Lydden Spout Battery is one of a number of coastal batteries established during WW2 along the Kent Coast. It was built in 1941 and manned by men of 520 Coastal Regiment Royal Artillery. The battery was located on the south side of a dead end minor road running west from Dover (now the A20) and in April 1941 was armed with three 6” Mk. VII naval guns on Mk. V mountings. These were later changed to Mk. XXIV guns on Mk. V mountings. They were 45 degree high angle guns giving then a longer range and they fired a 102lb shell a maximum of 24,550 yards on a full charge. The battery is identical to Fan Bay Battery on the east side of Dover.
Although initially little appears visible as most of the buildings have been demolished most of the underground features are still intact. The three emplacements are still extant although they have been infilled with only the concrete surrounding them visible.
The three magazines serving the emplacements are still accessible with care as is the deep level shelter.
The most prominent features are two single storey brick buildings beside a public footpath on the south side of the A20. The smaller of the two buildings, closer to the A20, was the Warrant Officer’s and Sergeants’ Mess. This is a rectangular brick building with an extension on one end with an entrance porch and a ladder up to the roof on the wall alongside.
The second larger building is roughly ‘T’ shaped; this was the dining room and cookhouse. Both buildings have been completely stripped of all fixtures and fittings including windows and doors and are now used as cattle sheds. All other buildings on the site have been demolished although some footings are visible as are the roads.
Just past the dining room on the opposite side of the camp road there is a large earth covered mound. Beneath this is the underground battery plotting room and command post. The main entrance block was demolished in the 1960’s although the backfilled access shaft is still visible on top of the mound. At the southern end of the mound is the emergency escape shaft with a hinged metal hatch. This was sealed with concrete in the 1960’s but was re-opened in March 2003 giving access to the well preserved plotting room below.
The overall coastal command for Dover was from an operations room in one of the casemates below Dover Castle, alongside the anti aircraft operations room. This worked in conjunction with the Command Fire Post which was co-located with the Port War Signals Station on the cliff top above the casemates.
The coastal batteries at Dover were manned by three regiments of at least 3 batteries. 520 Coastal Regiment Royal Artillery manned the guns to the west of Dover (Capel, Lydden Spout, Hougham and Citadel batteries), 540 Regiment manned the guns to the east (Fan Bay, Wanstone Farm and South Foreland Batteries) and 519 manned the rest. The batteries to the east and west of Dover were each designated as a fortress and each fortress had an underground plotting room from where the guns could be controlled.
Each battery within that fortress also had its own underground plotting room that could just control the guns for that battery. At South Foreland the fortress and battery plotting rooms were at different locations, 400 yards apart but at Hougham the two plotting rooms were co-located within the same bunker.
Lydden Spout Battery was part of the western fortress, with its fortress plotting room to the south of Hougham Battery. The plotting room at Lydden Spout is somewhat smaller as it doesn’t have the dual role to play although it did also act as the battery command post. After the guns were removed in the 1950’s the site was used as a rifle range, and the butts are still visible today. The gun emplacements and magazines are on the coast path with free public access and the three magazines can be entered with care although the entrances are partially backfilled.
The two remaining surface buildings and the plotting room are on farm land alongside a public footpath running south from a lay-by on the A20.
Approximately 200 yards east of the battery, just south of the A20 there is a semi sunken Nissen hut type building that is mounded over with earth and grassed. There is a brick blast protected entrance in the middle of the north side and a short ladder down from the surface to an emergency escape hatch at the eastern end. The building is completely empty and it is unclear what purpose it served. It lies halfway between Lydden Spout sergeant’s mess and the Hougham Battery Plotting Room but it is unclear if it had anything to do with either battery. A Battery Observation post stood on the cliff top to the south of the battery but there is no evidence of it today.
UNDERGROUND PLOTTING ROOM
The heavy hinged steel escape hatch to the underground plotting room is now severely rusted and required hydraulic jacks to prize it open. There is a square and a round hole adjacent to the escape hatch, these link to the ventilation trunking running into the plotting room. The square shaft is three feet across and fifteen feet deep with a steel ladder fixed to one wall. The fixings on one side have come away. At the bottom of the shaft is a horizontal tunnel with two lines of metal ventilation trunking fixed to the roof. The tunnel emerges through a steel door three feet above the floor of the plotting room itself. There is a short ladder fixed to the wall for access.
The room is clean with much of the original cream paint still covering the walls. There is ventilation trunking running in two directions although some of this has become detached and is resting on the floor at one end. There are a number of wooden packing crates on the floor labelled ‘Containers Type C10 - Impregnated - 6/2/41’. Some of these boxes are empty while others are full and have never been opened with their wooden lids still screwed in place. A metal box contains small cylindrical filters and there are numerous other filters lying about on the floor so it is assumed that all these boxes contained filters. Some GPO junction boxes are still in place on the wall.
There are doors into two other rooms from the plotting room. All the doors within the bunker are still in place and in good condition. Opposite the emergency escape tunnel is the plant room which still retains all its ventilation plant, fan and chiller. There is a Westinghouse metal rectifier unit on one wall and on the end wall electrical switchgear and fuse boxes. Behind the ventilation plant there are further wooden packing crates.
The other door from the plotting room leads through four rooms to the backfilled main entrance. The third room (C) has coat hooks and the remains of a bench seat. Various electrical fittings still remain intact including 10 amp sockets, metal lamp shades, some of the wall mounted light fittings still have their glass intact. The fourth room (B) is full of soil and rubble which has been pushed in from above but it is possible to squeeze into one further room (A) where there are more wooden packing crates. It is unclear if there are any other rooms beyond the backfill and there was no evidence of the service tunnel that always goes around the outside of these WW2 bunkers so it seems likely that we didn’t have access to everything. The general shape of the bunker resembles that shown on contemporary plans so there isn’t likely to be much more.
Because of it’s close proximity to a public footpath the hatch was resealed with concrete immediately after our visit and covered with soil to prevent any further access.
Although the main entrance to the deep shelter has been backfilled with no trace remaining a secondary entrance is still accessible by climbing down the now disused cliff path and steps, which can be found by following the footpath south from the A20 beyond the coastal path. About 60 feet down there is a retaining wall and just beyond this some brickwork can be seen 20 yards to the east of the cliff path. Extreme care should be taken here as it is necessary to traverse across a scree slope and then climb up to the entrance that is located behind the brickwork. It is strongly advised to use a properly rigged safety line as a loss of footing on the climb could prove fatal. The traverse and climb should not be attempted when the ground is wet as the chalk is very slippery.
Behind the brick wall is the partially collapsed tunnel entrance and just inside the original wooden door is still in place. The tunnel roof here is very unstable and it is necessary to crawl across a number of large blocks of chalk that have fallen out of the roof to reach open tunnel. Beyond two major roof falls the rest of the network of tunnels are sound and safe to explore with no further roof collapses.
The first section of the tunnel is unlined, after 60 feet there is a branch to the left and after a further 53 feet a second branch to the left. The main tunnel also then turns to the left making three parallel tunnels with two staggered cross tunnels between them and another cross tunnel linking the three parallel tunnels at the far end. These parallel tunnels are lined with corrugated metal sheeting with steel hoops at regular intervals. At the far end of the western parallel tunnels there is a stairway up to the surface with two right angle bends. The top of the stairway is blocked with backfill.
There is ventilation trunking running throughout the lined tunnels but this is all now lying on the floor. There is also electrical conduit and light fittings throughout the network of tunnels. In the unlined sections of tunnel there are a number of timber pit props.
There is some contemporary graffiti visible the most prominent says ‘R. Edwards No. 4194348 681 G.C Coy R.E. 1941 Cymru am Byth’ Mr. Edwards was probably one of the Royal Engineers who built the shelter. GC Coy is the General Construction Company and the words below are welsh and translate as ‘Wales Forever’, Mr. Edwards was obviously a Welsh Engineer.
No. 3 gun pit is the best preserved with most of it’s circular concrete surround still visible although the pit itself is completely filled with earth and rubble from the demolished buildings. At the back of the gun pit there is a partially backfilled walkway into the magazine tunnel. There are doorways on either side of this walkway into two underground irregularly shaped underground rooms, only the east room is accessible. This was the crew shelter; it has a fireplace in one corner and two large apertures into the now backfilled gun pit. It is unclear whether these were glazed windows or unglazed hatches for passing items through to the gun pit or for communication purposes.
It is assumed the opposite room is identical on all three emplacements. At No. 1 gun this room is identical in shape with a further two hatches, but it is sub-divided into two rooms with the framework for a heavy steel door between them. There is no fireplace and the inner room has evidence or shelving around the walls.
The outer room (closest to the entrance) was the officers’ shelter and the inner room was the gun store for spares, sights, tools etc.
The brick lined tunnel to the two magazines at No. 3 gun is 39 metres in length with a bend after 8 metres for blast protection. At the end of this tunnel there is a sharp turn to the right for 8 metres with the two magazines located on the north side of this short tunnel. Both magazines are 6 metres in length but the right hand (east) magazine is slightly narrower. Both magazines are divided into bays along both walls.
The left hand magazine was the shell store. On one wall just inside the door a section of the wall is painted black and clearly marked with the types of shells stored in the magazine. ‘C.P.B.C.’, ‘H.E.’ and ‘Practice’. CPBC stands for Common Pointed Ballistic Capped which would have been Mk. 36B of 102lbs containing a TNT/Beeswax filling for engaging lightly armoured or non-armoured ships. HE is high explosive Mk29B standard nose fused HE shell for un-armoured ships and land targets. Practice is solid shot with no fuse or explosive filling. The ‘blackboard’ would have been chalked with the number of each stored in the room.
The right hand magazine was for the charges, which for 6” Naval guns came in silk bags containing 22.25 lbs of cordite sticks with a red silk patch containing gunpowder on one end. The silk bags would have been placed in the gun breech with the red patch facing towards the back of the gun. A slide at the back of the breech would then have been opened and a percussion tube inserted, this would have been fired by the breech worker either electronically or mechanically.
The two magazines each have four high level ventilation grilles, two in each wall. Additionally the right hand magazine has additional ventilation with air bricks just inside the entrance door. Beyond the second magazine the tunnel turns sharply to the right for 16 metres to the main entrance with another bend in the tunnel for blast protection. The entrance has been backfilled and is not visible on the surface. Just inside the entrance to the tunnel there are a number of fuse boxes and switches. There is electrical conduit running just below ceiling level throughout the tunnels with lights at regular intervals on the ceiling and a light in each of the magazines. No 2 and No 1 gun emplacements are both still extant although both back filled. The tunnels and magazines are accessible for both emplacements and are similar in design. The crew room for No. 2 gun is also accessible.
- Bob Jenner
- John Guy
- Imperial War Museum (Old photographs)