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The Military Forts

Standing at the head of a busy estuary Spurn Point has played an important role in the defence of Britain. During the Napoleonic Wars a battery with barracks was established there about 1805. At the beginning of World War I, when the military authorities were considering how to defend the Yorkshire coast and the River Humber, Spurn seemed an ideal place to put land-based defences, despite the obvious problems of constructing heavy buildings and armaments on sand. Accordingly in 1915 Spurn Fort, (which incorporated Green Battery) was established on the Point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Military History
Spurn Fort, 1917

A little further up the peninsula near the lighthouse the Port War Signal Station was built. From here all vessels using the area were monitored; they used pennants, lights and sound to indicate that they were friendly vessels. At the mouth of the estuary two forts, Bull Sands Fort and Haile Sands Fort, were erected on sand banks.

 

 

Bull Sand Fort

At the northern end of the peninsula at Kilnsea, Godwin Battery, another fort, was built.

 

 

Godwin battery, 1917

During the construction of these forts, a military railway was built to link Spurn and Kilnsea. As a means of giving early warning of the approach of Zeppelins, the Kilnsea Sound Mirror was erected in fields a little to the north of Godwin Battery.

 

Acoustic sound mirror

At this time the Army took over responsibility for maintaining the sea defences from the Board of Trade.

After the war the forts were placed under a system of care and maintenance, and Godwin Battery was retained as a local military base, and also used by the Territorial Army for annual camps. In 1933/34 most of the soldiers left Spurn itself, and civilians were employed to care for the camp and maintain the sea defences. When World War II was declared, the military came back in force, and in the early years of the war Spurn played an important role in home defence. When the focus of the war moved to the Continent, Spurn and Kilnsea forts continued to play an important role in the defence of the East Coast from the air. After the war a military presence remained, and in the 1950s during the Cold War, more anti-aircraft artillery was placed in the Warren area. The accommodation on the Point was also used by the R.A.F. until they transferred to a new base at Patrington Haven.

 

 

Point, post WWII

By the late 1950s most of the military had withdrawn and the forts were put up for sale. In 1959 Spurn was sold to the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust for the creation of a nature reserve and in 1960 Godwin Battery was sold and turned into a caravan site (Sandy Beaches). Some military buildings, gun emplacements, and concrete pill boxes still remain, though many were demolished in the 1970s because they were thought to be dangerous. On the beach in front of Sandy Beaches Caravan Site lie two huge gun emplacements, and more military buildings will soon topple over to join them. On the Point itself it is still possible to see searchlight emplacements, the remains of an engine room, two gun emplacements, and other relics which give an indication of what Spurn must have looked like when it was bristling with armaments and soldiers. In the estuary the two forts, Bull Sands Fort and Haile Sands Fort, still stand grey and forbidding, like sentinels at the mouth of the Humber.