Newspapers and Service Records as Tools for Researching the WWI Stockbury Valley Defence Line

Report for the KAS AGM by Alan R. Anstee

An on going research project

The R.E.s have left us a wealth of maps and photos of the fieldworks, so we know that they looked like and where they were. The war diaries gave some information as to which areas units were working in but little more. However there is no real information on the men who built them.

Thanks in no small part to the East Kent Gazette we now know, the names of many of the officers and men. This led to the finding of the service records of a few and through both the newspapers and service records the approximate location of their camps.

What follows is a record of how this was done and what has been discovered to date.

The East Kent Gazette in early 1915

Late in 2013 Dean Coles of the Newington History Group supplied a copy of a cutting from the East Kent Gazette (EKG) of the 9th of January 1915 which told when the R.E.s in Newington (3-1-1915). As this was a poor copy this led to a search for a better one, which led to the discovery of an article telling of a fatal fire in Milton Regis (29-1-1915) which gave the names some of the men, EKG 6-2-15. This also informed us that not all of this unit were in Newington.

Service Record and EKG details of Spr Tapp

One man mentioned in the account of the fire and inquest was Spr Alfred Ernest Tapp whose service record is extant and very informative. This states that he was a very good bricklayer, whilst the EKG (6-2-1915) states that he was an ex-member of the Tunbridge Wells fire Brigade.

Importantly his extant record shows that he was a man who liked his beer; his “crime sheet” is explicit; with 6 drink related offences recorded. It gave names of the C.O, other officers and many NCOs and men.

Also it gave the name of the unit, 2/6th Kent Fortress Company, later the 579th Works Company R.E (6th Kent FC split into two units 1-1-1915). Thus confirming the scant information in the war diary.

Location of the 579th Works Company from EKG & Tapp’s record.

The EKG reported many parties, dances, smoking concerts and the like, put on by or for the company, giving the location. (It did the same for many other units in the area, as well as reporting on inter unit sorting events.)

Every incident in Spr Tapp’s record gave his location, whilst from both his record and the EKG, the unit and/or its sections was reported at Newington, Milton Regis, Stockbury, Oad Street/Borden, Key Street/Keycol and possibly Hartlip.

Capt Griffith, service record and qualifications.

Captain Charles. L. T Griffith was the last CO of the 579th and fortunately his
service record survives. This shows that he had a long history of service in the
Volunteers from 1897 to 1910. This included service in the ranks of the
Queens Westminster Rifle Volunteers and a commission in the Madras Artillery
Volunteers.

Professionally he was an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers and would seem, both professionally and militarily to be an ideal man to command such a unit. Personally he seemed well connected with a retired Lt-Col of Royal Marine Artillery and a housemaster of Harrow School (his father was an assistant master there) supplying references to back his application for a commission.

The naming of the fieldworks.

The R.E. maps only give the names of some of the works, usually the larger ones, redoubts etc. However the R.E. photos often give the names of the works, including trenches.

These former were often named after their location (Thrognal Redoubt for example) or officers in the company and possibly other RE officers (Boys Trench).

The four Le Feaux Redoubts appear to have been named after Capt Le Feaux, who seemed to have commanded a section of the company. Perhaps that often stationed at Stockbury, not too far away.

Griffith Redoubt, named for Capt Griffith the last CO.

Other mentions of the company’s location.

It would appear that different sources give different names for the same location, a note from 1917 in the service record of Spr Tapp from Capt Griffith re his
demotion from L/Cpl, gives the units location as Key Street Camp. Whilst Form
W.3068/2 on Tapp’s posting to the BEF in March 1918 gives the units station as
Newington nr Sittingbourne, at most a mile from Key Street.

The EKG 10-5-1919 states that German PoWs were taking over the old RE Camp site at Keycol Hill, only a few hundred yards from Key Street. Again on 1-11-1919 the EKG that the German PoWs had left the camps on Keycol Hill and Stockbury and that they were to be broken up.

So where exactly were these camps? Military telephone lines may give a clue as these camps would have needed to communicate. One runs into the grounds of the old rectory, Stockbury, another to the grounds of the isolation hospital on Key Col Hill and another to a building marked as a Brigade HQ in Newington. These May indicate where the camps were but more work is required.

Lessons learnt

Newspapers can point a researcher in the right direction, however they rarely give the full names of either officers or men mentioned. They can though back up other sources.

Service records give a wealth of information if extant and you have the man’s full name but 65% to 75% (estimates vary) were destroyed in WWII.

But newspapers especially MUST be treated with caution as they rarely give their
sources and were subject to censorship.

Finally

Although I have, perhaps, taken the lead in this work it would not have happened
without the involvement of many others. As previously mentioned Dean Coles
and the NHG, together with Teresa & Richard Emmitt, Simon Mason of KCC and
Victor Smith and many others have helped with information and advice, including
the gentleman who passed on copies of his grandfathers service record with the
579th.

Archcliffe exploding gun

On a Thursday evening of August 1860 the members of the Volunteer Artillery Corps were at Archcliffe Fort practising with three 32-pounder smoothbore muzzle-loading guns that were mounted along the front of the battery. The guns were firing at a target placed in the channel. Although all three of the guns were around 60 years old they had all been fired many times and were thought to be perfectly safe. The guns were being watched by many of the corps who were standing to the right of the battery, they were standing about twelve yards from No.2 Gun. This gun had been fired ten times already that evening and when Mr Hadlow, the gunner responsible for firing it, applied the slow match it was a massive shock when the gun exploded.

 

Mr Hadlow was lucky to escape with a minor injury to his head, some men that had been watching were blown into the defensive ditch that ran around the fort but were uninjured. Lieutenant Thompson however was not so lucky, he was found lying on his back, he stood up with heavy breathing and a wound in his back and said, “I am not hurt, let us see to the others”, with this he turned around, fell backwards and died. A young man called Harris, the nephew of Captain Wollaston the Corps Commander, was taken to the military hospital, a quarter of a mile away with Sergeant John Monger. Harris was suffering from concussion and made a full recovery however Sergeant Monger died on arrival. Robert Foster Junior was the luckiest man of them all, at the time of the explosion he was walking back to the battery from the magazine where he had just collected the next cartridge to be fired, had he been closer to the explosion the cartridge could have also exploded and killed him. The gun had disintegrated with the explosion, the muzzle had dropped to the ground, the breech was blown 30 yards to the rear of the gun and the remaining parts had shattered, throwing fragments in all directions. Two pieces landed in the goods yard of the rail way and another had imbedded itself into the ground.

 

Sergeant Monger was buried with full military honours, the gun carriage bearing his coffin and drawn by seven horses was led through packed streets to the parish church of St Mary the Virgin before being buried at Cowgate Cemetery. Representatives of the Royal Artillery and Rifle Brigades of Dover, Deal, Hythe, Folkestone and other towns and from The Dover Corporation, the Mayor, Aldermaen, Councillors, Freemen and the Town Clerk attended the service. Many towns’ people lined the rain-wet streets to pay their respects and many friends and colleagues attended the funeral. Later a memorial paid for by small subscriptions from the garrison, Volunteers, visitors and town residents was erected over his grave. In life John Monger, 32, had kept a tobacconist’s shop in Snargate Street, he was a father of two young daughters and a husband to Elizabeth, who was buried with him 18 years later.

 

In contrast to the public ceremony for John Monger the second fatality of the evening, Lieutenant Thompson, was a private affair. He was interred in his families vault at St Andrews Church in Sheaperdswell in accordance to his will. Lieutenant Thompson was a solicitor and coroner for the borough, his death caused the authorities some problems as there was nobody to conduct an inquiry into the deaths. It is very rare for a town coroner to die a violent death in his own town.

 

The accident was investigated and Sergeant Matthews, a Volunteer Corps Instructor, concluded that the gun had been loaded properly with it also been washed out (to remove previous gunpowder) and everything done in the correct way. Fragments of the canon were sent to officials at a metal foundry and found to be without fault. Captain Hardy of the Royal Artillery also inspected fragments of the gun that was donated by the Royal Arsenal at Woolich on 13th September 1859, no faults could be found. The gun had fired 180 rounds since it had been with the Volunteers, a gun of this type should be able to fire one thousand rounds in it’s lifetime. The gun had been made by Walker & Co., of cast iron and was proved on 18th May 1805, it was first used aboard H.M.S. Edgar, later on H.M.S. Barham in 1812 and later still on H.M.S. Asia in 1836 before being stored in Portsmouth in 1845. While at Portsmouth the canon was inspected and found the vent was enlarged, this indicated the gun had shot over 500 rounds.

 

The verdict of the accident investigation was the condition of the gun was obviously poorer than expected and that all guns must be inspected periodically.

By Kyn (Kent History Forum)

Preparing for Doomsday

The history and archaeology of a Cold War bunker at Gravesend: a research and reporting project

It has been a remarkable – and at times exciting – journey, beginning with the discovery in 1990 of a 13-room Cold War Civil Defence Control Centre under Woodlands Park, Gravesend.   This was built in 1954 and maintained during the first half of the Cold War as a command post for the coordination of local civil defence forces  in the event of an air attack, whether by conventional or nuclear weapons.

That this may form the basis of a new and more complete cut-away view of the interior of the bunker. (c) English Heritage
That this may form the basis of a new and more complete cut-away view of the interior of the bunker. (c) English Heritage

The second step along the way was a proposal in 1995 by the New Tavern Fort Project (later renamed Thames Defence Heritage) to the owner, Gravesham Borough Council, for a voluntary project to restore and refurnish the bunker for public access.  An enlightened council readily granted permission, leading to historical research to better understand the building and to inform restored layouts.  Parallel with this was a programme to collect appropriate historical artefacts and furnishings, sometimes involving long trips and challenging extractions from holes in the ground as well as from other bunkers no longer required by central or local government.  Before long the council generously funded the introduction of emergency lighting, a fire detection and alarm system, partial rewiring, as well as other works

Visitor booklet for the bunker
Visitor booklet for the bunker

The bunker received its first visitors in 2000 but its refurnishing and display continued to be strengthened.  Following discussions with Chris Pond MP, during 2004 (the bunker’s 50thanniversary year) a formal museum opening ceremony was attended by an Attaché from the Russian Embassy who helped unveil a commemorative plaque with the builder of the bunker,  George Rattray.  A little later and thanks to negotiations between Adam Holloway MP and the Ministry of Defence a menacing nuclear bomb casing was delivered for display to visitors.  The bunker became the most fully refurnished bunker of its type in Britain, made accessible to the public by volunteer guides from Thames Defence Heritage.  Its visitation went from strength to strength.  The Second World War-like ambience of the early Cold War period refurnishing led to the bunker becoming a backdrop to part of a Sean Bean motion picture, Age of Heroes.  However, more recently ground water penetration and flooding has led to temporary closure for remedial works.  Thames Defence Heritage and Gravesham Borough Council hope to re-open the bunker to visitors in 2015.

Although during his time as Director of Thames Defence Heritage the writer produced a research-based visitor booklet on the bunker, he is well-advanced with the preparation of an academic study, also for publication.  This should be helpful in strengthening and varying informational and interpretive outputs for this site at a number of levels.  He is delighted that former senior staff from emergency planning teams (who are also members of the Historic Defences Committee) as well as specialists from English Heritage have agreed to participate.  There may be others.    It is the aim to include enhanced graphics to further interpret the bunker, including a cut-away view of the interior, peopled as though in operational use.  Supplementing this may also be a strip cartoon of a ‘what-if’ scenario.

A look inside the visitor booklet for the bunker
A look inside the visitor booklet for the bunker

The writer thanks members of Thames Defence Heritage and Gravesham Borough Council for their steadfast support and participation in the historic development of the Cold War bunker for public access.

Victor Smith

Formerly Director of Thames Defence Heritage

January 2015

Any enquiries about obtaining a copy of the visitor booklet should be addressed to Sandra Soder of Thames Defence Heritage – sandrasoder@yahoo.co.uk

The Sad End of the Sergeant Major’s Career

The sad end of the Sergeant Major’s Career
by Alan R. Anstee

Whilst researching for the Swale 20th Century Defence Project a number of interesting and at times odd events concerning the military were seen in the local newspapers from the early years of WWI when large numbers of troops were based in and around Sittingbourne. Perhaps the oddest of these was first seen in the 23rd January 1915 edition of the Kent Messenger. This reported on the trial of John Murphy, alias Hugh Charles Caston a Royal Engineer Company Sergeant Major.

This account of the trial and another in the East Kent Gazette told how this man had entered the house of Mrs Mary Tidy in Church Lane Newington on 12th January 1915, whilst she was out. She came into the house about 20 minutes to four and found the C.S.M. entering the front room of the house from the next room carrying a box she knew was kept upstairs. She challenged him and he said he was there to pay the money she was owed for the soldiers billeted on her and to inspect the billets. He paid her the money and left, she went to look upstairs finding it ransacked with several items missing and at once sent a neighbour to fetch the police.

The evidence of PC Post stated that he arrived at the house about 4 p.m. spoke to Mrs Tidy and went to look for the C.S.M, finding him in the Bull Inn. He then took him to Mrs Tidy’s house finding the missing items on him when searched. He then took the man to the police station, presumably for formal charging and on the way was offered a bribe of a sovereign to let him go.

The Kent Messenger stated that a medical certificate was produced at the trial stating, to use a modern term, that he was mentally ill. The statement given by Caston, to use the name in his army record, which is extant, stated that he had travelled around Kent that day and had been in several pubs, perhaps implying that he was drunk.

Caston’s service record shows that he was a regular soldier who enlisted as a musician on 1 August 1896 aged fifteen, had served in Malta and had been awarded the Good Conduct and Long Service Medal. He seems then to have been an exemplary soldier for most of his career, being promoted to Acting Company Sergeant Major on the 1st October 1914. He had completing a number of courses and was well qualified for his job of training Territorial Soldiers. However for whatever reason in January 1915 something had gone wrong. After the above incedent he was taken to Chatham Military Hospital (Fort Pitt) and on the 15th of January 1915 was transferred to D Block of the Netley Hospital. The medical report written then stated that he was excited, obstinate and inclined to be aggressive. The medical report also stated that he had delusions that he was about to be promoted to the rank of Major, believed that he was a wealthy man, often ordering his car to be sent round to take him for a drive, he also said he wanted to provide Egyptian Cigarettes to all the other patents. The report dated 20 January 1915 finally recommended the he be given a medical discharge as no longer fit for military service. His discharge was dated 2 February 1915, a sad end to a career lasting over eighteen years.

He died in Dartford on the 18th of June 1917 and is buried in Woodlands Cemetery Gillingham.

A Fatal Fire at Milton Regis 1915

A Fire Fatal at Milton Regis by Alan R. Anstee

In February 1915 with large numbers of troops billeted in and around Sittingbourne the potential benefits of having troops in the area was demonstrated by the effects of a fire in King Street. The following account is based on reports in the Kent Messenger (KM) of the 6th February 1915 and the East Kent Gazette (EKG) of the same date. The later as well as reporting on the fire gave a full account of the subsequent inquest, article in the EKG by implying that military regulations on showing light by ensuring that the shutters were close may have contributed to the severity of Mrs Gibb’s injuries by preventing the fire being see early enough to save Mrs Gibbs.

The information that came out at the inquest held on the following Monday February 1st tells the story in full. The fire occurred at 12 King Street on Friday 30th January 1915 where Mrs Elizabeth Jane Gibbs, a widow, lived with the three youngest of her eight children. A neighbour who saw flames “roaring up the chimney” raised the alarm, the Milton Fire Brigade was called and in the meantime Mr R. Hampton started the ball rolling by throwing the first bucket of water into the house. Sapper Alfred Ernest Tapp R.E. (T) who was billet on Mr Hampton joined in, as did Sgts Kettle and Couldrey, both R.E.s and A.B. Cook Everest of Torpedo Boat No 12. Between them they stopped the fire spreading until the Fire Brigade arrived.

As the flames died a little Mrs Gibb’s body was seen near the door and Spr Tapp, a former member of the Tunbridge Wells Fire Brigade, rescued, what was found to be, her lifeless body. At this time it was thought that Mrs Gibbs young son was in the house but fortunately he was not. The prompt action of those who helped before the arrival of the brigade may well have prevented a major catastrophe by removing from the next door property, occupied by a Mr G. Jordan, quantities of flammable material including gunpowder and paraffin.

At the inquest a variety of witnesses told their story, Spr Tapp said that he thought it took about seven minutes before he got the body out and that the most likely cause was upsetting the oil lamp. Another witness Capt Norval Harry Prentis stated that the Fire Brigade arrived at ten past seven, just as Spr Tapp was bringing the body from the house. He said the front room was ablaze but the did not believe that it was caused by coals from the fire but it was more likely that the table had knocked overturning and smashing the lamp.

Harold William Archie Gibbs, the son of Mrs Gibbs stated that he left the house about 6.30 leaving his mother well. The lamp was lit and on the table, which was a good one and although the fire was lit there was not much fire in the grate and it was protected by a guard. He went on to say that although his mother had had a fit a few days before she was well and about to read a book when he left.

The Coroner Mr C.B. Harris told the jury that he believed that Mrs Gibbs had had a fit, and in falling upset the oil lamp; and had died in the ensuing fire. The foreman of the jury Rev E.D. Bowser the Vicar of Milton stated that the jury agreed with the conclusion of the Coroner and added that perhaps they should recommend to the Local Authority that all people known to have epilepsy should be provided with lamps that could not be overturned. The Coroner replied that he thought this rather Utopian. Final Sgt Kettle of the R.E. proposed a vote of thanks to the Fire Brigade for their prompt action the whole row of houses would have been lost.

The reason the author paid so much attention to the reports both of the fire and the inquest is that he was researching the unit which built the field works in Swale. It had been know for some time that it was one of three R.E. Fortress Companies who built them but which one. In the report of the inquest it stated that Spr Tapp’s full name Alfred Ernest and the (T) after R.E. that he was a member of the Territorial Force, which the three companies were. Fortunately his army record still exists and gives his unit as 2/4th Kent (Fortress) Company R.E., one of the three known to have worked on the Kent field works, thus solving the mystery and it is hoped providing an interesting local story as a by product.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Fan Bay Deep Shelter is a system of underground tunnels located on the edge of Fan Hole on the White Cliffs. The shelter is located on the land which was purchased in the national appeal to buy the remaining section of the White Cliffs in 2012. The tunnels are in excellent condition and today remain the biggest and best preserved deep shelter in the Dover area. The underground tunnel system is almost all that remains of the Fan Bay battery. The site is an important part of UK conflict archaeology and it is made even more unique because two sound mirrors were located alongside the lower entrances. Part of the project seeks to uncover these mirrors, the survival of which would make the site nationally significant.

The National Trust local team supported by volunteers is in the process of excavating with the eventual aim of opening the Fan Bay tunnels to the public. This will involve the excavation of all three entrances and stabilization work to the underground structure. The National Trust is seeking to open the tunnels to the public by guided, torch lit tours hopefully in mid 2015. It is envisaged that very little work will be done to the inside of the tunnel system so visitors can enjoy a raw and truly unique historical experience.

fan bay
A typical section inside Fan Bay Deep Shelter

A historical summary of Fan Bay Battery:

The 2nd of September 1940 was a dark day for the town of Dover when for the first time it was the target for German guns now sited on the French Coast. Shells were just 60 seconds flying time from the town and over the following years of war many civilians and servicemen and women would lose their lives to German shells. The Germans had not been idle since the end of the Battle of France and had built large gun batteries in the area of Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez, part of the so called Atlantic Wall, which would be used to support the planned invasion of England, Operation Sealion as well as for shelling the coastal area around Dover.

Following the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk, Churchill was infuriated to discover German shipping moved freely in the Dover Strait and with an increasing risk of invasion the War Office met in early September 1940 and approved sites for gun batteries along the most likely area for invasion. Churchill had also given orders that gun batteries should be able to hamper the movement of enemy shipping along the French coast. Fan Bay, along with other batteries to the east and west of Dover made up the ’Fortress’, a crucial part of the UK’s Second World War armaments and would be the first line of defence in case of invasion. To take the fight to the enemy Wanstone Battery was equipped with two 15 inch guns, named Winne and Pooh and along with the large railway guns were the only offensive weaponry out of all of the Dover fortifications, the others being designed for short range defensive purposes.

Construction of Fan Bay Battery began in November 1940 and its three six inch guns were installed by the end of that month. Weather hampered construction through winter of 1940/41 but eventually it was brought into action and the battery fired its first proving rounds on the 28th February 1941. The Battery was manned by 122 officers and other ranks from the 203rd Coast Battery, Royal Artillery, in due course 180 Army personal would be stationed here. When the South Foreland, Fan Bay and Wanstone Farm came under a unified command they became the 540 Coast Regiment. The finished battery had three six inch guns, magazines, radar, plotting rooms and large accommodation blocks both above and below ground (see fig: 1). Next to the lower tunnel entrances, known as drift tunnels were two sound mirrors and were relics of the previous war. The hastily constructed fortification represented cutting edge technology in its day and was personally inspected by Churchill, leading Generals and the American Secretary of State for defence.

The battery also had a large ‘deep shelter’ where troops could take refuge during counter bombardments. Designed to shelter 190 people, the deep shelter was carved out of the chalk by personnel from the 172nd Tunneling Company, Royal Engineers and was reached by one of three entrances. The shelter was constructed by driving through the chalk and then supporting that with reinforced heavy duty Iron girders and metal sheeting. Work commenced on the 20th November 1940 and was complete and handed over on the 28th February 1941, just 100 days of construction. The total floor space of the 6 chambers is 3500 square feet and located at an average depth of 70 feet (21 meters). When the shelter was completed it could accommodate all of the military personnel, with two tier bunks which had spaces between for rifle racks, stores and even a hospital. To enable the spoil to be removed from the tunneling a small narrow gauge railway was constructed allowing hand operated trucks to take the spoil to the cliff edge where it was tipped over. Fan Bay was unique in being the largest deep shelter and the drift tunnels accessed the two Sound Mirrors on the side of Fan Hole (see Fig:2).

Sound mirrors came in a variety of shapes and sizes. One of these features at Fan Bay dates back to the First World War when it was used in conjunction with a Sound Mirror at Joss Bay, North Foreland and provided early warning of enemy aircraft approaching London. From the outbreak of the First World War and up to the late 1930’s the Air Ministry experimented with some degree of success in building a chain of these listening devices to give early warning of aircraft approaching the United Kingdom. Even though these devices had proved themselves in wartime, technology never stands still and Sir Robert Watson-Watt was bringing to fruition a means of early warning using radio waves, what we call radar today. However these devices were not destroyed and indeed did play a small role in the Air Defence of Great Britain in World War 2 when the Luftwaffe paid particular attention to the radar stations that had been built around the coast. What is unique about the Fan Bay Sound Mirrors is the material condition they are in and it is a stated aim of the project to conserve the two sound mirrors at site.

The gun batteries and land remained under military administration until the 1960s, after which the land was returned to their original owners, however this land now had redundant gun batteries sited on it. In the 1970’s a local campaign started to ‘rid the White Cliffs of the eyesores of war’ in which Fan Bay along with other military structures throughout the Dover area were demolished. In Fan Bay only the subterranean features survived and the deep shelter, plotting rooms and magazines had their entrances covered over. Fan Bay had three small brick entrance blocks protecting the entrance to the shelters, when these were demolished they were toppled inwards which protected the main structure of the shelter. It is believed that the sound mirrors that were constructed into the side of the hill side were covered over and after a small preliminary excavation both mirrors have been confirmed to survive and indeed seem to be in remarkable condition.

One of the entrances into Fan Bay become accessible again in the 1980’s but the remote location of the site, combined with the fact that the entrance was extremely difficult to locate, helped preserve the site and has meant that only a few local historians and cavers have visited the tunnels.

What Work has been done so far?

Considerable work has taken place since the National Trust purchased the land around Fan Bay in 2012. NT have been working with a local group called KURG (Kent Underground Research Group). They have compiled a new scale survey of the tunnel network, as well as a report on the condition of the tunnels, as well as a graffiti survey and photographic survey also compiled by the Group. The National Trust then commissioned as asbestos report which found minimal contamination underground. This asbestos has now been removed and air quality tests have confirmed the air is safe to begin work.

With the asbestos removed a full structural survey was undertaken and the tunnels were found to be in good condition with no major structural issues. A second structural and geological survey has also been completed and found the tunnels to be safe apart from a few unlined areas of tunnels on the stairs and the sea ward tunnel. These sections will be supported and finished in wood by mine engineers to match the original wooded supports of the 1940’s.

A secure entrance was put on the shelter in September 2013 to protect the public and allow equipment to be left in the tunnels in between work days. The spoil blocking the Stairway from the surface to the underground tunnels has been removed and the process of removing the entrance spoil from the top set of stairs was commenced and completed by the KURG on the last work day of October 2013. With this work complete it was at last safe for the National Trust to allow volunteers and contractors into the tunnels to begin work.

What work needs to be done:

Fan Bay is located in an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and SSSI (Special Site of Scientific Interest). Doing any work in the area must be carefully planned to minimise damage to the chalk grassland. The local property team began a detailed planning application over the winter months and when this application approved we hope to begin surface work some time in 2014. The planning application will need to carry out a detailed biodiversity assessment, archaeological investigation and must show how we will limit or repair any damage to the chalk grassland on the surface.

Whilst we compile the planning application there is all sorts of work which the National Trust volunteers and other contractors have been doing to the inside of the tunnels which includes securing and clearing the underground entrances, stabilising some sections of the tunnels, cleaning and reinstating the internal ductwork. Two new doors have been constructed and installed to protect the lower entrances when they are exposed. Over the course of many working days Volunteers lead by National Trust staff have been at work in the tunnels. One estimate puts the amount of spoil that has been dug and bagged for disposal as sixty tonnes but in addition to this much more has been moved within the tunnels making good some areas and also to cordon off an area of the tunnels that is has been identified as unstable.

When the planning application is approved work will begin to excavate and reinstate the original entrances on the site. Once these entrances have been opened and secured, further improvements and clearing works will be done and it should not be long now before Dover has another very important Conflict Heritage site open to the public. All of this would not be possible without the dedicated work the volunteers have put in at Fan Bay and there is further opportunity for people to get involved with getting the site ready, as well as helping to research the historical background.

fan bay 2

Fig: 1. Plan of Fan Bay Battery, surface and subterranean 1943

fan bay 3

Fig:2 Plan of the underground workings at Fan Bay.

Contact:

For further information or enquires please contact Jon Barker who is coordinating the project.

Jon Barker
Assistant Visitor Experience Manager
South Foreland Lighthouse
The Front
St Margarets Bay
Dover
Kent
CT156HP

Email: jon.barker@nationaltrust.org.uk
Office: 01304 853281
Mobile: 07500782943

An Overview of the 20th Century Military and Civil Defences of Swale

AN OVERVIEW OF THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY MILITARY AND CIVIL DEFENCES OF SWALE

Victor TC Smith(With contributions from Alan Anstee)

This overview is intended to give a general and local context for the assistance of those participating in the Defence of Swale project. From their investigations a detailed study can emerge. The project is coordinated by Kent County Council and funded by the London Array offshore wind farm, with the support of English Heritage.

Download the full article

Swale District 20th century military and civil defences – historical overview