Michael Kavanagh RIP 20th July 1931 – 28th June 2005

  • June 21, 2024

Michael Kavanagh RIP 20th July 1931 – 28th June 2005

My grandfather Michael Kavanagh was born and bred on the Isle of Sheppey and had lived through the war and remembered every single plane he had ever seen many baring the markings of the luftwaffe. He witnessed the destruction of the aerodrome at Eastchurch when it was dived bombed by stukas and the heroes of the RAF as they executed a victory roll over the houses he occupied after scoring a kill. 

When he left school he joined the care taker crew on the Nore army fort (U5 Uncle 5) that kept them operational for a possible conflict with the ever present looming threat of the Soviet Union.

He remembers his days on the Nore army forts fondly praising the food which didn’t have to comply with the continuing rationing as it was still MOD owned. 

I remember one such occasion he told me about where a war game was taking place between the british navy and the French navy in the estuary. The French navy hailed them and told them that they were taking command of this fort. In true British fashion they manned the guns and pointed them at the French navy even going as far to break open the small arms locker and told them to “piss off” at which point the French thought it would be a good idea to comply! 

Unfortunately these forts aren’t the ones most well known especially after what happened to them. Identical to her sisters red sands and shivering sands comprising of seven towers, they were battered severely By a storm in 1953 but the death knell came when a month later a Swedish ship called the Baalbek ploughed threw the group destroying most of it and killing the majority of its crew. Luckily my grandfather Michael was not one of the dead having ran to kill the power from the searchlight tower in order to prevent a possible explosion.

One of the only three surviving crew they were rescued by the Southend lifeboat and later had the grisly job of identifying the recovering remains pulled from the sea. The surviving structures were officially dismantled amd destroyed in 1959 but their massive concrete legs and wreckage can still seen at low tide on the coast of Cliffe in Kent.

This was my grandfather Michael’s story and my extremely personal connection to the Maunsell Army Forts.

The Base of one of The Nore Fort Towers

Written by Tristan Kavanagh Project Redsand CIO Historian

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