Just inland from the coast at Upton are the remains of a Victorian gun battery constructed 1901 - 1903 and decommissioned in 1956. Today it is privately owned with some of the buildings occupied. Some of the buildings became a scheduled monument in 2009 and the battery's western buildings are now Grade 2 listed.
Upton House was demolished to make way for the battery for the new breech-loading guns in 1902 as Indicated by the date set Into the wall.
The other breech-loading batteries in the area were the 6” guns at the Nothe Fort; 6” guns at the Breakwater Fort; and 6” & 9.2”at East Weare on Portland, all of which had existing fortifications which had to be adapted; but Upton battery was purpose-built.
The idea was to deny the enemy access to Portland Harbour, and the arcs of fire from these guns cover the area effectively. Upton Fort was planned to take two 6” and two 9.2” breech loading guns, with the latter as at East Weare on the eastern side to com the open sea, and the 6” with their shorter range for closer work. The two 9.2” Mark X guns on Mark V barbette carriages were put in at once, and are mentioned in Major-General Dalton’s report in 1906. ‘Electric light emplacements’ (ie searchlights) were installed forward of the guns on either side, and a Position Finder Cell was built on the cliff edge a little to the west (sketch design for it dated Nov 22, 1915; this was blown up by the Army in 1978). An aerial photo of July 10, 1917, shows the two guns in place. There is no evidence that the two 6” guns were ever mounted. Before 1930 the two 9.2” guns were test fired, breaking windows locally and later towed away. Plans to build a pier below the site for provisioning was never proceeded with.
A local man erected a dwelling of wood and corrugated iron over the western 6” gun pit (now a holiday house, and probably unique). The building with the date on it was used as a school for a time. When war broke out another small school was housed there, but it soon had to move out as the battery was required for coastal defence. Between June 1940 and January 1941 the two 9.2” gun pits were filled-in with a concrete platform. Shell recesses and steps for access were built and a concrete canopy, and brick blast-wall was added to the rear. Continued from previous page
Two 6” Mark XVI naval guns were mounted; these had been made before WWI for the Turkish battleship Reshadieh (the dials were in Turkish), which was taken over by the Royal Navy in 1914 and served as HMS Erin at the battle of Jutland. It was subsequently scrapped in 1921, but the guns were put into storage and eventually used in several coastal defence locations including Upton Fort.
There are parallels for mounting 6” naval guns on modified existing emplacements at Dover. The old 9.2” magazine, between the two gun pits was used for ammunition; the hoists are in place. complete with painted notices, and also a voice pipe. The 6” magazine was used as a Passive Air Defence store, engine room and drying room, which still has its notice over the entrance door. The engine beds which are situated to the left as you enter, supported three Lister 22kW, 34hp, engines.
A stove was installed in the drying room at the back as in other places in the battery, and this necessitated the installation of vents through some of the windows. There were also two hand-controlled searchlights, a French 4.5” howitzer, a German aircraft machine-gun, and a Bofors antiaircraft gun.
The S22nd (Dorset) Coastal Regiment, being isolated by their position, from the other batteries in the area, was known locally as Major Jellinek and the Lone Rangers. The battery was only called into action once throughout its life, this was on the night of 21 March 1944 when they opened fire against German E-Boats which were approaching the edge of Weymouth Bay.
The coastal battery was decommissioned by 1956 and Upton Fort is now in private ownership with the ancillary buildings and the officers’ quarters in use as permanent or holiday homes.
Laid down on December 6, 1911, launched on September 3, 1913 and commissioned on August 22, 1914, HMS Erin carried a main armament of ten 13.5 inch main guns mounted two per turret; two centre-line firing forward, two centre-line firing aft and one centre-line amidships that could fire to both sides. Originally laid down in Britain, as the Reshadije and destined for Turkey the British government confiscated the ship shortly before delivery and commissioned the ship as HMS Erin.
She was the only ship of her battleship class and was powered by turbines with coal-fired boilers. The 13.5 inch guns made her a “super-dreadnought” in the terminology of the day. The Erin name commemorated Ireland, the least-happy portion of Great Britain, and was used for the first time by the Royal Navy. Spending the en-tire war with the Grand Fleet, Erin took part in the Battle of Jutland on May 31,1916.
Placed in reserve in 1919, she was disarmed for the Washington Naval Agreement and sold to the breakers on December 19, 1922. Her armament was put into store and her 6” guns (A on photo) which were originally located in barbettes along each side of the hull, were subsequently used for coastal defence batteries such as those at Upton Fort.
Football Match, on 13 September 1919 at Weymouth Recreation Ground Weymouth beat a Royal Navy team from HMS Erin 2-0.
Article first appeared in the Register December 2012.
Weathered signs still in situ at Upton Fort - Engine Room; Pad Store and Drying Room.
Viewed from The seaward side the redundant 9.2” gun emplacements that mounted 6” guns during WWII, with gun mounting bolts and railings still in situ.
One of two concrete emplacements, probably installed for muzzle loading guns, but never used. A hut is built over the westerly gun emplacement
HMS Erin cica 1917