These unusual armed towers, located in the mouth of the Thames, are called the Maunsell Forts. The name was given in honor of the civil engineer Guy Maunsell, who designed them.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: By Russss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The forts had a very short but tense life during World War II, when Britain faced serious Luftwaffe attacks. It was difficult to resist attacks on the naval infrastructure from the shore, and thus these unusual structures were invented.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: Flaxton at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Maunsell were built in 1942 and decommissioned in the 1950s. In 1958 they were abandoned, but some still remain today.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: By Royal Navy official photographer, Tomlin, H W (Lt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,
By Royal Navy official photographer, Tomlin, H W (Lt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Maunsell Forts

Photo: By Royal Navy official photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

All the fortifications are known as the Maunsell Forts, but there are two different projects that had a different mission. In the mouth of the Thames and on the River Mersey, closer to the mainland, there were three forts. In addition, at the mouth of the Thames there were four more sea forts. These round structures were connected by a path.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: Steve Cadman/flickr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

First, four naval forts were built between February and June 1942. Each of them could accommodate 120 people. These structures were built on land, and then mounted in the sea. Each fort had guns and radar.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: Steve Cadman/flickr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Only two out of four naval forts have survived. In one of them is located the Principality of Sealand — a micronation, proclaimed in 1967 by British retired Major Paddy Roy Bates.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: By Richard Lazenby (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Maunsell Forts

Photo: By Ryan Lackey (originally posted to Flickr as sealand-sky) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1943 Maunsell developed a new type of defensive structure. Each fort consisted of a central tower connected with six “satellites”.

Nore fort was the only one built in Britain’s territorial waters and the closest one to the shore among the forts located in the mouth of Thames. This is also the only fort that doesn’t exist any longer. It was badly damaged in 1950s and demolished in 1960.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: Steve Cadman/flickr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Red Sands Fort (U6) consisted of 7 defense structures, connected by paths. Now all the possible efforts are made to restore this group, since it is believed that they are preserved in the best condition.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Hywel Williams – geograph.org.uk/p/180551,
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Hywel Williams – geograph.org.uk/p/180562

Shivering Sands Fort is located more than 14 km from the shore. Only six out of seven fortifications have preserved here. In 1963 one of them was struck by a Norwegian vessel. In the mid-1960s various forts were re-occupied for pirate radio.

Maunsell Forts

Photo: Steve Cadman/flickr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Nobody knows the future of these forts. But there are plans to demolish them because they lost their strategic purpose.

How to get to the Maunsell Forts:

Many sources say that you can take a boat trip around the Forts in the seaside town of Whitstable.

One of the best ways to get to the Whitstable is the railway from London.

Maunsell Forts nearby hotels:

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