Site Name: Fort Bridgewoods - 1 Group, 1/59 Brigade AAOR for the Thames South GDARochester
By David Mapley
This bunker was built in the early 1950s and was of the single-storey Anti Aircraft Command type. The bunker was built in the middle of Fort Bridgewoods, which was situated on the outskirts of Rochester adjacent to the old Maidstone-Rochester road.
The site was acquired by the War Office in about 1860 to form part of a ring of forts protecting Chatham Dockyard - stretching from the Medway to the Thames. There was not enough money to build the forts as planned and only five of the original large works plus two small experimental redoubts were actually built. Work did not actually get underway until 30 years later in 1890, by which time the enemy it was supposed to repulse - France - was an ally, and the new enemy was imperial Germany.
Because of budget restraints no fixed armament was mounted. Instead earthen ramps were built to enable field artillery to fire from the fort's parapets. The fort, along with the rest of the line, was of a radical departure from traditional design being of earth construction, with a deep dry moat and not very visible from a distance. Under the earthen walls were magazines and living quarters for the garrison. To link four of the forts (Luton, Horstead, Bridgewoods and Borstal) a railway with convicts as the motive power was used to haul building materials between sites. A new large building was constructed above the village of Borstal to house the workforce. Later this became a prison for young offenders and gave its name to a new type of correctional institute.
From completion until the outbreak of WWII Fort Bridgewoods was only sporadically garrisoned (apart from WWI) when trials with gun-laying radar were undertaken at the Fort. With radar installed, Bridgewoods served as HQ for anti-aircraft guns in the Thames Estuary with its two flanking forts of Horsted and Borstal being amongst the most up-to-date anti-aircraft batteries in Britain.
It was only natural that with the coming of the A-bomb a new protected HQ be built at Bridgewoods in the early 1950s. Shortly after completion Anti Aircraft Command was disbanded and the site used for Civil Defence preparation and training. In 1960 the protected HQ became the RHQ for London (South) and remained in use until the early 1970s. In 1975 the site was sold to a local property developer who quickly demolished the fort and bunker. The site remained empty for a number of years and is now a ParcelForce depot.
Last updated 28th September 2003
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