Report - - Cliffe Fort, Kent - September 2012 | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Cliffe Fort, Kent - September 2012


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Another hangover on a Saturday, another solo explore, another tick off of the hitlist.

History from the always wonderful Underground Kent:
Built in the 1860’s, Cliffe Fort is one of the three Thames Side Forts that were designed to defend that Thames Estuary. It was also built to work in conjunction with Coalhouse Fort in Essex to prevent a hostile fleet reaching London via the Thames.

Construction of the fort was difficult due to the marshy ground that the fort is built on; cracking and subsidence caused many problems for the men working on the fort. More surprisingly, this marshy ground was also home to malaria mosquitoes, which made life even more difficult for the construction work.

The fort was designed solely to cater for the armament of the day and the guns that were installed on Cliffe Fort were 12.5â€￾ and 11â€￾ RML’s, weighing around 35 tons. Protection of these guns was provided by granite faced casemates with shields for added defence. These shields, casemates and the rails on which the gun carriages stood are all still visible today.

In 1885, Cliffe Fort became the site for an experimental harbour defence system known as the “Brennan Torpedoâ€￾. This was the world’s first wire guided missile. Originally there were two sets of launching rails, but only one remains today. As progressive as this system was at the time, it was replaced 25 years later in favour of quick-firing (QF) guns.

Cliffe Fort remained armed throughout both World Wars, but was sold after the end of the Second World War to a local cement company. As a result of this, the fort has sadly been neglected and has fallen into a fairly advanced state of decay.

After some trek to get to the actual Fort I made my way around the back to find the Brennan Torpedo, or rather what was left of it. Then I made my way inside, and had a bit of a surprise when I got on top of the Fort itself.


On top of the Fort there was a chap about my age sitting on the edge, smoking a joint. This chap had got his bike in, and on top, of the Fort. I said hello, startled him, and he cleared off the same way that I had just climbed in, taking his bike in tow. It was impressive, but made me wonder why he didn't leave it outside somewhere like I did?


Puzzlement aside I decided to crack on and took some photos of the WW2 watchtower, then started to ponder a way to get down. I'm not the best climber, so it had to be somewhere that I could get back up to relatively easily. This ended up taking me some time, and as I thought I'd got an ideal location, the cement works next door that owns the Fort now went live, which changed my plans slightly.


Anyway, I found an alternative, and made my way down to the middle level of the Fort.


There's very little left now other than the structure itself that might suggest a military past, but there was the odd sign, like in the picture below. I think someone said in another report that was a periscope or some sort of spotting device?


As I made my way around the casemates the extent of the flooding in the bottom of the Fort became pretty evident, and despite wearing my proper hiking boots, didn't fancy going for a wade as it looked like it got deep in places.


Whilst this place didn't have the stunning quality like Burgoyne, or wasn't underground like Archcliffe, there was something quite ethereal about the place, and it was nice just to chill and have a fag in the nice weather.


The final bit of my explore took place in the casemates to the South of the Fort. I took these two corridor shots, then had a venture down the stairs and decided that today was not the day to risk going for a wade given all of the rain in the last week.


On my way around I had spotted another potential way in/out, so decided to check it out. It did indeed get me back to the path, but not until after I'd had a severe argument with bushes, palisade and a bog for fifteen minutes :banghead Really wasn't a smart choice to go the way I did, but I did find another access point in the end.

It's a shame that the Fort is in such a state now, as it would a great explore if it wasn't submerged. Still, it was a nice afternoon and a great day to cycle there too. Props to Wevs for the tip, too :thumb



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