Red Sands Forts | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Red Sands Forts

Bay - offshore, Whitstable

Luke Tomes

22 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About Red Sands Forts

The Red Sands Forts are a series of seven towers built during the Second World War as anti-aircraft defences to protect the City of London from aerial bombardment.

Red Sands Forts history

During the Second World War, the City of London was a major target for both naval and aerial bombardment. In 1943, numerous towers were built in the Thames Estuary as anti-aircraft defences to protect the capital. The forts were initially built on land and floated out to sea in 1943.

The forts had some success. The soldiers stationed there shot down a total of 22 attacking German aircraft and 30 doodlebugs, protecting densely populated London from even more devastation.

Later in the war, the equipment was replaced, and removed soon after. The forts were eventually abandoned in 1958. It wasn’t until 1964 that the Forts served a new purpose. Screaming Lord Sutch set up Radio Sutch (a pirate radio station) in one of the old towers. However, he soon became bored and handed the project to his friend and unpaid manager Reginald Calvert, who then expanded into all five towers that were still connected and called it Radio City.

After the station was shut down in 1967, the Red Sands Forts were yet again abandoned and remained offshore, slowly rusting away. Luckily, a planned restoration of the forts was scheduled in 2020, but was delayed by COVID 19 pandemic. It is planned for the forts to become a museum once restored.

Red Sands Forts today

Today, Redsands, originally one of four sea forts in the Thames Estuary, is made up of seven separate towers – 5 gun towers, a searchlight tower and a central control tower. A walkway would originally have connected them all together. During use, over 100 men would have been stationed at the fort for periods of 6 weeks at a time, watching the skies for enemy bombers intent on destroying the capital.

Whilst the forts have been subject to long periods of weathering and deterioration, as well as vandalism, a planned restoration of the towers is expected to be completed with the next few years (as of 2021) and the complex be turned into an outdoor museum.

Getting to Red Sands Forts

The Red Sands Forts are truly isolated and so getting to the towers requires taking a boat from Queensborough on the Isle of Sheppey. The six mile boat trip from Queenborough takes around an hour with favourable tides.

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