forts – operated as Army and Navy forts – were named after their designer and noted civil engineer, Guy Maunsell.
Maunsell actually constructed three forts – Nore, Red Sands and Shivering Sands – at the mouth of rivers. Each fort had seven separate buildings with a tower in the middle. While four (of the seven buildings) were used as crew quarters, the remaining ones were used as dining, operational and storage areas for several generators, and also for fresh water tanks and antiaircraft munitions. The towers were joined above the eventual waterline by a steel platform deck upon which other structures could be added!
The remains of Nore Army Fort
Although the Nore has been destroyed completely, Red Sands and Shivering Sands still remain intact. Five years after the end of the WWII (in 1945), the British government decided to decommission the Maunsell Army Sea Forts and to use them for other activities, such as pirate radio broadcasting station.
The Nore fort was badly damaged during a storm in 1953. Later on in the year, a Norwegian ship – Baalbek – collided with the fort, destroying two of the towers, claiming four lives and destroying guns, radar equipment and supplies. As the ruins were considered a hazard to shipping, the concerned authorities in Britain dismantled the fort in 1959-60 and towed some parts of the bases ashore by the Cliffe fort at Alpha wharf near Kent. They are still visible at low tide.
Red Sands, 2013
Later on, radio broadcasting started at Red Sands fort without any official permission. When the government launched ‘Project Red Sands’ in order to preserve the fort in 2007, it asked the ‘Red Sands Radio’ – a station commemorating the pirate radio stations of the 1960s – to move its operations ashore to Whitstable.
Radio Sutch at Shivering Sands
It is to be noted that artist Stephen Turner spent six weeks (August-September 2005) in the searchlight tower of the Shivering Sands Fort, as he wanted to live alone there. Later, Turner described his stay at Sands Fort as “an artistic exploration of isolation, investigating how one’s experience of time changes in isolation, and what creative contemplation means in a 21st century context”.
The Nore fort had already been destroyed, and the condition of Red Sands and Shivering Sands are not so good either! Tourists are not allowed to visit those places. However, they can roam around those in boats. The surreal riveted sea forts – once protected the Kent shores from German attack – still remind us of the darkest days of WWII.
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