Fort Monckton

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Entrance to Fort Monckton
HNLMS Dolfijn, a Walrus class submarine of the Royal Dutch Navy outward bound from Portsmouth Naval Base, 1 February 2010. On the opposite shoreline can be seen behind the subs conning tower the Coastguard radar station at Fort Gilkicker on the left, and further right Fort Monckton. In the far distance beyond Fort Gilkicker can be seen Queen Victoria's summer residence Osborne House on the Isle of Wight

Fort Monckton is a historic military fort on the eastern end of Stokes Bay, Gosport, Hampshire. Built to protect Portsmouth harbour at the start of the American War of Independence, it was rebuilt in the 1880s as a Palmerston fort. Today it is the only remaining Ministry of Defence owned fort in the Portsmouth area.

Construction[edit]

Despite several previous plans which noted the exposed nature of Portsmouth harbour to attack, it was not until the American War of Independence that construction of a defensive fort was started on the site in 1779.[1]

The Governor of Portsmouth Lt. General Sir Robert Monckton told his Commanding Engineer, Lt. Col. John Archer to draw up plans for the defence of Stokes Bay. In 1779 the Gilkicker Sea Mark was demolished to provide clear ground for a new temporary fort, which consisted of a 6 feet (1.8 m) thick earth bank, supported by brushwood fascines. So poor was the structure, that the tents of the billeted soldiers blew away in 1780, while the site was so exposed that it was used as a sighting point by ships entering Portsmouth harbour.[1]

Archer proposed a new permanent structure, which was accepted in July 1780. Known as The Fort at Gilkicker, construction started in September 1780. However, using civilian and often supplemented by conscript labour, construction speed was slow and the design came under criticism from Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, who in 1782 was appointed as Master-General of the Ordnance. After Archer was removed from his post in 1783 construction was taken over by engineer officer James Glenie, who himself was removed in 1784.[1]

Construction again slowed, and after much more controversy in its design and naming, it was renamed Fort Monckton after the now deceased Robert Monckton, and completed just before the French Revolution of 1793.[1]

Armament[edit]

In 1872 the outdated armament was a mixture of smooth bore guns: two 8-inch, nine 32pr, two 24pr, six 18pr, two 12pr all Smooth Bore with two 7-inch Rifled Breech Loading guns. It was proposed to change this to five 7-inch R.M.L. guns and six 64pr R.M.L. guns.[2] In 1886 the armament mounted was: eleven 8-inch S.B. five 7-inch R.B.L. guns and six 64pr R.M.L. guns.[3] By 1891 the armament had been reduced to six 64pr R.M.L. guns, two on ordinary sliding carriages and the other four on standing carriages. These were mounted two to each of 1, 2 and 5 Bastions. By this time accommodation within the fort was for eight officers with 70 NCOs and men. There were also quarters for 15 married soldiers.[4]

Palmerston reconstruction[edit]

Considered too small and old to dominate the key anchorage of Spithead by the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, they instead opted to build the new Fort Gilkicker and give Fort Monckton a minor defensive role in the defence of Portsmouth harbour.

Very little was done to modify the fort during this period apart from reforming the gun positions to take the new armament. The fort was often used as a viewing platform for the fleet reviews as illustrated in the editions of the Illustrated London News for 1856 and 1858. In 1875, experiments were carried out at Stokes Bay with Wilde's Electric Light. The light was placed on the South-west bastion of the fort. More experiments continued with Lime Light and signalling lamps for shore-to-ship communication in July 1875.[5]

The fort was incorporated into the defences of Stokes Bay as an adjunct to the Stokes Bay Lines; the Royal Engineers moved into the fort in 1878 to train in the use of naval mines and later search lights.

In 1879, torpedo experiments were carried out at Stokes Bay and part of this consisted of a mock attack on Fort Monckton. This sham attack was recorded in the Illustrated London News.[6] The fort was an ideal viewing platform for the observers and members of the public.[7] In 1880, another demonstration of naval warfare took place in the vicinity of the fort.[8][9] In 1880, the 4th Company of Submarine Miners of the Royal Engineers occupied the fort. They moved out in 1884 to Fort Blockhouse, leaving Fort Monckton as accommodation for the R.E. Militia during the annual training. Anti-aircraft searchlights were located in the fort during WW1 and an anti-aircraft artillery unit was quartered in the fort during WW2.

No.1 Military Training Establishment[edit]

Virtually abandoned after WW2, the fort was however retained by the Ministry of Defence[10] and now remains the only fort in the Portsmouth area retained within MoD (Army)[11] — as opposed to Royal Navy — ownership. Located next to the Stokes Bay Golf Course, much of the original fort still exists including the bastions, sea facing casemates, guard room, one of the caponiers and the ditch. The fort retains its original drawbridge and is additionally protected by modern razor wire security fencing, CCTV cameras and high intensity lighting. The site has been heavily modified with modern offices and accommodation added on and around it. Security at the site is not undertaken by the MoD Police, but by an in-house civilian guardforce.[citation needed]

Now referred to as No.1 Military Training Establishment by the British Army,[12] it is occupied by the Ministry of Defence.[13] In his book The Big Breach, former MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson alleges that Fort Monckton is now the Secret Intelligence Service's field operations training centre,[14][15] where both basic and advanced field training is given to SIS personnel.[16] As well providing liaison training with others services including the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Fort Monckton". fortgilkicker.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  2. ^ National Archive: Table of Proposed Armaments of Rifled Guns exclusive of Heavy R.M.L. Guns 1872.
  3. ^ National Archive: Proposal for Revised Armaments submitted by the Director of Artillery and Inspector General of Fortifications to the Defence Committee: Table A 1886
  4. ^ R.E. and R.A. Armament Record Book for Portsmouth 1890
  5. ^ The Portsmouth News July 1875
  6. ^ Illustrated London News October 25, 1879
  7. ^ Fort Gilkicker website Night Attack October 17, 1879
  8. ^ The Times August 11th 1880 "Experimental Naval Attack on Harbour and Fort Defences at Portsmouth"
  9. ^ Fort Gilkicker website Stokes Bay Experimental Warfare 1880
  10. ^ The Western Defences of Portsmouth Harbour 1400-1800 by G.H. Williams Portsmouth Papers No.3 Page 47
  11. ^ ibid
  12. ^ English Heritage Pastscape
  13. ^ ibid
  14. ^ Richard Tomlinson (2001). The Big Breach: From Top Secret to Maximum Security. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-903813-01-8. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ "Secret Intelligence Service ”MI6”". Jamesbond.ajb007.co.uk. 2003-04-30. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°46′36.43″N 1°8′0.37″W / 50.7767861°N 1.1334361°W / 50.7767861; -1.1334361