Page 47 - Fort Gilkicker
P. 47

Fort Gilkicker                                                                                  Solent Papers No.5

           The early 1900s                                    Monckton, Gilkicker, Elson, Brockhurst, Grange,
           By 1904 the last of the smooth bore coast defence  Lumps and Horse Sand.
           guns were relegated to saluting purposes and the
           remaining Rifled Muzzle Loading and early Rifled   Living in the fort : 1906-1909
           Breech Loading guns were declared obsolete. The    In 1906, an ‘Old Soldier’, James McKnight of the
           Owen Committee report of 1905 stated that the      Hampshire Regiment, returned from India and was
           heavy armament of Gilkicker, Stokes Bay and        quartered in Fort Gilkicker with his wife and
           Browndown were only of use against ships that had  daughters. He was still in uniform and was employed
           forced the outer defences and such ships would be  as a lamp man. The family occupied a living room
           deterred by the inevitable damage they would incur.  and two bedrooms  in the barrack block to the east of
           The 9.2 inch guns at Gilkicker and Browndown were  the entrance tunnel. Another family called Owen
           therefore superfluous. The 6 inch guns were also   occupied the quarter next to them. One of the
           superfluous and ineffective for much the same      daughters, Mrs. Margaret Louise McKnight, born in
           reason. The recommendation was that the guns be    October 1898, revisited the fort in October 1988
           removed. A 1906 armament return shows that the     when she was ninety and was able to relate many
           9.2-inch and 6 inch guns were still mounted but to be  incidents that occurred during her childhood stay at
           reduced. Corrections to August 1907 show them as   the fort. The loopholes to the rear of the barrack
           dismounted. In 1908 the Volunteers were abolished  block were put to good use by her mother. She loved
           and the Territorial Force came into being. The Royal  cooking and would place jellies in the loophole to
           Garrison Artillery Coast Artillery Units of the    cool. Mrs. McKnight saw the last soldiers leave the
           Territorial Force were to man the coast defences   fort as the B.L. guns were removed. She remembers
           rapidly and without delay in case of general       seeing a drunken soldier arrested, as he returned
           mobilization. The District Establishment maintained  through the wicket gate, and placed in the guard
           Gilkicker  under ‘care and maintenance’ orders.    room.  The girls played in the gun casemates and
           When war broke out in 1914  the Militia and        Mrs. McKnight described what she called the ‘raised
           Volunteers were again allotted to the coast defences.  stone beds’ on which the soldiers slept in the east
                                                              casemates. By her description these appear to be the
           Searchlights                                       beds for the Crossley generators which must
           In 1892 Fort Monckton was the centre of Submarine  therefore have be fitted prior to 1907.  The girls
           Mining training. A series of buildings called the  attended a nearby garrison school. Mrs. McKnight
           Submarine Mining Establishment was built to the    remembered a rumour of the time that Gilkicker was
           west of Fort Gilkicker, east of Stokes Bay pier. Some  sinking into the sea. The McKnights moved out of
           time after  this time the Royal Engineers built a 60cm  Gilkicker in 1909 leaving it empty.
           narrow gauge railway, for steam and sail driven
           trains from the Establishment to Monckton. It ran  World War One
           eastwards from the Establishment and turned north  During the First World War the Stokes Bay military
           crossing the access road to Gilkicker and on into  railway was used to move stores and troops
           Monckton Hutments north of Fort Monckton. The      undergoing training to and from Monckton Hutments
           Tyne Electrical Engineers were originally Submarine  and Haslar Barracks  from Stokes Bay pier and the
           Miners but after the Navy took over this           Royal Engineers’ School  Electric Lighting. The
           responsibility in 1905 they became  responsible for  whole of the area surrounding Fort Monckton served
           Coast Defence Lights. In 1903 they camped at       as an infantry training ground. Fort Monckton was
           Stokes Bay carrying out mining work at Spithead.   used to house troops undergoing training, including
           They returned again in 1905 and 1906 using Fort    for a period members of the Hampshire Regiment,
           Monckton. By this time they were operating a mobile  and Fort Gilkicker probably  served the same
           90cm. Coast Defence searchlight. They assumed the  purpose. An armament return for 1917 shows that
           position of Second Senior Volunteer Electrical     Gilkicker was briefly armed with a 3-inch 20cwt
           Engineer Unit and again held their camp at Stokes  Quick Fire Anti-Aircraft gun. It was removed the
           Bay in 1907. In 1912 Gosport was the War Station   following year. The 9.2 inch B.L position A2 has an
           for two of their companies. Among the earliest     octagonal concrete pedestal added  to  for this gun.
           extemporised Anti Aircraft  lights manned by the   Another report lists Gilkicker as having a 6pdr
           Tyne Electrical Engineers were ones at Forts       Hotchkis AA gun in 1916. By 1920 a ‘lean-to’

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