Stokes Bay and D Day

 

 

 

Fort Gilkicker with Stokes Bay beyond

 

FortGilkicker during the Second World War
Fort Gilkicker seems to have been unmanned for the period up to the Second World War but the married quarters may have been occupied by families of the Royal Engineers stationed nearby. Trinity House had a small observation post on Fort Gilkicker after 1939. This was manned twenty four hours a day. In 1939 the narrow gauge railway was removed and its metal presumably used for the war effort. Its route is still visible from the top of Fort Gilkicker. After Dunkirk it was decided to surround Great Britain with a ring of Emergency Coast Batteries. The first to be installed were manned by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The Coast Artillery soon replaced them. Many coast defences were supplemented with ex-naval guns as part of the anti-invasion defences. Searchlights were installed for night attacks. The Royal Engineers mounted a mobile searchlight on a purpose built platform on the top of Fort Gilkicker, west of gun position B1. At this time or shortly after Gilkicker was also reportedly equipped with a twin Vickers and possibly a 20 or 30 millimeter gun forward of the old 6inch gun positions. In the early years of the war an eye witness reports seeing a triple generator, which he referred to as 'Pip, Squeak and Wilfred‘, mounted outside the fort. This provided power for a radar set. Pip provided auxiliary power, Squeak supplied the listening device whilst Wilfred supplied the network of wires which were spread across the field to the rear of the fort. Subsequent research has failed to find any more information about this generator but it is most likely a reference to a GL (Gun Laying) Mark II Radar with its transmitter, receiver and generator. See the page on the Gilkicker Radar.

 

D-Day and The Fort Gilkicker Signal Station

The requirement in the Summer of 1943 to provide a suitable staff organisation for reloading, repairing and storing the numerous ships and craft that would take place in any future combined operation in the Channel resulted in the setting up of a TURCO (Turn Around Control) at Portsmouth, another at Portland, Weymouth and Poole, with a third at Newhaven, Shoreham and Littlehampton. The one at Portsmouth dealt with the Isle of Wight area. It was decided that in order that the Portsmouth TURCO should be able to maintain a clear picture of the situation, and be in a position to give orders to ships and craft, it would be necessary to have officers stationed somewhere overlooking Spithead. A new signal station was accordingly constructed at Fort Gilkicker with a good all round view and an operations room embodied in the fort.

 

Early in April 1944 Radio Transmitting equipment was installed in Fort Gilkicker to provide emergency communication in the event of breakdown in land lines and for communication with the Solent Patrol vessels employed on traffic control duties. As part of Operation Overlord an important station was erected at Fort Gilkicker to take the place of an obsolescent station at nearby Fort Monckton and it became a key part of the V/S (Visual Signals) communication system. Gilkicker also housed a Principal Collecting Officer with associated telephone installation and teleprinter. His duties were concerned with the Stokes Bay 'Collecting Area' where L.C.T.s (Landing Craft Tank) could proceed, on return from the far shore landing area, be inspected and their wants ascertained. It was also decided that a maintenance organisation would also be necessary in Collecting Areas. An organisation, integral with that of the Principal Collecting Officers was set up at Gilkicker to carry out short term maintenance, first aid repairs in the collecting areas and survey of damaged craft, informing TURCO accordingly. Up to 31 July 1944 maintenance parties from Fort Gilkicker serviced 1300 L.C.T.s, 250 L.C.I.(L) and 50 L.S.T.s a total of 1,600 jobs done.

L.C.T. = Landing Craft Tank (3 to 6 tanks) Picture and details

L.C.I.(L) = Landing Craft Infantry (Large) Picture and details

L.S.T. = Landing Ship Tank (60 tanks) Picture and details

 

A 'Report on Communications at Fort Gilkicker during June and July 1944' shows that on June 9th. over 1,000 signals were recorded for the day needing routing to over 1300 addresses. Later an average of 800 signals to almost 1,000 addresses were routed via Gilkicker. In June an exhausted carrier pigeon arrived at Gilkicker from France with a message from an Allied Paratroops Commander. The message was despatched at once with the pigeon being victualled until collected by the local army pigeon unit. The fort made 3,670 issues of confidential code and signals books to landing ships and craft in the Stokes Bay and Gosport areas in the first two months of the operation. Also operating from the fort was No. 10 WT, No.15 Radar and No. 17 WD mobile maintenance units. In the first two months six hundred routine maintenance visits were made to all types of ships and craft. Offices in the fort were occupied by the Principal Collecting Officer, Assistant Berthing Officer, Principal Engineering Officer and Confidential Book Officer.

 

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to:
Chris Howlett who supplied valuable information and copies of D-Day embarkation hards plans at Stokes Bay from the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office.

Plans of the access roads to the hards held in the National Archive.

Jean_Pierre Vanhoof for details of loading at the Embarkation Hards.

Andrew Whitmarsh of the D-Day Museum Southsea Portsmouth for arranging access to the archive material concerning Phoenix units at Stokes Bay.

Philip Eley who supplied explanatory information concerning many aspects of Stokes Bay and its buildings and roads.

Stuart Burgess for information about the DD tanks and the Salt Water Training School www.duplexdrivetanks.co.uk

 

More reading

Codename Mulberry: The Planning Building and Operation of the Normandy Harbours by Guy Hartup

 

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence
 
 

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