Thursday, 25 October 2012

South Forelands Battery Magazines 2 & 3, near Dover - October 2012

So after having fun times in, and on the way in, to Fan Bay Deep Shelter I made my way back to where my bike was parked up, at South Forelands Light House. Coincidentally this was also next to where I was to explore next, the old South Forelands WWII Battery. 

History from wikipedia and then Dover Underground:

During the Second World War South Foreland carried a Chain Home radar station similar to the still-extant towers at Swingate, east of Dover. There was also a coastal artillery battery with four Mk X 9.2" guns and a network of bunkers and ammunition stores, northeast of the lighthouse on the road to St Margarets. The site was cleared after the war, but traces remain albeit heavily overgrown. Excavations started on 28 December 1940 and the first gun arrived on 25 March 1941, although No. 4 gun was not test fired until 28 November of that year. Their best-known action came a few months later, on 12 February 1942, when the light battleships Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen attempted the Channel Dash from Brest back to Germany.

The twin humps of the magazines that served South Foreland Battery guns 2 and 3 ('Prinz Eugen' and 'Gneisenau') are the dominating feature of the area. Constructed of brick and reinforced concrete with a mesh 'cone burster' to detonate incoming shells before they could penetrate the magazines, they are easy to access and explore. Still visible are the hoist rails on the ceiling that were used to move the ammunition, but due to the easy access to this site there is a lot of vandalism regularly taking place. The magazine earth covering is also badly worn away in places due to motorbikes and walkers using the site as a 'recreation area'...

I have to say this one didn't go exactly according to plan. I didn't have the rudimentary plan of the site shown above, all I had was my OS map with a couple of circles where I thought the entrances to the deep shelters might be. As it turned out, where I locked my bike whilst at Fan Bay was literally five metres away from the entrance to the first (Fortress) shelter. This had a nice big metal gate over it though, as did the plotting room next to it. 

Having left my angle grinder at home I headed off to the other circle on my map, but ended up not finding the other (Battery) shelter entrance. It was only afterwards that I realised each shelter had two entrances, and should have doubled my efforts! As a consolation I found a few of the other remaining buildings wide open, and this was the only interesting one - the magazines for guns 2 and 3.

Despite the locals having their way with the building, a key original features were still in tact, such as the overhead rails for ammo as shown below. 

It wasn't the most interesting of bunkers, really, and I almost didn't bother getting my camera out. 

Once you have walked in, the corridor forks, to the left magazine 2, to the right magazine 3. Each magazine had a mini tunnel that ran the entire length around the bunker, presumably for strengthening and adding a layer of support. The entrance to one end is shown below.

That was about it for South Forelands, really. I did find one bunker one the way back to my bike that involved a muddy entrance, and judging by the ground above, was only about 4x2 metres, so didn't bother having a look. I'm now starting to kick myself that it could have been one of the elusive Battery shelter entrances... I also found the Battery plotting room very well sealed up. Bit of a frustrating afternoon, I suppose, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. 

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