The Maunsell Sea Forts in the estuaries of rivers Thames and Mersey were built to help defend the United Kingdom during the second World War. They were designed by Guy Maunsell in 1942 and housed anti-aircraft guns and searchlights to shoot down German bombers on air raids. Maunsell designed two kinds of sea fort, one for the Army and the other for the Navy. Later in the War, Guy Maunsell went on to design the concrete mulberry harbours for the D Day Landings. According to historical reports, these forts helped the British Army and Navy shoot down 22 enemy aircraft and about 30 flying bombs, and scared off one U-boat.
The army fort consisted of a group of seven towers with a walkway connecting them all to the central control tower. The fort, when viewed as a whole, comprised of one Bofors tower, a control tower, four gun towers and a searchlight tower. They were arranged in a very specific way, with the control tower at the center, the Bofors and gun towers arranged in a semi-circular fashion around it and the searchlight tower positioned further away, but still linked directly to the control tower via a walkway.
The naval forts were of a different design. They consisted of two cylindrical concrete towers on top of which was a steel platform where two 3.75-inch guns and two 40 mm Bofors guns were mounted. The twin reinforced concrete legs housed the living quarters and were quite spacious. Each fort accommodated approximately 120 men.
The Maunsell Forts were decommissioned in the late 1950s and later used for other activities. In 1953 when a Norwegian ship collided with one of the forts killing four civilians and destroying two of the towers along with guns, radar equipment and supplies, the ruins were considered a hazard to shipping and dismantled in 1959-60. The forts were left unmanned for several years. Then during mid 1960s they were taken over by pirate radio stations which continued to broadcast until the Government passed legislation against the pirates forcing them to leave in 1967. One of the forts later became a micronation called the Principality of Sealand.
Today these magnificent remnants of the World War are undergoing renovation, thanks to a consortium called Project Redsands.
This article has been revised and republished from an earlier article that appeared on Amusing Planet on September 15, 2009.
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