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Report - - Military Prison, Kent. April 2021 | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Military Prison, Kent. April 2021


RXQueen

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Our first visit to a military explore the other day was this wonderful military prison.

Took a little while to figure out how to actually get to it as we first arrived at a car yard, thanks satnav. To get there you have to go past the Roman ruins mentioned in the history. About a 15 minute walk down a path, over a train track using a legitimate pedestrian rail crossing and through a field with a sign warning about a bull. Thankfully no bull.

The earth is really boggy around the site so pleased it wasn’t chucking it down with rain. A fascinating little place just a shame only knew the history after the visit otherwise I would have looked for the old graffiti mentioned. If you’re ever in the area it’s worth looking at, some individual cells still with bars on the windows. It’s beautiful.

Really enjoyed looking around here. It’s a shame the local youth have been with their paint cans, I often wonder if when they’re tagging etc if they ever wonder what it is they’re destroying and later discover and feel bad for doing so?

History -

The prison or the Detention Centre was part of a secret harbour, Richborough Port, a harbour built during the First World War with the purpose of supplying troops fighting on the front. The prison itself was made for British soldiers, stationed at the harbour, who had broken rules.

FROM THE WEBSITE CITIZAN.ORG : “After the war the prison was in agricultural use for more than fifty years and then abandoned and left in oblivion together with the events that happened there and the memory of people who were once forced to stay at that place. Our excitement about the place kept growing while we were there. We were struck by still visible graffiti, left on cell walls by occupants, these sketches now accompanied by artwork of later periods. One of them was just a house, though an unusual one. We took photographs of as much graffiti as we could and went home thinking on the place that was obviously as cold at that time of a year during the war as it was that day when we visited it.

The graffiti of the house had a seemingly illegible text under it but we concluded it was not written in English and hoped to have German words in front of us. And then, during the evening, I created a black and white version of the same photograph which revealed the word ‘Amtshaus’. My excitement about having German writing here was enormous. In German the word describes a state administration facility, an office building responsible for tasks of the public administration, also being the historical name for a building, retained after the change in function.

But my excitement grew, during same evening while searching the internet for existing examples, I saw for the first time Knochenhauer Amtshaus in Hildesheim, in the federal state of Lower Saxony, in Germany. Similarities in the number of floors, the jettying and also in the gable end with what may be the three little pointed windows, the similar look of the main door of the building, part of another building to the left and one more building on the right separated and at an angle, strengthened the belief that I had found the same place.

If it is the same building, the graffiti maker was a German person. Was the building in his hometown or is it a place that he had visited once or many times? Did he draw from memory, a postcard or a photograph? What were his memories related to the place and, above all, how did he feel? Is it that a great desire to be home, nostalgia, resides quietly in our heart when we are willingly far from our hometown but gets greater in proportion when we are forced to be far from it? Or is something else? The sketch is important for us because it changes the history of the place, proving that not only British soldiers were held there but also German prisoners of the war.

Among other graffiti there is scratched the name of HMS Marlborough and the Jutland ‘batell’ - we dearly embraced the mistakes in spelling the word, possibly made by someone who served on the ship and took part in this naval battle in 1916. My favourite graffiti is a sketch of a woman’s leg in a stocking, made in a truly artistic manner.

Intimate stories, memories, wishes and feelings reside in the graffiti. These stories stay hidden from us. But they were vivid to someone and for that reason these sketches, proof of the inmates existence, are dear to us. We find them precious, we want to know these stories and understand who made them.”

THE PORT

During the First World War 1914/18 a secret "Q" port by the banks of the River Stour was the starting point of a ferry service for troops and munitions to France and Flanders. Camps were occupied by thousands of soldiers who were taken by day or by night across the North Sea and the Channel to Dunkirk and Calais.

The chosen spot for the hidden port was under the Roman fortress of Richborough; and a railway was constructed from the main line which passes underthe Saxon walls to the banks of the Stour. The river mouth was dredged; and a new port of embarkation was created. The camp was constructed in the marshlands on both sides of the river.

Most of the work undertaken by the Royal Engineers and much of the equipment and arms for the Ypres Salient were sent across from Richborough Port, using sea going barges and the very first roll-on roll-off ferries.

BETWEEN THE WARS

After the end of the war the port silted up, the Quay was deserted, and the mile of camps lay derelict. Some years later, the area was sold by the Government to a combined industrial enterprise of Dorman Long, one of the biggest steel firms in the Kingdom, and Pearsons, a big contracting firm who had carried out major constructions in many parts of the world.
They made plans for the development of light industries on a large scale, using the camp, the railway, the river water, and the Kent coal for power but the plan did not get off the ground.

Richborough Refugee Camp

For nearly twenty years the Richborough Camp was not used until the end of the year 1938, when Sandwich received more than 5000 Jewish and political refugees from from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, driven out by Nazi persecution.

At the end of August, 1939, Britain was at war with Germany and a large majority of the men in the camp volunteered and eventually were accepted for service in and attached to the British forces.

A plaque was placed on the wall of the Barbican, in 1971 to commemorate the Richborough Transit Camp, where five thousand people found refuge from Nazi persecution.

In their place battalions of English infantry engaged in home defence were quartered in the Richborough Camp.

In 1942 Richborough Camp became a post of the Marines, named H.M.S. Robertson: and the former Q port was again a hive of industry. Part of the Mulberry harbour to be towed to the Normandy coast, for "D Day" attack on the German wall, was built there by the Royal Engineers.
The secret of the factory was well kept; high walls shut off the workshops from the roads, and buses travelling along that stretch of road were blacked out until "D" Day. when the cumbersome block of a breakwater was taken out to sea.

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