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Report - - Dover Sites - January 2022 | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Dover Sites - January 2022


RXQueen

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Had a day trip to Dover with Ella on New Years Day. We planned to do some tunnels and military sites of interest.

Our first stop was St Margaret’s Bay, where we soon realised that the day was not going to be easy judging by the entry via a rope ladder flapping round on the cliff face. So we gave that a miss, popped in a little cave that turned out to be a dead end and I slipped over and landed in dog shit so off to a great start. I think we thought the tunnels would be easy to get in, as novices and totally unaware… and the fact our phones decided we were in france didn’t help matters either when trying to access google maps…


St. Margaret's Bay Cliff Complex

The beach at St Margaret's was seen as a possible landing place for an invasion fleet, so was well defended during the war and old photographs show barbed wire entanglements and a pillbox and this tunnel system still remains. It was also a crucial point as the powerful gun batteries were located close by, and would have been a target for sabotage. The tunnel appears to have been dug to allow guns to be placed in rooms cut into the cliff face, to cover the beach. The original entrance to this tunnel, located at the end of the esplanade, is now sealed and the only access is a rope up to the machine gun post in the cliff face. Inside, conditions are good and the majority of the tunnel is lined with tin on the roof and supported by bricks. Parts of the tunnel which are unlined still appear to be sound, although steps lead up to a second room, which has been lost due to erosion. There are a number of other caves and tunnels close by, on the Eastern side of the bay, but this is by far the most extensive.

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Just next to the tunnel in the cliff was a Pillbox so we had a nose at that but there was no way inside of it…


St Margaret’s at Cliffe Pillbox

This casemate is of type FW3/22. During World War II, these bunkers were used for the defense of the United Kingdom against a possible enemy invasion. They were built in 1940 and into 1941.

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Moving on from St Margaret’s we spent a considerable amount of time sliding around in mud on a hillside looking for another tunnel entrance, we then borrowed the keys for some other tunnels but decided against going in because we were concerned that we might not have the upper strength to haul ourselves out. This was when we decided that we need to come back with others who know what they’re doing.

We then moved on to St Martins, exploring the old car garage (we was unaware until a few days later the connections with the sad murder of Sarah Everard)…


St. Martin's Battery, Dover

St Martin's Battery was constructed in the 1870s and mounted with three 10-inch RML guns. It is located overlooking Dover's Western Docks, in an area which would have been just inside the South Entrance of the Western Heights fortress. By the turn of the 20th Century, the guns at St Martin's Battery were obsolete, and had been replaced by more powerful guns in other batteries in the area. The old emplacements were modified and re-armed with 6-inch Breech Loading Guns at the beginning of WW2, and the site became known as 'Western Heights Battery'. A late 19th Century magazine, located directly behind the battery, was extended at this time to form a deep shelter. This was constructed in a similar way to shelters at other batteries in the area, being lined throughout in corrugated steel shuttering and iron girders, and followed a similar layout. A secondary entrance to the shelter is located in an area behind the site of the Grand Shaft Barracks.

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We were rapidly losing light and wanted to get to the Grand Shaft so we didn’t really go around the whole of the Drop Redoubt Fort…


Drop Redoubt Fort

The Drop Redoubt is one of the two forts on Western Heights; the other being the Citadel, and the two are linked by a series of dry moats (or lines). It is arguably the most impressive and immediately noticeable feature on Dover’s Western Heights.
The artillery at the Redoubt faced mostly inland – it was intended to attack an invading force attempting to capture Dover from the north-east.

The construction of the Redoubt was in two periods, the first being from 1804-1808 during the Napoleonic Wars, the second from 1859-1864 following the recommendations of the 1859 Royal Commission.

First Period -
The original form of the Drop Redoubt was a simple pentagon, formed by cutting trenches into the hillside and revetting (facing) them with brickwork. Thus the Redoubt was a solid ‘island’ with barracks, magazine and artillery on top. Originally it would have accommodated 200 troops, but by 1893 the numbers had been reduced to just 90.

A striking feature of the first period is the Soldiers’ Quarters – five bomb-proof brick vaulted casemates. These are parabolic in cross section and covered in a thick layer of earth to withstand the effect of mortar-bombs. The windows at the rear of each open into a trench to protect them against blasts.

Second Period -
The rise of Napoleon III during the 1850s caused a further invasion scare, and a Royal Commission was set up in 1859 to assess the defences of Britain. As a result more work was deemed necessary at the Heights and as a consequence the Drop Redoubt had its defences improved. Caponiers were added to four of the corners of the existing fort (each with a stone staircase leading up to the top of the Redoubt), and gunrooms were built adjacent to two of them to allow fire along the North and South-East Lines. The original magazine was enlarged and covered with a large earth bank as protection from mortar fire.

The Officers’ Quarters, Guardroom and cells also date from this period and can be distinguished from the earlier work by the semi-circular shape of their brick vaulted arches.

By 1902 the heavy guns had been removed and the fort became the residence of the infantry bands attached to the battalion in residence at the Grand Shaft Barracks. During World War I it housed searchlights operated by the Dover Anti-Aircraft Corps, and in November 1917 a German U-Boat crew were held prisoner there. The fort was largely abandoned between the wars.

During World War II, the Redoubt became a look-out post where the long-range shelling of Dover from France was plotted. In April 1942 it housed 100 Commandos and 60 Canadian infantry who undertook a raid to the shore of Hardelot, France under the command of Lord Lovat. In 1945 the site was abandoned permanently.

Originally the redoubt was to be equipped with 12 smooth bore 24-pounder guns and two carronades. However, it is unlikely that many were installed since the Napoleonic Wars were almost over by the time phase one construction was completed. In 1851 only three 24-pounders were in place, along with six 12-pounder saluting guns and an 8” mortar.

For phase two construction eleven Armstrong 110-pounder Rifled Breech Loaders were installed on traversing carriages. These proved unsatisfactory and a return was made to muzzle loaders.

In 1914 two Hotchkiss 6-pdr QFs (quick firing guns) were mounted just outside the fort and during World War II it was to be protected with Anti-Aircraft Bren guns, a mortar, grenades and Molotov Cocktails.

On top of the redoubt are the remains of a Roman Pharos or lighthouse, which complemented the one still extant in the grounds of Dover Castle. Both date from the 2nd Century AD, and would have been similar in design. Its remains were lost during the first phase of construction, but were re-discovered during the second phase and restored to its approximate original position (now on the ramparts) as a rather shapeless lump of masonry. The foundations can now be seen in a room immediately below, now part of the Victorian officers’ quarters. Local names for the remains of the Pharos are the ‘Bredenstone’ or the ‘Devil’s Drop of Mortar’, and it was here that until 1914, the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports had their installation ceremony. It is likely that the name ‘Drop Redoubt’ originates from the local name given to the ruins of the Pharos.

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We got to the Grand Shaft just as it got dark, I’m amazed how long ago it was built and how it was built, I really enjoyed it but not the steps coming back up…


The Grand Shaft

The Grand Shaft was proposed as a project in 1804 and built between 1806 and 1809 as a quick means of communication and movement between the barracks on the Western Heights and the town below.

It was designed by Brigadier-General William Twiss, Commanding Engineer of the Southern District. General Twiss was one of the outstanding designers of military defences at the time, and was also responsible for the Royal Military Canal running from Hythe to Rye, and the Martello Towers along the south and east coasts of England. His letter of 1804 to Lt. General Morse suggested ‘a shaft with triple staircases, the chief object of which is the convenience and safety of the troops’. In addition, in the event of an attack by the French he considered that it would be ‘the shortest and securest communication with the town’ and that it ‘may eventually be useful in sending reinforcements to troops employed in the defence of the beach and town or in affording them a secure retreat’. Without the Shaft troops would have had to use the badly-maintained roads and tracks leading down to Dover, which being based on chalk became very slippery and dangerous in wet weather.

The main shaft comprises two concentric hollow brick cylinders 140 feet (42m) high, the outer being 26 feet (8m) diameter. Between them were built three intertwined staircases of Purbeck limestone. The inner cylinder was provided with window apertures for light and ventilation. Each staircase has two landings. At the bottom, where the staircases meet, a sloping corridor leads to Snargate Street. The three staircases meet at the top in a bowl, from which stairs lead up to the parade ground in front of the Grand Shaft Barracks.

This began in 1806, and was bedevilled by bad weather. The rain caused the chalk and clay to become unstable, and there were many instances of the sides of the Shaft collapsing. Fortunately there were no fatalities during the three years of construction. On its completion the total cost amounted to £3,221. 2s. 4d – £700 less than the original estimate!

Although the Grand Shaft is unique in being the only triple spiral staircase in the country, there are still two double spiral staircases in existence at the Citadel. These lead down to the well room, and to the sally port respectively, at the level of the bottom of the lines. As a security precaution both have been capped in concrete.
In the 19th Century Snargate Street maintained many taverns and houses of ill-repute. To cope with the return of drunken soldiers late at night a guardroom and cells were built at the end of the Shaft’s entrance tunnel where the soldiers could sleep off their excesses.

After completion the Shaft became a local attraction and in 1812 a Mr Leith of Walmer rode his horse up it for a bet. Since he was the owner of the land sold to build the barracks in Deal, he must have had a significant ‘pull’ with the local military authorities!

As the threat of invasion subsided and the barracks became mere holding accommodation for troops, the rigid social hierarchy of the Victorian Army came to the fore. Legend has it that the three staircases became segregated – one for ‘Officers and their ladies’, one for ‘Sergeants and their wives’, and the third for ‘Soldiers and their women’.

After World War II the whole site became less and less important and the barracks fell into disrepair. They were eventually demolished in the 1960s. The Shaft became derelict and became the dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish, including a car. Clearance and restoration were carried out by Dover District Council and the Department of the Environment in the 1970s, and again in the 1980s, and the Shaft was opened to the public in 1986. In 1996 a replica of the original guardhouse was built on the old foundations, and this is now the reception centre and shop for visitors.

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After this we decided to call it a day, we did poke around trying to find another tunnel nearby but it was dark and we were hungry. Dover, we will be back and will be prepared.
 
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Mikeymutt

28DL Regular User
Regular User
A nice mixture there. Done a bit in Dover myself a few years back. It's full off stuff.
 

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Love a bit of Dover. Done a few sites, still plenty I haven't as yet. Great pics from grand shaft.
 

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