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Report - Scoveston Fort, Pembrokeshire - April 2009

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by ukmayhem, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. ukmayhem

    ukmayhem 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Visted with Dumptyboy and his mate Lee.

    Fort Scoveston is one of a ring of defensive fortifications constructed around the natural harbor of Milford Haven. The construction of the forts was first proposed by the 1860 Royal Commission into the defense of the United Kingdom, which was held in response to the perceived strength of the the French Navy. Milford may to modern eyes seem an unlikely place for an invasion of britain tucked away in the furthest corner of West Wales, but the last invasion of britain in 1797 actual occurred near Fishguard in Pembrokeshire. The natural harbor at Milford one of the best in the world, it would have been an ideal target for a naval invasion so it was considered worthy of defense. It was believed at the time that any invasion in Pembrokeshire would have begun with a landing further round the coast with Milford Haven as the first target to secure a landing place for further troops and base for navel vessels.

    The original plans for the defense of Milford haven called for a Northern defensive line of six land forts to protect the northern approaches towards the haven. When the government reviewed the plans the entire defensive line was struck out of the plans but after further deliberation the works at Scoveston were reinstated to cover the likely approaches to the towns of Neyland and Milford Haven. Construction commenced under goverment contract in 1861 and was progressed under two further contracts awarded in 1862 and 1864. It was completed in April 1864 at a total cost of £45,462.

    Fort Scoveston is a hexagonal defensive work 130 yards in diameter, surrounded by a 36 foot wide escarpment (ditch). The couterscarp (outside edge) of the ditch was cut from the natural rock making entering and retreating from the ditch more difficult and The Escarp (inside edge) was constructed of smooth masonry 22 feet high. On top of the escarpment the fort was surrounded by a rampart (a steep bank of earth constructed from the earth excavated from the ditch), at the summit of the rampart a Chemin de ronde provided a firing step covering the escarpment and approaches to the fort. At each corner of the fort a single Caponier jutted out into the escarpment to provide flanking fire down its length and at the peek of the Hexagon a double Caponier provided flanking fire down each side of the longest stretch of escarpment. Outside of the escarpment land was cleared and landscaped to form a glacis a gentle slope clear of obstruction which would expose any force approaching the fort to fire from the rampart. The rear of the face of the firing positions was defended by a parados (bank of earth) and a large traverse was also erected across the length of the interior parade.

    The fort was originally intended to be armed with 32 guns mounted on the rampart but these appear to have never been installed, The Royal Artillery and Royal Engineer's returns from 1886 and 1898 list no armament at Fort Scoveston. From the 1900's fortifications like Fort Scoveston began to lose their importance as defensive structures so it is unlikely that it would have been armed after 1898. There is also no evidence of gun mounts on the rampart although an expensive underground magazine was constructed for artillery ammunition. The single entrance to the fort was protected by a rolling bridge over the escarpment and a long stone lined tunnel dug through the rampart. Inside the fort bomb proof barracks accommodation was provided for a garrison of 128 constructed within the the rampart along with guard house within a smaller earth embankment near the forts gate. The Caponiers appear to have been fitted out for the use of machine guns with independent magazines constructed on their lower levels.

    For most of its life Fort Scoveston served as barracks accommodation or was empty under the care of a single warden. All of the fortifications built as a result of the 1860 Royal Commission have come to be known as "Palmerston's Follies" named for the prime minister of the time Henry John Temple the 3rd Viscount Palmerston, who was a vocal advocate of their construction. Although the term is believed to have originated in press reports of the time because most newspaper owners were supporters of naval rearmament as Britain's first line of defense instead of expensive land forts. This term has been used more recently to describe the forts as an expensive failure because they never fired a shot in anger although they did have an important deterant effect.

    During WW2 the fort was called in to action for the first time serving as the war station for the 3/5th Battalion (TF) Welsh Regiment. The battalion was only to stay at the fort for a few days before moving on to a training facility at Hearson and then active service as the 4th Battalion Wels Regiment. As the war drew to its conclusion the fort went on to become a depot for the troops maintaining the extensive network of trenches and field works between Weare Point and Port Lion. A large number of huts were added to the parade ground and the land surrounding the forts expanding Scoveston into a large army camp. The troops stationed here belonged to the 9th Battalion of the Labour Corps which was a "Russian" company formed in 1918 as a result of the call up of Russian nationals living in Britain although other nationalities such as Ukrainians and Lithuanians were also drafted into its ranks. They were not trained for front line action so that they would not be a threat if they had decided to mutiny in the aftermath of the October revolution.

    Following the end of the first world war the fort fell into disuse and was sold off to a local farmer in 1932 for £1,400. After the outbreak of the second world war the fort was requisitioned by the war department to serve as an Anti Aircraft battery and locals came to use the original barracks as an unofficial air raid shelter. Towards the end of the war Scoveston became a major storage and distribution hub for ammunition shipped in through Milford Haven in the build up to D Day. At the end of the war the fort was once again abandoned and handed back to the farmer who owned it, since then it has been disused and has become completely overgrown its hard to spot that the fort even exists under the thick undergrowth which now covers it. Be prepared to be ripped to pieces by the brambles :D


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    Big thanks to Dumptyboy for showing me the Fort.

    Matt
     

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