Published: 19:55, 27 July 2021
| Updated: 16:53, 30 July 2021
An ambitious project is underway to stop a set of Second World War structures off the East Kent coast from crumbling into the sea.
The Maunsell Forts are a series of armed towers in the Thames Estuary that operated as Army and Navy bases from 1942 to protect London from sea and air strikes.
Since being decommissioned in 1958, they have been left in a state of disrepair but new plans looking at ways to prevent them being lost forever have been revealed.
Structural engineering firm Structural Repairs has been inspecting the forts to see how they can be restored to their former glory and brought into public use.
Calum Weeks, Project Manager at Structural Repairs, said: “The Maunsell Forts played a key role in protecting Britain during one of the darkest periods in our history, but they have largely been neglected since they became redundant.
“We are still confirming if there is a future for each tower, and are continuing to complete in-depth surveys and structural integrity inspections.
“It’s a tragedy they have been left in the state they are in now and we are acutely aware of the immense challenges involved due to their inhospitable environment and location, but I believe it’s not too late to breathe new life into them.”
The Maunsell Forts were designed by civil engineer Guy Maunsell to help defend against devastating German bombing raids in 1943.
Perched off the coasts of Kent and Essex, they were home to dozens of soldiers as well as state-of-the-art equipment such as radar detection that would spot incoming enemy aircraft.
The huge concrete and metal structures, which stood up to 78 feet in height, were built on land before being brought out to the water and anchored into place.
Nore Fort is one of the closest structures and although it has deteriorated, parts of the base are still visible at low tide from the village of Cliffe near the Hoo Peninsula.
The Shivering Sands Fort, off the coast of Herne Bay, was used for anti-aircraft defence during the war and later used as a base for a pirate radio station.
The Red Sands Fort near Whitstable, which boasts seven towers, is considered to be in the best condition of the remaining structures, but it still needs major restoration work.
Mr Weeks added: “After carrying out initial inspections of The Red Sands Fort it was apparent that six of the towers have severe structural defects with elements already lost to the sea.
“The seventh tower has severe structural defects with risk to life due to elements imminently about to fall from the tower into the sea.
“The main defects currently recorded are concrete delamination and corrosion to the tower structures.
“We are under no illusions towards the enormity of the task involved and have grave concerns in regards to the general public attempting to access these currently dangerous and unsafe structures.
“The forts remain treasured parts of our history and we know there are many people who want to see their heritage preserved for future generations.
“We hope to work closely with interested heritage experts to combine their wealth of knowledge and passion with our structural engineering experience to ensure a bright future for the Maunsell Forts.”