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Fortress UK
February 5, 2013 10:36 PM   Subscribe

The Last Stand - the remains of the Britain's coastal defences photographed by Marc Wilson.
posted by Artw (24 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sea also.
posted by dersins at 10:52 PM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Amazing stuff, and don't miss the sound mirrors at Denge
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:56 PM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gorgeous.
This was very striking as well, he shoots on special large-format film so:
"With each sheet of film costing nearly £7 to buy and process (and then a further £25 to produce each high resolution scan for printing) I photograph only what is needed. For the 42 final images from the 75 locations visited I have used just under 200 sheets of film. So an average of three shots at each location, not many when you have travelled over 1,000 miles to get somewhere."
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:15 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In retrospect it seems obvious that these would be WWII defenses, but for some reason I initially expected to see a bunch of Martello towers.
posted by LionIndex at 11:42 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The work is remarkable. The website is remarkable as well, for managing to be one of the most outstanding examples in the crowded field of ill-considered, awkwardly-designed professional photographer's websites.
posted by oulipian at 11:56 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I expected to see sea walls, but was pleased to see these. Playing in and around concrete WWII pill-boxes was always part of our trips to the seaside in Essex as a kid, and I've never really thought about the fact that they won't be there forever. They seemed so permanent, even though some of them had long slid from the cliffs down onto the beach due to coastal erosion.
posted by penguin pie at 11:59 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


No discussion of England's WWII coastal defenses is complete without mention of the Principality of Sealand.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:06 AM on February 6, 2013


The East Coast of Scotland, where I grew up and now live (after a sojourn in London for a time) is dotted with these kinds of things. I have fond memories of jumping from tank block to tank block as a nipper. It's quite a thing to think that, within living memory, there was a genuine threat of German Panzers rolling up the beaches of East Lothian.

However much our world has changed for the better or worse, massive, global, inter-state mechanised warfare with casualties in the millions has at least been largely absent for many years.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:35 AM on February 6, 2013


Really great shots.

There are quite a few ruins of lookout forts on the cliffs in West Kerry in SW Ireland, as well (visible here, from this page). I always took them to be British WWI era (pre-independence), but looking at these it's possible that Ireland built lookout forts during WW2 to similar designs.
posted by distorte at 1:54 AM on February 6, 2013


Fantastically atmospheric photos. The settings seem ideal for some kind of Alan Garner (meets Sebastian Faulks?) YA novel. Maybe in thousands of years the surviving installations will be as cryptic and mystical as the prehistoric menhirs and barrows are to us.
posted by runincircles at 2:33 AM on February 6, 2013


Fascinating subject.

I grew up in Cleethorpes, on the Humber estuary. When I was a kid there was still a line of those big concrete-block tank traps stretched across the beach (long since removed, sadly). We used to have fun jumping across them. I recall there was one pair tilted away from each other at a fairly extreme, snaggle-toothed angle, so the gap between them was much larger than the rest. It was a sort of test of age and courage to make that jump.

There are also the two old river forts: Haile Sand and Bull. You can walk out to Haile Sand fort at low tide and it really is quite a creepy place. It's dangerous to hang around, though, because the tide is treacherous and, when coming in, fills up a deep and fast-flowing creek behind the sandbank the fort rests on. People have been cut off and drowned through dithering too long.
posted by Decani at 2:34 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always took them to be British WWI era (pre-independence), but looking at these it's possible that Ireland built lookout forts during WW2 to similar designs.

That one is from the Napoleonic era, built by the British to look out for French invasion. I've been up there several times, spectacular.
posted by knapah at 2:38 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


That one is from the Napoleonic era, built by the British to look out for French invasion. I've been up there several times, spectacular.

Ah, cool. I should have guessed from the redbrick interior walls. There's another one over at Baile na nGall that's all concrete, though. Similar to the first BBC shot above.
posted by distorte at 2:47 AM on February 6, 2013


Some of the facilities used for coastal defence in WW2 dated all the way back to Henry VIII, such as Pendennis Castle in Cornwall.
posted by biffa at 3:26 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


We have things like that here in the US, too, surprisingly. I have fond memories from when I was a kid of climbing around Battery Russell at Fort Stevens.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:34 AM on February 6, 2013


Lovely post, thanks Artw.
posted by carter at 4:47 AM on February 6, 2013


I grew up in Cleethorpes, on the Humber estuary. When I was a kid there was still a line of those big concrete-block tank traps stretched across the beach (long since removed, sadly). We used to have fun jumping across them. I recall there was one pair tilted away from each other at a fairly extreme, snaggle-toothed angle, so the gap between them was much larger than the rest. It was a sort of test of age and courage to make that jump.
Were they just plain blocks? I remember there was still some of those by the leisure center when I was a child.

But the Haiie Sand Fort, that's a real idiot test! I seem to recall there was also some concrete "thing" on the shore there, just where the the boat club met the fitties. Was that part of the defences too?
posted by Jehan at 5:38 AM on February 6, 2013


There are some WWII coastal defenses in Maine, too - I don't know how extensive they were elsewhere along the coast, but at Two Lights State Park on Cape Elizabeth there are some bunkers (which are locked up tight, and which I've wanted to explore ever since I was a little kid), platforms that once supported anti-aircraft guns, and a lookout tower.
posted by usonian at 5:49 AM on February 6, 2013



Louisiana has many of these related to the civil war
posted by eustatic at 6:41 AM on February 6, 2013


I'm reminded of two things. One is the remnants RAF Bempton which you can see from the RSPB area at Bempton Cliffs. (Well... either you can or the guy who took the picture on the Wikipedia article photographed those abandoned buildings you can see thinking they're RAF Bempton. I seem to recall its marked on the map as something to do with water.) There's photographs of all kinds of stuff on that site.

The other was this FPP about clearing the Franco-Italian Alps of barbed wire. There are lots of fortifications dotted about.

I seem to have come across a whole corner of the internet dedicated to photographing various decoys and sound mirrors. I saw a documentary some years back about building decoys in the war, including faking docks in the middle of a field. (As I recall, somehow they didn't get the orientation right. The documentary interviewed an elderly German pilot who said they basically knew they were bombing decoys some of the time, but weren't about to inform their superiors they'd just dropped a load of bombs in a field, so clearly it was good enough.)
posted by hoyland at 6:58 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cape May, New Jersey's contributions: The Atlantus, a WWI concrete ship and a coastal defense gun bunker, Battery 223.
posted by srboisvert at 7:39 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "EIRE" markings along the Irish coastline, while not strictly defensive (so apologies for the derail), have their own interesting history; they were laid down, starting in 1942, to tell overflying pilots they were entering neutral airspace. It's widely assumed that they were put in place in response to the 1941 bombing of Dublin by the Luftwaffe (possibly accidental, possibly not), although now that I look I can't find any proof of this.
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 10:36 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a young lad growing up in Kent I played in many of these fortifications. The thing I remember was the spectacularly juvenile and crude graffiti that adorned the walls.
posted by unliteral at 4:10 PM on February 6, 2013


Were they just plain blocks? I remember there was still some of those by the leisure center when I was a child.

Yes - big concrete cubes, somewhat similar to these but slightly larger and not as neatly arranged. They were at the "Wonderland" end of the beach, not near the Leisure Centre (which didn't exist then - it was a lovely old outdoor bathing pool).

But the Haiie Sand Fort, that's a real idiot test! I seem to recall there was also some concrete "thing" on the shore there, just where the the boat club met the fitties. Was that part of the defences too?
posted by Jehan at 1:38 PM on February 6


Hmm... not sure about that. But I also remember "The Boom", which was the rusted remnant of a long iron barrier that stretched - I think - pretty much from the fort to the shoreline, during and shortly after WWII. When I was a kid there was only a part of it left, but I do remember it. Ugly great rusted, barnacle-encrusted thing. I think they took the last of it down in the late sixties or early seventies.
posted by Decani at 5:12 PM on February 6, 2013


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