Page 40 - Spitbank and the Spithead Forts
P. 40

Spit Bank and the Spithead Forts                                                                Solent Papers No.1

                                                               armament was installed in 1880. It had been intended to
                                                               mount a 40pounder RBL on either side of the entrance at
                                                               the rear but this never happened: these rear casemates
                                                               were only used for accommodation.

                                                               A two-level landing stage, constructed in 1880 and
         fort and there was no room for the turret. Instead a Preview
                                                               demolished in 1959, extended north from the rear of the
                                                               fort. This led to the entrance at so-called basement level:
                                                               space around the pump room at the centre of this floor
                                                               were the magazines and stores. Each set of shell and
                                                               cartridge stores was situated underneath the relevant gun
                                                               above, the ammunition being taken up by lift. Because
         St. Helen’s Fort: One of the two projecting armoured  of the weight of the turntable for the 10-inch guns, the
         casemates for a 10inch R.M.L. on a turntable          floor below each was strengthened with cast-iron
                                                               columns. Fresh water was raised by a pump from 500
         the foundations began to settle unevenly so that the work  feet (152m) below the sea bed at the rate of 120 gallons
         began to tilt. It was decided to keep the first floor  an hour. Two tanks above the entrance passage could
         superstructure on the centre of the foundations, so that  hold about 2,000 gallons.
         St Helen's Fort was unlike the other Spithead sea forts
         above the basement level.                             Accommodation was provided in two rooms at the rear
                                                               of the gun floor for an N.C.O .and five gunners,
         With the abandonment of the full first storey to save  although hammock hooks could cater for another 24
         weight, the projected armament of four 12-inch R.M.L.  men in wartime. In the central casemate was a 12.5-inch
         in two turrets, six 10-inch R.M.L. in the seaward     MkII chambered R.M.L. on a steel traversing platform.
         casemates and four 7-inch R.M.L. facing the land had to
         be substantially reduced. One proposal was made in    The two 10-inch R.M.L.’s were mounted on steel plate
         May 1870 by the Defence Committee. This was for a     turntables 23 feet in diameter in order to fire out of both
         two-gun turret on the centre line with one gun on each  embrasures in each casemate. The turntables revolved
         side of it on a Moncrieff mounting, instead of the same  around central spindles centred on granite blocks and
         number of guns in iron-plated casemates.              were turned by winches worked from adjacent
                                                               chambers. Thus one gun could cover an arc of 120
         The idea of a ‘disappearing carriage’ was developed in  degrees. All three casemates were armoured with three
         1865 by Captain Moncrieff, an artillery militia officer.  layers of 5-inch  wrought-iron plates separated by iron
         The gun was concealed in a pit and the barrel only    concrete. Between the embrasures were pier casings of
         appeared for firing. Recoil forced the counter-weighted  concrete-filled iron to support the roof.
         assembly which supported the gun down into the pit
         where it was reloaded in perfect safety. When released,  History, 1880 - 1957
         the counterweight brought the gun up for firing. It was  Between 1895 and 1899 two six-pounder Hotchkiss Q.F.
         soon found, however, that the blast of the turret guns as  guns on cone mountings were placed on the roof at the
         they fired over the Moncrieffs would probably wreck the  rear of the fort to cover the anchorage against torpedo
         pits and injure the men therein. In 1873 the committee  boats. By 1904, however, Nodes Point Battery had been
         therefore recommended mounting the lower seaward      built above the shore north-west of the fort to mount
         gun on each flank (a 10-inch R.M.L.) on a turntable.  modern 6-inch and 9.2-inch B.I. guns. These made the
         These mountings were installed, but further settlement  old R.M.L.’s on St Helen's fort obsolete and it went out
         of the fort in 1878 led to the abandonment of the turret.  of use. The soldiers’ quarters were altered for a
         All the emplacements had to be shifted to the rear of the  caretaker who watched over the Trinity House
                                                               navigation light on top of the square lattice tower 30 feet
         12.5-inch R.M.L. was installed in the centre face, firing  high which was erected on top of the fort in 1911.
         through an iron-shielded embrasure. This heavy

   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45