Wednesday Wow: Sea fort

I’m reviving an old feature I used to have on Hoyden, because it gave me an excuse to go looking at an astonishingly eclectic set of images – the WOW! group on Flickr, for which the only qualification to add one’s picture to the group is that somebody has left a comment with the word “Wow” in it. I clicked on an old link in the Similar posts list on a recent post and it took me to one of those old posts, and I thought “hey, I miss this idea”, because I usually ended up finding out something interesting as I looked into the backstory behind various intriguing photos.

Today’s photo is of a WW2 sea fort off the coast at Whitstable, Kent, England – part of the network of Thames Estuary forts. Can you imagine being on the night shift there in winter? With no micro-fleece?

a sea fort in the Thames Estuary - basically a box on stilts sitting offshore

The framing is part of what caught my eye – the photographer (Max Nathan) describes his technique in comments to the photo:

in a fit of technostalgia I bought an old camera off ebay. Now I use ‘film’, then ‘process’ the pictures at a ‘shop’ … then I scan the pictures for that full twentieth century effect.

Retro to the max.

Speaking of retro appeal, Nathan didn’t give this image either a title or a description, but he did give it a multitude of tags, which enabled me to find out that these forts are the object of a restoration activism campaign called Project RedSand (beware flashing HTML for the navigation tabs – whyohwhyohwhy?).

banner-logo for the Project RedSand website - a graphic representation of a complex interlocked offshore fort structure

Project RedSand - Helping to Preserve Britain's Heritage

Their aim is preservation as an active operating venture that will be self-funding over the long term:

The layout of the towers allows us to exploit various activities including music recording studios, communications facilities, hydrogen from seawater experiments, a wartime and broadcasting museum and possibly digital broadcast. From time to time, the towers may be used for “assault training” by the Royal Engineers Theatre Troops. The general public will have the opportunity to visit the Fort in small groups. Special events will be arranged including weddings and corporate outings.

Forts like these were also part of the 1960s “offshore radio” movement that was a protest against the BBC’s refusal to approve broadcasting licences for commercial radio stations (a very successful technological bypass of an attempt by a government body to stop the “debasement” of popular culture – Stephen Conroy take note).

Fun fact: a fort rather like this at Shivering Sands was where Screaming Lord Sutch, who continues to stand unsuccessfully every election for the Monster Raving Loony Party, became a well known name beyond his initial election attempt, with the shortlived Radio Sutch.

Categories: arts & entertainment, history, media

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9 replies

  1. Microfleece? They had wool! Handknitted woollen garments, at least two layers, with woollen long underwear. Wool has kept seafolk warm for centuries.

  2. Try and get my kids to wear it, M-H! Too scratchy, they moan.
    Agreed though – by the time they’d got their woollen combinations and woollen trousers and jumpers and woollen socks in waxed leather boots, all topped off by rain-slickers and sou’westers, they should have been cosy enough.

  3. A WOW! coincidence – I was looking at pics of these this morning, wondering if I could squeeze a trip to Whitstable into my UK itinerary (Saturday week)!

  4. @Sue, how serendipitous. I find the idea of these places fascinating, so if you do manage to squeeze a trip to Whitstable in, please do report back!

  5. I have one word for you Viv: Modern merino wool. Not scratchy in the least. Technology is a wonderful thing.
    And they may have been cozy, but they probably couldn’t move much inside that lot! 🙂

  6. I just LERVE industrial archaeology / grunge like this. Have always wanted to visit Gunkanjima.

  7. Screaming Lord Sutch, who continues to stand unsuccessfully every election

    Sadly, he committed suicide in 1999 (BBC obituary and reporting of his political career and achievements)

    • Oh, I hadn’t heard! I thought he was still monstering on.
      I just watched a Blackadder episode where they made reference to the Monster Raving Loony Party on the platform as the votes are called out. I shall have to raise a glass to his memory once the sun is over the yardarm.

  8. “Too scratchy, they moan.”
    In winter, my brother and I were dressed in woolen singlets (as knitted by my grandmother) under our school uniforms and holy FSM were they itchy.
    And as someone with sensory issues, I don’t honestly know how I survived it. Even modern merino does not work for me.

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