Author Topic: Sheerness Lines  (Read 487 times)

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Offline Kyn

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Sheerness Lines
« on: June 14, 2020, 23:58:40 pm »
I realise that some of the individual batteries are already on the forum, but this was meant as an overview of the defences and how they developed.

The Indented Lines were designed by Sir Bernard de Gomme in 1668 and built in 1669.  The lines consisted of Half Moon and Cavalier Batteries, these were built to defend the approaches to the River Medway and were positioned where the current fort now stands, three further batteries were added that made up the indented lines finishing with Chapel Battery built to defend the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness.  Latter in the 18th Century a further battery was built to protect the approach of the Dockyard names Medway Battery to the west.  Two bastions, Minster and Queenborough Bastions were constructed to the rear of the defences to provide protection from a land ward attack.  A tower was also constructed behind Cavalier Battery and eventually became Governors residence.  Within the walls of these fortifications were stores, magazines, a chapel and accommodation.  The Lines were remodelled between 1780 and 1796 to encase the whole of the dockyard and Bluetown.  A wet ditch was added around the fortifications with access to the area via the Ravelin.  The armament of the Lines were recorded by Captain Bloomfield, an artillery officer, in 1793 as: 20 x 42-pounders, 16 x 32-pounders, 6 x 24-pounders, 52 x 18-pounders 12 x 9-pounders and 4 x 6-pounders.  At the end of the Napoleonic wars the armament was:

Half Moon Battery10--
Cavaliers Battery-3-
Medway Battery--4
Flagstaff Battery-22
Craigs Battery7--
Queenborough Battery--4
Minster battery11-6

Number 1 and 2 Bastions were complete by 1794 with Bastions 3 and 4 complete by 1804, however the expense magazine and armament were not ready until 1808. 
Shortly after this survey another one was undertaken of the artillery at the batteries and new guns were recommended to brought into use at Sheerness, these are as follows:  on the face of Minster Bastion 2 x 42-pounders, the flank of Queenborough Bastion 1 x 18-pounder, No 1 Bastion, Gunners Grand Battery and Craigs Battery to mount a total of 22 x 9-pounder guns for saluting.  All remaining guns were to be dismantled and put into store, while some of the empty gun emplacements were then used as timber stores.  The southern portion of the lines, including Chapel Battery, were demolished to make way for dockyard improvements between the years 1813 and 1827, and during 1825 recommendations were made to demolish the fortifications for the rebuilding of a new fort and defensive lines again surrounding the dockyard and Bluetown.  In 1835 the armament at Half Moon and Cavalier Batteries was 33 x 42-pounders and on the lines 10 x 42-pounders.  Another meeting was undertaken in 1840 to propose the type of defence needed at Sheerness, a casemated fort with garrison was decided with it being able to be at siege for several weeks.  The ditch was extended in 1848 to reach the new proposed fort to prevent a beach landing and the estimate of the new fort and defensive lines was £50,000.  The proposals were never fully constructed however some of the Lines, now known as Sheerness Lines, were reconstructed and a flanking battery was constructed in 1850.  The building of the new fort did not start until after the 1859 Royal Commission of the Defences of the UK.  Cavalier and Half Moon Batteries were demolished for the building of the new fort.  Today the Sheerness Lines are made up of nine sections these are as follows:

Indented line No.1, initially known as Demi-Bastion, is to the east of Garrison Point Fort.  Traces of gun emplacements can be found here and blocked embrasures, also one gun emplacement that is in good condition.  A WWII searchlight emplacement has also survived and next to the fort are a gun cotton store and an engine room which was originally a magazine.  Underneath is a shelter called “The Bunker”, also surviving is a side arms store.

Indented line No.2 has mostly been damaged by new buildings.   There is a cartridge store at the western end and underneath the gun battery is a room marked on an 1899 plan as the north test room, which would have been used as a control centre for a submarine minefield.  The gun battery (Albemarle Battery) was built in the 1899, it has four gun emplacements with shelters, cartridge, shell, coal and artillery stores below them.  In 1900 three 4.7”QF guns were installed on this battery and in 1936 two 6pdr QF guns replaced these.  In front of this battery is a small ruined square building on the beach, this was a machine gun emplacement.

Indented line No.3 has been totally demolished and no evidence remains.  This battery was armed with two 12pdrQF guns in an anti torpedo boat role in around 1890 they were removed within the first months of WWII.

Centre Bastion also known as Martello Battery was completed in 1824 and was the earliest part of the lines to be recorded having 65pdr smooth bore guns in place.  Each flank of this bastion had a magazine as well as a centrally positioned magazine, these still remain although two of them are sealed.  The central magazine consists of two magazines, both with the remains of the shifting lobby, gunpowder rooms and shell stores.  The western lighting tunnel has a bricked up issue hatch, an ammunition lift and a number of lighting recesses, the eastern lighting tunnel is obstructed by one of the towers built at a later date.  The top of both ammunition lifts can be found on the ramparts.  Above the central magazine is a practice battery, this held three QF guns that wee installed in 1899.  A observation post was been built on this battery during WWI.  Other guns to be installed on Centre bastion were three 7”RBL, two 12pdr QF guns and a small motor battery.  Two 10” Mark III RBL guns were added to the bastion and were still in use in 1902, the Illustrated London News reported before installation that they  “are being manufactured at Woolich Arsenal with all possible dispatch”.  Two 4.7in QF guns later replaced the two 12pdr QF guns on the bastion.  1901 saw a new addition to the bastion three towers were constructed.  Two of these towers resembled Martello towers with the third constructed in a square design with pitched roof to resemble a house from the air.  The two circular towers held two 4.7” guns, one of these guns was involved with an incident in February 1918.  Whilst on night firing practice a shell damaged five houses along marine parade with numerous other shells falling on the beach nearby.  The towers were made taller leading up to WWII, the westernmost one was used as an extended defence officer post commanding the controlled minefield, the easternmost one was used as an observation post with another gun on top, the square tower was used as a fire control tower. 

Curtain Battery is in between Centre Bastion and No.1 Bastion.  There wasn’t much on this Bastion compared to the others - all that remains is a WWII search light emplacement and some concrete platforms to the west which held 4 x 40 pdr breech loading guns in 1895.  It is possible the platforms for muzzle loading guns are still there but are now rubble.

 No.1 Bastion is situated at the eastern most point of the Sheerness Lines.  It comprises of a WWI mine control post, an anti aircraft light machine gun emplacement, a direction finding mound, a 6”gun pit, this gun was placed on a moncrieff disappearing carriage, two brick 1940 gun houses with emplacements and two Napoleonic magazines.  The brick gun houses had their rear walls removed to enable the removal of the guns.  Also two parts of the brick revetment wall can be found with gun emplacements present, a storeroom and another control post.  It was also the site of the grand magazine built in 1801, in 1804 it was adapted for accommodation for the troops and demolished in 1955.

No.2 Bastion is within the steel mill and is still recognizable.  It is partly surrounded by a moat, no gun emplacements remain but the military hospital does remain on site and is used for offices for the steal mill.

No.3 Bastion is within the steal mill, and mostly demolished.  All that remains is part of the moat, now used as a cooling pond.

No.4 Demi Bastion is also in the steel mill grounds, it was on the corner between the moat and the sea.  All that remains is one gun emplacement at an angle and one set of flanking emplacements.

Between No.1 Bastion and No.2 Bastion was a small island called the Ravelin.  This island was triangular and was originally used for storing gun carriages.  The bridge over the moat missed this island but was later adapted to turn it into a sally port.  The bridge that remains on bridge road would have gone onto the island then another bridge would have come off, this is where the road bends next to the college.  The moat around the ravelin was filled in many years ago and the only trace of what was once there is part of the musketry wall.

Also in this area (Tesco car park) was another gun battery.  It was named Ravelin Battery, this battery was built in 1903 and mounted two 9.2” BL guns, these guns were removed in 1927.  A 2pdr Pom-pom AA gun was installed here during WWII, it is possible a holdfast that remains on this site may have been for this gun.  The battery was used right up to 1956 and wasn’t demolished till the 90’s when Tesco was built on the site.

Offline Kyn

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Re: Sheerness Lines
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2020, 23:50:34 pm »
A then and now shot of the Indented Lines.

Offline ElCamino

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Re: Sheerness Lines
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2024, 17:41:43 pm »
I know it originally served as a magazine for the intended lines but does anybody have much unfortunately on “the bunker”? It seems to have been reused right up until around the 2000s and has some computers in there; does anyone know the exact history of this particular part of the lines?