Wednesday, July 31, 2019

X-Pilot - Grand Forts Tour - Sunday 28th July 2019

Last Sunday (28th July 2019), I finally had the chance to visit the World War 2 Maunsell Forts located in the Thames Estuary.  I've been fascinated with these structures for years, and when I found out that X-Pilot were offering trips out to the forts and one of the dates on offer coincided with one of our annual trips back to Essex, I just jumped at the chance of going.

Following a nice, pleasant drive over to the Isle of Sheppey, we met with the X-Pilot team before boarding the boat and setting off along the Swale, and onwards to the Thames Estuary.

We briefly passed the Grain Tower, a former gun tower built during the mid 19th Century (1848 - 1855) to help defend the Thames and Medway from a possible attack from the French Navy during a period of tension in the 1850s.  The fort was also used during both World Wars.  Now, it's just a derelict.  It can easily be reached when the tide is low, hence a large amount of graffiti covering the walls from many unwelcome visitors.  I wished we could've spent some more time here, but I guess the tide was still quite low thus preventing us from getting any closer to the structure.  Still, it was marvelous to see this structure up close since I've only ever seen it from a distance from Southend Seafront.


Our next stop was at the wreck of an American WW2 Liberty Ship, the SS Richard Montgomery. Located within an exclusion zone and slap bang in the middle of the shipping lanes of the Thames Estuary, she is still loaded with enough ammunition to cause significant damage to the Essex and Kent coast should the wreck deterioate enough to cause a possible detonation. Her three masts are still visible above the water, with a warning "DANGER - Unexploded ammunition. Do not approach or board this wreck". It's an eerie reminder of what lies beneath the surface.


Then it was onwards to Knock John Fort, one of four Navy Forts built in the estuary.


It's hard to believe over 100 people lived on each of these forts during the last few years of World War 2. The legs are completely hollow and go down to a base on the seafloor, and crew accommodation, living space, and storage were located in them (imagine sleeping, knowing you were under the sea level!!). On top were anti-aircraft guns, ready to take out any German fighters on their way to London. Call me weird, but I'd love the chance to sleep on this for a few nights. Isolated... with the sound of the sea crashing against the walls. Bliss. The other three forts include Rough Sands Fort (now The Principality of Sealand), Sunk Head Fort (blown up by the Navy in 1967 to stop offshore broadcasters from taking it over), and Tongue Sands Fort (due to fort settling on the seabed badly, the structure was unstable and eventually collapsed in to the sea in 1996. All that remains now is a single 18ft stump of one of the legs).




As we left the fort and headed towards Shivering Sands Fort, the first of the two Army forts, I could feel the rough sea having a negative effect on my stomach. Well, it was either that or something I ate. Despite the weather being ideal for some nice HDR photography, the wind was quite strong and on our way back inland we were moving against the waves. This, of course, caused the boat to sway and rock quite hard as it crashed in to the waves and resulted in me emptying the contents of my gut! Several times may I add. Oh, joy! So much for the sea-bands I was wearing!

Fortunately, there was plenty of time between Knock John and Shivering Sands for me to recover from my sickness, and seeing the towers up close as I left the main cabin and walked back on deck again is something I will always remember. I've only ever seen these towers in pictures and to finally see these fantastic, alien-looking structures in person for the first time was an incredible experience.


After the war, Shivering Sands housed Radio Sutch for a short time during the Pirate Radio days. In 1963, a ship veered off course and collided with one of the towers, causing it to collapse into the sea. You can just about make out the stump of the destroyed tower in my photo, on the left. In the distance, you can make out the Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Farm.




It was then onwards to Red Sands Fort. There were three of these forts located in the south east, with the other one being Nore Fort which however that was badly damaged during a storm in 1953. Because of the location of the ruins being a danger and hazard to shipping, it was completely dismantled, leaving only Shivering Sands and Red Sands to remain. There is currently a restoration project where a team of volunteers are working tirelessly to restore Red Sands and their website can be accessed by clicking here.






It was a 7-hour trip, but it was well worth it (even being sick). 700+ photos taken, and a memory I will remember for the rest of my life. If you've ever had an interest in these forts, then this is a must-do experience. X-Pilot does regular trips out to the forts and their website can be accessed by clicking here. I very much look forward to my next trip out with them, although I'll be hoping for a calmer sea!

Click for a 360 Panorama

Click for a 360 Panorama

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Game Covers - 5th Quadrant (Commodore 64)

The ship has been taken over by the Zimen, can you free the robot crew and recapture the ship before the time runs out and the ship's energy runs out?

A desperate race against time in a stunning arcade adventure featuring 230 locations, replenishment points, an alien language to decode, controllable sub systems, intelligent aliens and many other incredible features too numerous to mention.

5th Quadrant Cover 

5th Quadrant Inlay

5th Quadrant Tape