Abandoned Kent: Red Sands Forts

At the mouth of the Thames estuary, over six miles from land, a cluster of seven otherworldly structures protrude from the seascape. Standing tall on stilts, these towers are eery and isolated. Today they are rusting and rotting, struggling to withstand the constant attack of wind and sea. Eighty years ago they were fighting a very different enemy.

What were Red Sands Forts used for?

Each of the seven 300 tonne towers was preconstructed before being towed into position, sunk and then connected to the next tower. The towers were all linked by walkways, which are today all lost to the sea. Five towers carried guns arranged in a semicircle around the central control and accommodation tower, which housed the 220 soldiers stationed there. The seventh tower was the searchlight tower, and is set further out than the gun towers.

Alongside two other Maunsell Forts in the Thames Estuary, the Red Sands Fort shot down 22 German planes and 30 Doodlebug flying bombs during their operation from 1943 until the end of WWII.

Red Sands Forts After WWII- Pirate Radio & Filming

After the war, the forts were abandoned, and though maintained up until 1958, soon became surplus to requirements. Being large metal structures not too far from London and the well-populated South East, Red Sands was soon occupied by pirate radio station Invicta, which was renamed KING Radio and then Radio 390.

Radio 390 made the most of the fort’s structure by building a 250-foot vertical mast on an inner tower, attached to three of the outer towers. Combined with the height of the towers, this gave a stable and efficient antenna. Radio 390 was the first station based at Red Sands to try to gain the correct permission to broadcast, however this was never granted and the radio station was eventually shut down in 1967.

A Danger Man episode was partially filmed at the fort in 1965, and in 1968 a Doctor Who episode used the fort to represent a North Sea gas refinery. The Prodigy filmed the end of their music video “Invaders Must Die” at Redsands.

Red Sands Fort Today

Today the fort is crumbling and decaying, though there are some efforts to preserve this unique historical structure. “Project Redsand was set up with the aims of conserving, preserving and interpreting the history of the structure known as Redsands Fort. The long term goal is for restoration to the point where public visits can take place safely and give visitors a comprehensive view of how the fort was built, why it was built and the uses it has been put to over the decades since its construction.”

Boat trips are available to the fort, we used and can highly recommend Red2Red, who also took us to the wreck of Richard Montgomery. The trip made for a highly enjoyable evening out, and Red2Red were helpful and efficient with their availability and booking process.

Last Updated on 17 August 2022 by Michael

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