Napoleonic and Coastal Fortifications

- with a special selection of aerial photos of Tregantle and Scraesdon Forts, Drake`s Island , and a rare glimpse at interior details of the Breakwater Fort and other hard-to-get-to locations.

A Steve Johnson Cyber Heritage site, bringing to you the rare and different.

all these aerial photos were taken personally by Steve Johnson between 1977 and 1981, other photos from 1989-1995: the page may take a little way to load..but just see what you get!

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All images are on hyperlinks to much bigger ones, click on the thumbnails below

...or click on this photo, Drake`s Island

....or this, Scraesdon Fort

...or this, Tregantle Fort


is situated near the village of Antony, near Torpiont in Cornwall, across thr River Tamar from Plymouth. Deep in the overgrown sunken areas there is some graffitti such as this one in a powder magazine of a Davey Miner`s Safety Lamp. The whole place reminds me of Lara Croft and Tombraider! Have a look at these and see if you agree,...where is the tiger, hmmmm, no machine guns in my rucksack, but just rolls of film....A......B......C......D........E.......F... it even had it`s own railway, here is a picture of the engine shed. Do you think Lara could squeeze through this hole better than me? Permission is needed from the MOD to enter this fort.


is situated in Whitesands Bay in South East Cornwall, guarding the sea approaches to Devonport Dockyard, or as it would have been known "Dock." Permission is needed from the MOD to visit this fort but it is usually open once or twice a year.


sits as a jewel in the natural harbour of Plymouth Sound.

Remaining on the island to this day are a motley collection of aged RML guns, they were found some years ago under a pile of earth...must have been a large pile! Some of these aerial photographs show the area where the guns were found before they were uncovered, how could anyone guess what lay underneath even though an old map was said to refer to the area as "RML Dump"!! Underground in the magazines are the derelic workings of the ammunition lifts and shell hoists, some have most of their working bits complete, but I think it would take a little more than oil to get them working........A........B..........C...........D.............E
Several of the gun casements have the retaining structures in place for their MANTLES. Mantles were rope type curtain screens that were hung at the gun ports to help prevent the ingress of flying and dangerous debris caused by the firing of the gun. The front of these casements were buiilt to a high degree of armour plating. Although Drake`s Island has been open to the public for many years in the past, at the moment entry is restricted, hopefully this will change.


at the eastern end of the approach to Plymouth Breakwater is an area riddled with the histort of fortifications. This aerial photo shows many of them. At Staddon Battery is this beautiful Board of Ordnance sign from the days of King George IV Above Fort Bovisands is the Quick Fire Battery known as Watchouse Battery. It is now used by a school for field studies. Inside is a perfect condition shifting lobby complete with coathooks. Within one of the magazines is a painted stencil on the concrete floor,...what does "ASL" mean I do not know, but if you do;..please let me know.


protects the safe harbour moorings within The Sound from storms, it has a sea fort on it`s inner or northern side. This photo taken in 1989 shows many ot the World War II add-on structures that were demolished soon after this was taken. The photo underneath it represents the "now"situation. The fading chequer board paint scheme can still be seen, it having been applied to aid recognition in military exercises and to high light it`s location when used as an obsevation and semaphore signalling station. Thegun hoist can still be clearly seen sticking outwards, it being used to lift guns up to the gun deck from victualling barges.

The shape of the Breakwater Fort is oval and in the centre of the fort there is an oval courtyard.

The gun decks, casements are protected by teak and iron armour in three sandwich layers, all of which are held together by massive bolts. As you can see the bolts areHUGE.

A stencil sign just inside the entrance tells us that it is the cartridge lift for the 12.5in RML (Rifle Muzzle Loading ) gun, close by is an old cupboard with stores stock levels written on it`s inside. The store is .303 Mk.VI ball ammunition and .22 as well.
In the deeper level of the fort are Lister internal combustion engines that were used to make electricity for searchlights, especially so in World War II, they are all still here along with their control dials....all slowly mouldering away.

In this area is also found a still largely intact table type ammunition lift.

Towards the end of the 19th century when the threat from the French had faded, the Breakwater was a popular summer excursion by boat, or a "steamer" as it would have been called, from the busy slopes of Plymouth Hoe, where children would play and splash. On this link you can see the area now occupied by the high diving board, and on this one children play in the area close by known as "Piskie`s Pool" or "Shag Pool." Is the girl with the long dark hair the same as the girl in this thumbnail that shows a swimsuit clad pair of young Plymouth ladies on the Breakwater with Mt. Edgecumbe in the background? Or in this link to a late Victorian family enjoying a picnic on the Breakwater, note the clay pipe being smoked? On the west end of the breakwater is a lighthouse, while the east end has a survival cage for mariners in distress. The outside edge of the Breakwater has a very particular slope on it to ease the power of the sea, here we can see a summer stroll along it. Thanks to Plymouth Museum for these wonderful old photos.

The 2nd February 1907 edition of "The Regiment" gives us this superb cartoon of war games being waged among the Plymouth defences, complete with dirigibles. This is a big scan so you can print it out and hang it on your wall if you like.

Between Drake`s Island and the nearest shoreline at Mt. Edgecumbe Park , runs a narrow channel of fast tidal water with a single deep central channel named "The Bridge" there are two anti-submarine defence systems, the one on this thumbnail link dates from World War I and is known locally as the Dragon`s Teeth for obvious reasons, being large concrete teeth; while the one on this link dates from World War II. and is of iron girders on a concrete/rock base.


new photos... Here are two new photos taken in 1971 of Rame Church Battery and that have recently come to light....are there any more? Also some present day photos of the STEPS at Penlee Point, beneath Penlee Battery. these gigantic steps....yes, those are people sitting on them! They were used to unload the heavy guns from barges when Penlee Battery was being armed, there being a sloping gradient from here to the battery for horse traction to operate. In this image is a large concrete obilisk close to the steps, what part it played in the off-loading of the guns I do not know.

This newly discovered aerial phot of Rame Head taken in 1975, shows the hill top chapel of St. Micheal, that once served as a primitive lighthouse as well as a place of worship. Of interest to the military historian is the bunker type construction on the left of the chapel. It is believed to be the remains of an antisubmarine acoustic listening network that was linked to a mortar firing system, but little is known. These buildings except the chapel have now been demolished. Note the three oblong "spaces" or missing areas of undergrowth directly beneath the chapel; possibly this indicates a demolished building that was part of this overall system.

These two new photos were taken in about 1971 of Rame Church Battery. See the main Rame and Penlee Battery page as linked below. One shows what appears to be a guardhouse just inside the gated entrance, while the other shows a collection of buildings built up against the perimeter wall.


is situated about 8 miles or so off Rame Head and is a famous land or perhaps one should say "sea" mark. What it must have seen over the years in all of it`s varied history in war and peace makes one think.

Steve Johnson Cyber Heritage has published on the web several other heritage sites containing rare and unusual material and is a winner of the 1997 Devon Heritage Education Award