Army Sea Forts came about as a direct result of German aircraft
attacking Liverpool Docks from the Irish Sea via the undefended Mersey
Estuary. Fearful that the German air force would use the Thames as a
means of navigation to the centre of London and the London Docks, then
the busiest in the World, it was decided to build a number of gun towers
for the Mersey and the Thames.
Originally there were 49 towers planned for the Thames but cut backs due
to a decrease in German aircraft activity, resulted in only 21 towers
being built at each location.
These Forts were built at the Red Lion Wharf site and towed down river
to be lowered onto the sea bed. Each Tower is set on four concrete legs
supporting a steel structure 100ft above sea level and connected by
narrow catwalks. This complex consisted of five gun towers, a
searchlight tower and a Radar/Control control tower. The towers were
towed out on specially constructed barges, two at a time, and set into
the sea bed. They were positioned between June and December 1943 and
were manned by 165 men.
Of the 21 Army
towers built in the Thames, only 13 still exist. The seven towers of The
Nore group were dismantled in 1959/60 and parts deposited on the
foreshore at Cliffe in Kent as it was blocking the main approach to the
Thames ports. The Red Sands Group of seven towers is directly off
Minster on the Isle of Sheppey but visible from Herne Bay, were
abandoned in 1956 and occupied by radio pirates, including Radio City
and Radio Sutch, during the period 1964-1967. Several TV programmes were
filmed on these Forts such as Dangerman and Dr Who.
Sand Group today consists of just six towers, one tower having been
knocked over (the remains of which can be seen next to the second tower)
by the ship "Ribersborg" in fog on June 7th 1963. As with the Red Sand
Group, it was occupied by the Radio Pirates and several radio stations
were active before being forced to close. This group is directly off
Herne Bay at about 7 miles distance.
Red Sand Tower
Shivering Sand Tower