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Fort Matilda Greenock

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The area of Fort Matilda, Greenock, is home to a number of sites of interest, dating from World War II, back to the 19th century, and the traveller by train from Gourock to Glasgow will find the first train station they visit is that of Fort Matilda.

The area to the south of the battery was home to the RNR Barracks, which grew over the years to include the area now enclosed by Eldon Street, Newark Street, and Wood Street, and which outlived the battery. The site is now occupied by housing and recreational areas.

Early history

The fort, or fortification, is listed by the Palmerston Forts Society as dating from 1814.[1]

An 1813 map details a proposed battery of "Nine 24 pdrs for the Defence of the Harbour and Anchorage of Greenock", and identifies the location as both "Whitefarline Point", and "White Farline Point" on the same sheet. The map shows a magazine, guard house, and shore house, all enclosed by a nine foot wall. Note the RCAHMS report given below has mis-read the script on the map, and confused the stylised F for a T, apparently producing the erroneous "White Tarland" as a further variation in its list of alternative names.

An 1825 map shows an unidentified battery located on the point.

An 1842 survey and map shows the battery on '"Whiteforeland Point", and still unidentified.

A 1912 map shows the areas as "Whitefarline Point", with the proposed battery from the 1813 map shown in place, and annotated Fort Matilda. A Torpedo Factory is shown immediately adjacent and to its west.

Fort Matilda report

We are grateful for the following information, shared by the Palmerston Forts Society. Full report from the Links below.

The fort was built between 1814 and 1819 as an advance work to protect the port of Glasgow and to supplement the main work on the River Clyde, Dumbarton Castle. The site was given to the War Office by the Magistrates of Greenock and the first work was a ‘L’ shaped battery for eleven guns on traversing platforms, though it is doubtful whether any guns were in fact mounted. In 1855 the Fort was described as “in a state of dilapidation” but could be repaired for eleven guns for £350.

The Fort was remodelled for eight guns in 1858; by 1881 three of the SB guns had been replaced by RMLs. By the middle of the eighteen eighties a submarine mining establishment was based at the Fort to operate the minefield between Greenock and Kilcreggin (sic). To cover the minefield two 6pdr. QF guns were mounted in 1894, the RML guns being retained for drill and practice. At the turn of the century it was decided to replace the 6pdr. QF guns by heavier ones so between 1902 and 1904 at a cost of £4,623 the Fort was remodelled for two 4.7-inch QF guns and two searchlights were also provided at the Fort.

The submarine mining establishment was abolished in 1904 and the Owen Report confirmed the armament of the Fort. In February 1917 the two 4.7-inch QF guns were dismounted and handed over to the Naval authorities. The two searchlights remained into the inter-war period though latterly for training purposes and were removed by 1937. Thereafter the Fort was demolished and the site handed to the local authority which has created a public recreation area.

© Palmerston Forts Society report, August 24, 1999.[2]

World War I

Whiteforeland Point was the site of a World War I coastal battery. The battery was armed with two 4.7-inch QF (quick firing) guns in 1904, and the battery manned by 2/1 Company Clyde Royal Garrison Artillery, a Territorial unit. The guns were removed prior to 1928 and there are no reported remains, the battery site having been demolished and cleared.

From August 1914 until July 1919 the parkland near the fort was the site of a large military camp, also called Fort Matilda, where the 3rd Battalion of the British infantry regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, was based. This was a training-battalion charged with training soldiers and officers for the regiment's two regular-army battalions, the 1st and 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers. The training was initially supplied by a small staff, mostly Boer War veterans too old or medically unfit for service at the front, but their number was soon to be swelled by officers and NCOs who had been wounded and were either temporarily or permanently unfit for active service.

The camp was initially housed in rows of tents, and later in huts. Additionally, various civilian buildings in the town were taken over, including a house called Drumslea which was used as the officers' mess. Fort Matilda had no parade ground, so The Esplanade on the seafront was taken over for this purpose.

The camp turned civilians into soldiers with fourteen weeks training, and veterans who were returning to the front after recovering from wounds were hardened-up in a fortnight. Officers (who after March 1916 had to have been in a school or university Officer Training Corps, or to have served in the ranks), received eighteen weeks training. From 1914 to 1918 the camp trained 480 officers and 15,486 men.[3]

World War II

During World War II, the area east of the Fort Matilda battery was the site of the Clyde Submarine Mining Post. Such posts provided protection to harbour areas by submarine/underwater mines located in the approaches. Submarine mines would generally have been contact or observation, in either case, detonation was triggered from the post. Contact mines signalled the operator when they were struck by a vessel, indicating which mine should be detonated, observation mines required the operator to visually identify the appropriate device. In 2001, the pier, and some other buildings were reported to remain on the site, just north of the junction of Eldon Street with the Esplanade.

The site was protected by barrage balloons, as listed on the Balloon Station Summary page.

The site is now occupied by the Navy Buildings Greenock, and in use by the Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA), and is home to a naval training school HMS Dalriada.

References

1 Palmerston Forts Society data

2 Palmerston Forts Society report on Fort Matilda

3 Royal Scots Fusiliers Magazine. No 4 (The Peace Edition) 1920

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-

 

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