On the river Thames foreshore just south of the fort lies an early radar tower built in the Second World War. There was also once a searchlight emplacement here, now lost to erosion, but a tripoded MG pillbox does survive futher west along the foreshore. Because radar was a very secret British technology initially the tower was named ‘water tower’ on maps to avoid attention. Through the Second World War the fort was fitted with a Degaussing Station to ensure friendly ships leaving Tilbury Docks were sufficiently proofed (‘degaussed’) from magnetic mines put out in the river to catch the enemy – the only other example of one of these dates from the Cold War on Canvey Island and is now an excellent military history museum.
The first defences in this area were built druing the late Middle-Ages in 1402 to defend the village from a French attack, consisting of towers and earthworks. A blockhouse and jetty once stood near the site of the radar tower. The blockhouse was built under Henry VIII in 1540 as part of the coastal defence scheme, and would’ve held 15 cannons. This was upgraded to house 27 guns 7 years later, with a range of 1-mile. More recently a jetty was built on this site in the Victorian Era to serve the fort as barges would bring in supplies and armaments and the sleepers from this railway link still stand.
The lower level of the tower would have been mainly used for accommodation for the people manning the tower, which included their beds, mess room and toilets. The smaller entrance would have been used for access to the generator room – today covered in graffiti. Very little is known about the upstairs of the tower – many of the steps have been eroded and it’s not visible from outside.
XDO Minefield Tower & Fort Defences
In the park around the fort there was several defences built in the Second World War. As well as searchlight and gun emplacements and a loopholed wall added to the fort itself (pictured), Home Guard spigot mortar mounts and an XDO Minefield Control Tower were added to the surrounding land. The latter would have been used to watch over and detonate a minefield placed out in the Thames in-case of German craft trying to invade. Joe and Liam squeezed into this around 2012 via one of the firing slits (loopholes) and struggled to get out again. Joe was boosted by Liam to get out with help of other explorers pulling from the other side, but there was now no-one to boost Liam out. Using wooden pallets lying around in the tower he managed to be pulled out despite nearly being stretched in half!