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Report - Fort Campbell, Selmun Peninsula, Malta - September 2015

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by Bertie Bollockbrains, Sep 28, 2015.

  1. Bertie Bollockbrains

    Bertie Bollockbrains 28DL Regular User
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    PART 1...

    Derpy but I think it is worth a report as it is different to the earlier Maltese forts and a fine example of a modern-era fort. Being modern it is designed not to be seen from the air taking into account the threat of aerial warfare. Gone are the huge castle like defensive walls and ditches of before and in come perimeter walls built to resemble the field walls of the surrounding countryside.

    Standing unused since the 1970s, it is now used as a training area for the Maltese Armed Forces.

    HISTORY

    Fort Campbell, built from 1937 to 1938 and was the last major British fort to be built in Malta. Fort Campbell is located on the Selmun peninsula facing St Paul's Islands. It was built to protect the approach to both Mellieħa Bay and St. Paul's Bay. It also protected British seaplanes which landed in Mistra Bay.

    Work on the fort probably began in December 1937, and work was hurried after the Munich Agreement of September 1938. The fort was modified throughout the course of World War II, when barracks were built and a radar installed.

    Fort Campbell’s specific purpose was that of an ‘Examination Battery’, which meant that it was designed to challenge enemy ships approaching from the north. To do this it was armed with two 6-inch BL (breech-loading) coastal guns.

    1: BL 6 inch coastal gun seen at Newhaven Fort, Sussex
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    It is not known exactly when the fort was decommissioned. After the war, its strategic importance diminished and it was on the verge of being closed by 1949. However the fort remained in military hands and a watchman remained stationed there until the 1970s.

    Since Fort Campbell was decommissioned, it has fallen into a state of neglect and disrepair. It still retains most of its original features, although many rooms are in ruins. The fort was vandalized repeatedly, and in 2004 the fire control position was completely destroyed by vandals. At some point, the iron beams that supported the roof of the barracks were stolen, and due to this some of the blocks have collapsed or are in danger of collapsing.

    The mayor of the Mellieħa Local Council is attempting to restore the fort. Until now, the site was never restored since it would be very expensive given the large area of the fort. It has been proposed that the site be rehabilitated as a picnic or camping site. In 2014, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated that the government intends to rehabilitate the fort and the surrounding area.

    PERIMETER WALLS

    Up until the First World War, the main threat to the Maltese Isles came from the sea. The forts and fortifications built in the nineteenth century, and before, were constructed to resist and repel a naval invasion and bombardment. By the Second World War, the sea was still the major preoccupation facing the military authorities but now fixed defences also had to counter the threat posed by aircraft. When seen from above, the formal outlines of major works of fortifications, with their polygonal trace and ditches, thick parapets, and fixed emplacements, became obvious and vulnerable targets. The modern fort, as a result, now had to shield itself from aerial bombardment and hide from view to avoid detection.

    It is here that Fort Campbell becomes interesting. For in their attempts to achieve this, the British military engineers departed from the rigid manner of fortress construction employed in all the other forts at Malta and created a work of fortification that sought to integrate itself, rather than impose itself, on the landscape.

    This was achieved by means of an irregular plan and the dispersal of the main structures within the enceinte (the enclosure of a fortified place). The perimeter defences, rather than the usual rigid and thick parapets, were constructed in the manner of a high boundary wall that was built in such a way so as to mimic the surrounding rubble walls that characterize most of Mellieħa’s countryside. The trace of perimeter wall, planned out in a large irregular enclosure, was laid out to blend into the surrounding terrain of terraced fields.

    2: The perimeter wall of Fort Campbell is highly irregular in such a way to resemble the arrangement of the surrounding terraced fields. This made it more difficult for the enemy to recognize the presence of this fort
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    INTERIOR LAYOUT

    With such a small number of buildings inside the perimeter, Fort Campbell’s walled enclosure is rather barren. Furthermore these few buildings were scattered throughout the fort in such a way so as to prevent clusters and identifiable patterns that could be picked up by enemy aircraft flying overhead. Another interesting feature of this fort was the large number of underground passages and chambers. In Fort Campbell only those buildings that were essential to the fighting capability of the fort were built above ground, whereas others such as the generator room and the gun crew accommodations were built beneath ground level. Building underground not only helped to protect the British troops from enemy fire, but it also helped to reduce the concentration of buildings inside the fort, thus making Fort Campbell more invisible from the skies. In this manner, Fort Campbell resembles similar arrangements adopted by the British military in the defence of other important outpost around their empire, such as Fort Stanley in Hong Kong (built in 1936/37) and Good Head Battery in New Zealand (built 1939 to 1943).

    3: Looking rather barren inside the walls, designed to hide the fort from the air
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    4: These 7.62 x 39mm cartridges litter the ground – evidence that the Maltese Army train here. This round is used with the famous AK-47 assault rifle. The Maltese Army also uses the Beretta AR70/90 which fires a smaller 5.56mm round

    [​IMG]

    GUN EMPLACEMENTS

    The offensive element of the fort was provided by its battery of two 6-inch coastal guns. These were housed in two concrete barbette gun emplacements. The main advantages of mounting guns above the parapet was that it provided them with wider fields of fire but this advantage usually came at a price as the gunners were more exposed and thus more vulnerable to enemy fire thus they were fitted with protective metal turrets or overhead covers. Each of the two emplacements had a covered loading chamber just behind the gun pit, an underground magazine, and a partially underground accommodation for the gun crew. The loading chamber contained various cubicles whereby shells were stored separately.

    On the left hand side of the loading chamber, lies the passageway that led to the underground gun crew accommodation. The gun crew accommodation consisted of three separate rooms each with its own doorway and one or two windows. The passageway was also fitted with three windows in order to light up the three submerged rooms. Joining the loading chamber on the right, stood the opening to the large underground magazine. The underground magazine was connected to a number of underground passages that led to the surface via vertical channels fitted with metal rungs. Nowadays due to vandalism and neglect, these vertical channels are filled with rubble and rubbish and thus entry into the magazine is dangerous.

    A third gun emplacement in Fort Campbell, apparently built to house another 6-inch BL gun (No.3 emplacement) may have housed a heavy anti-aircraft gun. At its rear, this gun pit was surrounded by a small ammunition magazine containing several cubicles just like those of the 6-inch coastal gun emplacements. Although this emplacement lacked space for gun crew accommodation, a few metres away the British constructed two underground rooms to serve this purpose.

    5: A blast protection wall at the entrance to the gun emplacement
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    6: The passage that leads to submerged rooms which used to accommodate the gun crew

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    7: Interior view of the loading chamber showing the large opening that leads to the underground magazine sadly filled with rubble
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    8: Interior view showing the storage cubicles for the artillery shells
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    9: A view of the shallow gun pit and the mounting screws onto which the 6 inch BL coastal gun was anchored
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    10: A view of a partially underground building at the third gun emplacement used for the anti-aircraft gun crew accommodation
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    11: Inside was very impressive graffiti
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    12: Nearby an underground shelter
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    13: Entry was possible but it stank of poo in here
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  2. Bertie Bollockbrains

    Bertie Bollockbrains 28DL Regular User
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    PART 2...

    THE BATTERY OBSERVATION POST

    Directing the fire of the 6-inch guns was the work of the Battery Observation Post (BOP). This structure was roughly situated in the centre of the fort, immediately to the rear of the gun emplacements and faced northwards out to sea. The BOP was a long stepped building that contained the position finding cell and the gun control room. The gun control room lay above the position finding cell and both of these rooms had a cantilevered flat roof. This building was the nerve centre, or command post, of Fort Campbell. The position finding cell inside the BOP served to detect and record information regarding any enemy sightings, target ranges and bearings, as well as the fall of shots of the coastal guns of the Fort. This information was then transmitted to the Fortress Plotting Room adjacent to the BOP by means of a MAGSLIP arrangement (electrical transmission). In the plotting room, enemy sightings were accurately tracked and recorded on a plotting table. These plots were then relayed to the gun control room in the BOP so as to work out the coordinates required to direct the fort’s coastal guns to fire and possibly hit the enemy targets. In 1943, the BOP was modified in order to support a roof-mounted Coastal Artillery (CA) Number 1 Mark 2 Radar. The Fortress Plotting Room was a rock-hewn chamber located very close to the BOP. Entrance to this underground room was by means of two passages. A few metres away from the Battery Observation Post lies a downward ramp that used to lead to another underground concrete chamber. The floor of this underground chamber had two raised concrete bases onto which the electricity generators were mounted to supply electrical energy to the roof mounted radar on the BOP. The downward slope also led to an underground rock-hewn shelter that could have provided some protection to soldiers during air raids.

    14: A view of Fort Campbell’s Battery Observation Post
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    15: The remains of the roof mounting that once supported the Coastal Artillery No.1 Mark 2 Radar
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    16: The entrance leading to the underground radar engine room
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    17: View of the rock-hewn shelter, after a couple of corners it came to a dead end
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    UNDERGROUND WATER TANK

    Fort Campbell was equipped with an underground shallow concrete chamber capable of storing 10000 gallons of water. This chamber was accessible by means of two sets of metal rungs located on either side of the chamber. The pipes that carried water into this tank were positioned next to the metal rungs. The tank is surrounded by a set of small rectangular shaped openings, probably used to allow any excess water to overflow as otherwise it could damage the structural integrity of the concrete tank.

    18: The underground water tank
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    19: Interior of the underground water tank
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    BARRACK ACCOMMODATION

    Barrack accommodation for the garrison was not located within the defensible perimeter. Instead a long range of blocks situated immediately outside the fort contained the barrack blocks, dining room, cook house, officer’s mess and ablution room. These structures were not built as part of the original fort but were constructed at a later stage during the War to house a force of infantry that was stationed here in order to patrol Selmun and its surroundings.

    20: A view of the barrack and mess blocks that housed the infantry stationed here
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    21 : Interior view of the dining room. The iron beams that supported the roof were stolen by metal fairies. The roof is now caving in under its own weight
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    22 : Fire damage here
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    23: View from the fort. Here we see St. Paul’s islands. According to that troublesome book of stories called the Bible, St. Paul was shipwrecked here in A.D. 60. The Bible tells us he converted Malta to Christianity (Acts 28: 1-6) “And later we discovered that the island was called Malta. And the barbarians that lived there showed us great kindness, and they made a fire and called us all to warm ourselves, because there was heavy rain and cold. I cant be bothered to type this nonsense anymore, but basically St Paul gets bitten by a snake, he doesn’t die, the locals thinks he’s special blah blah”
    [​IMG]
     
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