Report - - Fort Hoo, River Medway - May 2021 | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Fort Hoo, River Medway - May 2021


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
The History
Fort Hoo and Fort Darnet were built on the recommendations of the 1859 Royal Commission. It is located on Hoo Island covering Pinup Reach, the inner navigable channel of the River Medway.

A detailed history on this fort can be found here or in the excellent write up a couple of years back by @Bertie Bollockbrains here.

The forts were planned to protect the Royal Naval base in Chatham and originally, the intention was for a two-tiered gun deck and to stretch a chain across the channel between the forts to hold attacking sailing ships in the killing zone between them. However, by the time that they were completed, steam-powered ironclad ships would have snapped any chain that could have been placed across the river.

There were also many problems with subsidence, and after extensive cost overruns the forts were completed in 1871 with a single tier of eleven 9-inch rifled muzzle-loading guns, and no boom. Each gun was mounted in an individual casemate with heavily armoured firing port, with guns pointing out it all directions, giving a full field of fire (as shown below in the plan).


The structures can be divided into three main parts: the lower floor housing the accommodation and magazines; the upper floor carrying the guns (with the gun casemates doubling as extra accommodation in an emergency), the third part, in the centre of the fort being a structure shaped like a drum. This drum carried a stairway from ground level to the gun floor, the space between the drum and the guns being spanned by narrow bridges. This part of the building was also used as the parade ground. Entry to the fort is through a gateway over a drawbridge covering a pit between two sets of gates. This area is also covered by two musket loopholes on either side. At Hoo a geared winding device with counterweights was employed to lift the drawbridge.

To protect the gunners, a shield was placed over each embrasure; the gun firing through an aperture - a direct imitation on land of a battleship’s armour, which are still in place today.

Whilst maned continuously for 40 years, the forts were never used in anger and were decommissioned before the First World War. In 1930 experiments were carried out at Hoo Fort to ascertain the likely damage to underground magazines caused by accidental explosion of stored cordite. The accommodation casemates were used for the above ground experiments whilst the magazines were used for the below ground experiments. Some damage was recorded and the final test caused the collapse of the magazine roof.

In the Second World War, the fort was used as an observation post, with platforms and pillboxes built on top. Due to it being largely inaccessible, the fort is still in fair condition with minimal graffiti or vandalism.

The Explore

The fort is located on Hoo Island which is only accessible via boat (kayak in this case) and only when the weather conditions and tide times are right. At high tide, the River Medway is very wide and windswept, however at low tide become a vast expanse of sticky smelly mud. We inflated our kayaks and set off a couple of hours ahead of a very high tide, paddling out against the rising tide, but with the wind helping us. The picture below left (shamelessly stolen from the internet) shows the fort at low tide from the air and the below right shows the padlding in action.


About 2.5km and 40 mins later we landed on the island and went exploring. Normally, the moat is dry at Fort Hoo allowing you to literally walk in the front gate however luck was against us and the moat (and fort) was flooded in about 2 foot of stagnant disgusting water. We had to lift the kayaks into the moat and paddle into the fort via the partially closed front gate (below). In the second picture, musket loopholes can be seen either side of the main gate.

Entering the fort at the lower level (the magazine and accommodation level) is very picturesque with overgrown steps leading up to the next level. Unfortunately, due to the flooding we were unable to explore this level in much detail as the water was too shallow to paddle around (like you can in Fort Darnet) but too deep and disgusting to walk through. The picture below let shows the main staircase, and below right the first two toilets underneath the stairs.

Compared to Darnet, Hoo is a lot more overgrown with trees growing up inside and a lot more greenery.

Having successfully entered the fort, we grounded the kayak (below left) and walked to the bottom of the staircase on a convenient plank of wood, being slightly startled by two pigeons (below right) before climbing up to the middle level of the fort.

The middle level is where the gun would have been mounted with 11 gunports looking out all the way around the fort. In the photos below, the lifting rings for the guns van be seen as well as the remnants of the wooden partitions between each gun port. Originally each gun port would have been in its own separate room with widen partitions and a smoke vent in the ceiling (seen top of right photo) however the wooden partitions have since been removed or rotted away. This level is in pretty good condition, with the beautiful arches largely intact.

Below left shows two of the gunports from the side, and below right shows the inner moat between the outer gun casements and the central drum, on which the parade ground and flag post was. This area is now very much overgrown.

The two photos below show two of the interesting features on each gunport. Firstly, the left photo showing a fireplace which would have had the dual function of keeping each gun room warm as well as being used for heating shot to be fired at wooden ships to set them on fire (which ironically was still used at the time of construction, but became obsolete shortly after). The right photo shows the ammunition chute which went down the magazine underneath, slowing the ammunition to remain protected undergrown and be winched up when needed.

Lastly, the photo below left shows the gun casement with protective shields in place, leaving only a narrow opening for firing out of, with adjustment bars still in place. The below right photo shows the backs of the gun casements as taken from the centre on the internal parade ground area.


Unlike at Fort Darnet, there is not easy access up onto the top level so we sat on the outer glacis and had a picnic lunch before hopping back in the kayaks for a long paddle back to the cars.

Hope this has been of interest.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Hat off Sir

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