Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

UK Coastal Defences 1914


ianjonesncl

171 views

Whilst researching the defence of the River Tyne [Tyne Coastal Artillery ] it highlighted how important it was to maintain a creditable deterrent for home defence.  I wondered what preparations were in place to defend the coast around the rest of the Britain when the country went to war in 1914.

 

In his book History of Coast Artillery in the British Army, Colonel KW Maurice-Jones DSO (late RA) outlines "Coast Artillery in the British Army had never been more ready for war than it was in 1914. The R.G.A. companies in the coast defences at home and abroad were well led, well trained, enthusiastic, and of high morale". [1]

 

COASTAL ARTILLERY

The role of coastal artillery was to [2];

  • Close the passage of a river or channel
  • Protect a town or dockyard  from bombardment
  • Deny use of an anchorage
  • Defend a landing place
  • Protect and close the flank of a land work

 

Coastal Artillery dated back to the time of Henry VIII. Over the next 300 years as the British Empire expanded across the globe the necessity to protect key ports / naval facilities resulted in coastal fortifications being built with the Royal Artillery  manning their guns. 

 

COASTAL ARTILLERY DEVELOPMENT   

The latter part of the 19th century saw the development of naval ships from wooden sail ships to steel armoured Dreadnoughts and naval guns from smooth bored muzzle loaders to rifled breech loaders. This drove the need to keep coastal defences in pace with the changes. Coastal defence batteries and guns had all been upgraded during the period leading up to the Great War. [3] 

 

Costal batteries, where possible, adopted a  standard design with earthen terrace, concrete gun emplacements and underground magazines between the guns. [4]

 

large.594974317_HeughBatteryHartlepoolc1900.jpg.235f7cbd3e6dff1cb717bb162a507f95.jpglarge.9.2inGunFrenchmansBay.png.c0ac5eab433cd5e00e80c1fb876be7c5.png

                                    Heugh Battery Hartlepool                                                                                     Frenchmans Bay Battery South Shields                                                                                

 

The appearance of of the Dreadnought battle ships in foreign navies lead to a committee being formed in 1906 under the presidency of General Sir John Owen to consider defences around the British Empire. The report recommended the adoption of four types of gun for coastal artillery. [5] The 9.2 inch BL Mark X gun  and  the 6 inch BL Mark VII gun providing capability to engage battle ships and cruisers. Quick firing guns, 4.7 inch QF Mark III and 12 pounder 12 cwt QF, providing the capability against lighter armoured ships and fast torpedo boats.

large.566854317_CoastalArtillery1914.jpg.b7faf0e794c50c121c112c61aae5e260.jpg

 

COASTAL DEFENCE ORGANISATION

After the Crimean War the Royal Artillery underwent a series of reorganisations over the next four decades to meet the diverse needs of field, siege, heavy, mountain and coastal artillery. [6] 

 

The Royal Artillery divided into two corps in 1899, mounted (RH & RFA) and unmounted (RGA) branches .  Coastal Artillery constituted 80% of the  Royal Garrison Artillery and division meant they were now better able  to develop their capability. This lead to a growth in the efficiency, knowledge and morale within coastal artillery  which meant units would be in a state of high proficiency at the beginning of WW1. [7]

 

In 1902 the command and control of coastal defences was strengthened by the grading of locations as coastal fortresses or defended ports with a designated commander and garrison troops. [8] The Fortress Commander commanded all Army units, artillery, engineers and infantry, and liaised with the Royal Navy.  [9]

 

Roles;

Royal Navy - Coastal patrols, minefields, booms
Royal Artillery - Seaward and landward artillery defence including fixed and mobile batteries
Royal Engineers - Communications, searchlights, submarine mines and maintenance of fortresses
Infantry - Manning of ramparts, protection of guns and installations
 

Royal Artillery command structure;

Commander Royal Artillery - Command of Gunner units and adviser to Fortress Commander
                       |
Fire Commanders - Commanded a group of coast defence batteries 
                       |
Battery Commanders - command of fire units

 

Significant changes in the UK occurred in 1908 when the Territorial Force (TF) was formed re-organising Volunteer units into a Home Defence Army. The TF consisted of 14 field divisions and coastal artillery units. The TF coastal units would train alongside their regular counterparts on the guns they would man in war.  [10] 

 

Territorial Force RGA Coastal Units  Units [11]

Tynemouth / Hampshire / Devon / Sussex / Forth / Cornwall / Kent / Clyde / North Scottish /Essex and Suffolk /  Lancashire and Cheshire / Dorset / Glamorgan / East Riding / Pembroke / Durham / Orkney 

 

ROYAL NAVAL  DEVELOPMENT 

 

See the source image

 

In 1900, the prime purpose of the Royal Navy was to protect and defend the Empire; patrol and protect the trade routes; and to show a British naval presence in areas of concern, such as the Mediterranean. Over the next decade changes to the organisational structure of the Royal Navy and the deployment of it's ships brought increasing focus to the North Sea and Home Waters due to the growing threat from Germany's rising naval power. [12]

 

This threat was assed as Germany as; [13]

  13 x Super Dreadnought Battleships

  20 x Other Battleships

    4 x Battle Cruisers

    9 x Heavy Cruisers

  39 x Light Cruisers

142 x Destroyers 

 

By 1912, a Home Fleet had been formed consisting of the First Fleet ( 4 x Battle Squadrons, 4 x Cruiser Squadrons, 4 x Destroyer Flotilla's) fully commissioned, Second Fleet  (2 x Battle Squadrons,  2 x Cruiser Squadrons) which was 50% commissioned, and a  Third Fleet (2 x Battle Squadrons, 4 x Cruiser Squadrons, 3 x Destroyer Flotilla's) laid up in reserve. Patrol Flotillas based at Portsmouth (6th), Devonport (7th),  Chatham (8th), and Sheerness (9th) with light cruisers and destroyers provided littoral defence of the coastline and ports. In 1913 five Submarine Flotillas were added to the Home Fleet, a sixth in April 1914. [14]

 

OIP.KM9erfcikSr1hnxTBvfj3gHaJn?pid=Api&rs=1

Royal Navy Bases 1914.

 

UK COASTAL ARTILLEY 1914  

Source History of Coast Artillery in the British Army [15]

 

DEFENCES

DEFENDED PORT

BATTERIES

ARMAMENT

East Coast

Thames

Medway

 

Sheerness

6

9.2 inch

6

6 inch

4

4.7 inch

6

12 pounders

Slough Fort

2

9.2 inch

2

6 inch

Coalhouse Fort

4

6 inch

Harwich Coast

Harwich

Languard Fort

2

6 inch

2

4.7 inch

Harwich

2

6 inch

2

4.7 inch

South Eastern Coast

Dover

Newhaven

Dover

5

9.2 inch

6

6 inch

5

12 pounders

Newhaven

2

6 inch

North Eastern

Tyne

Tees

Hartlepool

Humber

 

Tyne

2

9.2 inch

6

6 inch

4

6 inch

Tees

4

6 inch

2

4.7 inch

Hartlepool

3

6 inch

Humber

4

6 inch

4

4.7 inch

Southern Coast

Portsmouth

Portland

Portsmouth     & Gosport

2

9.2 inch

2

6 inch

20

12 pounders

Isle of wight

12

9.2 inch

9

6 inch

3

12 pounders

Spithead Forts

8

6 inch

2

4.7 inch

Hurst & Calshot Castles

2

4.7 inch

8

12 pounders

Portland

6

9.2 inch

10

6 inch

8

12 pounders

South Western

Plymouth

Falmouth

Plymouth

8

9.2 inch

13

6 inch

3

4.7 inch

15

12 pounders

Falmouth

4

6 inch

North Western

Mersey

Barrow

Mersey

6

6 inch

2

4.7 inch

Barrow

2

6 inch

Milford Haven

Cardiff

Barry

Swansea

Milford Haven

4

9.2 inch

6

6 inch

8

12 pounders

Cardiff

4

6 inch

Barry

2

6 inch

Swansea

2

4.7 inch

Scottish Coast

Forth

Clyde

Tay

Aberdeen

Scapa Flow

Forth

6

9.2 inch

12

6 inch

14

4.7 & 4 inch

12

12 pounders

Clyde

4

6 inch

4

4.7 inch

Tay

2

6 inch

2

4.7 inch

Aberdeen

2

4.7 inch

Scapa Flow

 

None mounted

North Irish Coast

Lough Swilly

Belfast

Lough Swilly

2

9.2 inch

2

6 inch

Belfast

4

6 inch

South Irish Coast

Queenstown

Berehaven

Queenstown

4

9.2 inch

6

6 inch

8

12 pounders

Berehaven

2

9.2 inch

6

6 inch

2

4.7 inch

8

12 pounders

Channel Islands

Jersey

Guernsey

Alderney

Jersey

 

6 inch

 

4.7 inch

Guernsey

 

6 inch

Alderney

 

6 inch

Jersey

 

12 pounders


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] History of Coast Artillery in the British Army, Colonel KW Maurice-Jones DSO (late RA) Chapter XVIII page 181

[2] Victorian Forts and Artillery: Coast Defence description and purpose

[3] History of Coast Artillery in the British Army, Colonel KW Maurice-Jones DSO (late RA) Chapter XVIII page 181

[4] Ibid page 180

[5] Ibid 172-173.

[6] ibid 147

[7] ibid 154

[8] ibid154

[9] ibid 182

[10] ibid 165

[11] ibid 165 - 166

[12] Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployments 1900-1914 (naval-history.net)

[13] History of Coast Artillery in the British Army, Colonel KW Maurice-Jones DSO (late RA) Chapter XVIII page 181

[14]  Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployments 1900-1914 (naval-history.net)

[15] History of Coast Artillery in the British Army, Colonel KW Maurice-Jones DSO (late RA) Chapter XVIII pages 185 - 186

Edited by ianjonesncl

5 Comments


Recommended Comments

Derek Black

Posted

This has been most helpful in clearing up what the coastal artillery was, i'd never quite understood its history and structure before.

 

Thanks,
Derek.

Link to comment
Everett Sharp

Posted

See 'If the Kaiser Comes' written by Mike Osborne published by Fonthill Media 2017.  I bought my copy from Naval and Military press about a year ago.  It has seven chapters dealing with these islands defences in anticipation of an invader both pre and post 1914; and a good selection of photographs, plans and statistics.  It even has a section on 'Scaremongering: the Literature of Invasion 1871 - 1910' which in itself is very interesting.

Link to comment
ianjonesncl

Posted

5 hours ago, Everett Sharp said:

See 'If the Kaiser Comes' written by Mike Osborne published by Fonthill Media 2017.  

 

Many thanks for the recommendation. I have just ordered a copy on e-bay.

 

Ian

Link to comment
ianjonesncl

Posted

On 21/03/2021 at 07:27, Everett Sharp said:

See 'If the Kaiser Comes' written by Mike Osborne published by Fonthill Media 2017.  I bought my copy from Naval and Military press about a year ago.  It has seven chapters dealing with these islands defences in anticipation of an invader both pre and post 1914; and a good selection of photographs, plans and statistics.  It even has a section on 'Scaremongering: the Literature of Invasion 1871 - 1910' which in itself is very interesting.

 

If-the-Kaiser-Comes-9781781555750

 

I found this an interesting book and learnt a great deal about the Home Front. 

 

The perceived threat from 'invasion' lasted throughout the war and I was surprised how much activity there was in home defence. 


 I found it useful in understanding how the Territorial Force would have been deployed in it's intended primary role. The appreciation that the threat was a landing of 70,000 helped put everything into perspective. After many TF formations deployed to war theatres, the subsequent home defence army comprised of TF third line units and training units  is something I had not really understood. 

 

The role of the Royal Navy in protecting the coast was more intense than I had thought. Whilst the Grand Fleet was ready to do battle, it was smaller flotillas that safeguarded the seas. A whole armada of small ships mounted patrols, inspected ships entering ports, swept mines and many other tasks that ensured the movement of sea traffic. 

 

The development of home air defence laid the foundations for the successes of the Battle of Britain, another aspect I had not appreciated.

 

So overall, for me, very informative and a good read. 

 

 

Link to comment
Everett Sharp

Posted

Yes, it is an excellent book. 

Home defence has always been of great interest to me and as I was borne (1951) and grew up in Cornwall and what had been maritime defence was of special interest.  If you are ever in the county a visit to Falmouth with its Tudor Pendennis Castle and restored 6" battery just below it, plus a gun tower on the shore and 20th century emplacements facing the harbour entrance are well worth a visit.

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...