Fort Davis

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Fort Davis is located in Whitegate, County Cork and is currently property of the Irish Defence Forces. Prior to Ireland becoming a Republic it was named Fort Carlisle. It was renamed after Thomas Davis.

It was one of four fortifications that were built in the late 1800's and early 1900's to protect Cork Harbour. By virtue of Cork Harbour being a Treaty Port, it remained occupied by British Forces until 11th July 1938 when control was handed over to the Irish Defence Forces.

At present, the fort is still in use by the Irish Defence Forces as a training facility.

Layout

Satellite Image of Fort Davis from Google Earth
A ditch some thirty feet deep and forty feet wide along the headland cuts the fort off on the landward side. The ditch is covered by three single storey musketry caponiers built of concrete. These are plain and utilitarian compared with the caponier at Fort Camden and those at contemporary English forts. The terreplein is simple in construction, even though overgrown, and could easily accommodate the movable armament allotted to the fort. Fort Carlisle is in essence an enclosed position for eight separate gun batteries. The only core is the Napoleonic fort at the northern end just inside the entrance. The Napoleonic work is of triangular shape with one full bastion, two demi-bastions and a semi-circular one, which originally contained the main seaward firing battery, and is now a saluting battery with three 12-pdr QF guns.

Beside the southern demi-bastion of the old fort a zig-zag traverse leads down to the lower level of the fort with the majority of the Victorian batteries. The first battery is No 1 originally armed with four 7-inch RML guns on Moncrieff mountings. Later, the battery was reconstructed to take three 12-pdr QF guns and the shield for one of them still survives. The battery was covered with a layer of concrete over the top of each open pit with the gun positioned on top. The old magazines were utilised for the QF guns. On leaving the battery there is a short vaulted tunnel with a flight of stairs that leads to No 2 Battery which is a casemated one for two 10-inch RML guns firing through armoured shields. On passing through the tunnel is No 3 Battery for four 7-inch RMLs on Moncrieff mountings. The Battery was never altered and the emplacements remain open and can be entered. There are short side tunnels connecting the emplacements with each other with the usual magazines leading off.

On leaving No 3 Battery and, through another vaulted tunnel. No 4 Battery is reached. Originally casemated for four 10-inch RML guns firing through armoured shields, the battery was later converted to an oil store. From behind No 3 Battery a long flight of steps leads to the upper level of the fort, where the breech loading batteries were built. This is also the level on which the Napoleonic fort was constructed.

To the south of the old fort is North Battery for two 6-inch guns. The emplacements are clearly visible but the underground magazine stores and shelters are buried. Continuing south- wards is Rupert's Tower Battery, built originally for two 12-inch RML guns and later remodelled for two 6-inch mark VII guns, which still remain in position with the DRF and fire command positions built on the bank overlooking the battery. Adjacent to Rupert's Tower Battery, the fort is divided internally by a ditch that reaches to the shoreline. The ditch is covered by a flanking gallery where it changes direction to the shoreline to prevent an assault directly from the water. On the south side of the ditch lies South Battery for two 9.2-inch guns, complete with underground shelters and magazine, whilst on the bank behind the Battery are the command post and position finding cell. At the southern end of the promontory the external ditch culminates in another flanking gallery.

Detailed History

The following has been extracted from Fort Davis, (A Short History) by Cpl. John Simkins, C Company 23 Inf Bn.

The earliest date in which Fort Davis can be traced is 1607 but it is likely that there was a fort in the area several centuries prior to 1607. In the Jacobite War the fort was known as King John's Fort. Prior to this it was known as Rupert's Tower Battery after Rupert of the Rhine. Towards the end of the Elizabethan Reign the fort was known as Fort Carlisle after the 5th Earl of Carlisle and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Also during this period a large regular fortification with platforms for gun batteries were constructed at sea level - their purpose was to protect the mouth of the harbour.

It was garrisoned by troops loyal to James the second but his troops were driven out by the Duke of Marlboro on the 21st September 1690. Marlboro subsequently went on to Haulbowline where there was an earthworks fortification which he took easily before proceeding to Cork where he took Shandon Castle. These were the first strongholds taken by Marlboro in Ireland.

It would appear that further construction took place about 1797 because the tunnel on the road leading to the old pier from the fort bears that date. It was used at that time for the confinement of French prisoners of war.

The design of the present fort was made in 1860 and a contract was entered into with M/S Moore, who undertook the excavation of the main ditch and the formation of the parapet, for the sum of £17,500. Under this contract the parapet was to be roughly shaped out of the soil taken from the excavation. The site was handed over to the contractor on 3rd August 1861 and the work was commenced immediately afterwards and continued during the remainder of the year and the whole of 1862. Considerable pressure had to be employed with the contractor to compel them to carry out the works. In February 1863 they became bankrupt and resigned their affairs to trustees, who employed M/S Cockburn to complete the contract at Carlisle Fort.

M/S Cockburn commenced work in April 1863 and continued until September in the same year when they were relieved of that the task by the War Department.

The total amount expended under the first contract was £21,488, the difference between that sum and £17,500, the amount of M/S Moore's tender, being made up by the execution of different extras ordered by the Engineering Department during the progress of the work. In January 1864 a patry of convicts (approx. 20 men) were sent over from Spike Island and employed in the construction and repair of roads. No progress was made on the defence works until May 1864 when the excavations for the lower sea batteries were commenced by a party of 50 convicts.

These convicts from Spike Island were still further increased until in the Spring of 1865 about 180 were employed on the Defence Works and this number continued to work during the following two years. They executed a considerable amount of quarrying required for the lower sea batteries, laid the concrete foundations for a proportion of the gun platforms and built some of the magazines, side arm stores, ammunition stores and the walls at the rear of the batteries.

A good deal of cut stone required for the batteries was also dressed by the convicts, after the had been instructed in the workshops of the fort.

In October 1867 a party of the line commenced work and were employed in levelling the soil heaps on the parades and excavating for flanking galleries.

In December 1867 the convicts were removed to Spike Island to assist in the building of the new dockyard works at Haulbowline and in January 1868 the line detachment was relieved by a detachment of Marines who were then stationed in the Fort. These Marines (70 strong) with 16 sappers and 45 civilian workmen constructed huts on the new central parade ground so that the strength of the military working party might be increased, completing them in June 1868. Up to this date £9230 had been expended over the previous 5 years on this work. Convict labour was at the disposal of the War Department for four of these years and not charged against the loan for Defences as far as Royal Engineer Estimates were concerned.

At this time it was estimated that a further £114,573 would be required to complete the fort and that with the military labour available it would be completed in 10 years.

SUMMARY: Main Ditch & Parapet 1861 - 1863 Huts on Parade Ground 1868 Lower Battery casemates and roads 1864 - 1880

Between 1880 and 1890 guns were mounted in casemates in the face of the cliff. ( 2 x 10" R.M.L., 3 x 11" R.M.L. and 4 x 7" R.M.L.)

By 1886 it was one of the strongest fortresses in the United Kingdom (Guys Directory 1886). At that time on the high ground near the fort were the remains of Rupert's Tower - The present battery of 6" B.L. guns was later named after this tower.

The R.M.L. guns were replaced in 1898 to 1903 by B.L. guns (2 x 6") on the North Battery on the level beside the present parade ground. During these same years 2 x 6" guns were mounted at Rupert's Tower Battery. The B.C. Post North Battery was erected in 1902 - 1903 and the South Battery for 2 x 9.2" B.L. guns was constructed in 1900 - 1904, the B.C. Post for this battery being erected at the same time.

Storage of Movable Armament was built ini 1902 - 1903 in their present position during this same period for the old emplacements in the lower level were converted to 12 pounder guns. R.A. workshops were constructes at Rupert's Tower in 1903 - 1904 and in the following year the main drawbridge was partly renewed. This drawbridge was replaced by the present permanent bridge in 1942 (the contractors being M/S Smith & Pearsons.) The F.C. Post in Rupert's Tower Battery was constructed in 1908 (only the pedestal now remains). The present pedestal for the mechanical dial was erected in November 1909. In the same year, gun floor shelters were constructed at teh Rupert's Tower Battery.

A suggestion that 13.5" ex-Naval guns should be mounted as plenty of spare ammo was available was vetoed - the turrets weighed 600 tons apiece! Lined up at the lower levels were the Moncrieff pits for the 68 pounders remodelled for 12 pounders, with their searchlight positions. The 10" and 11" R.M.L.s had been in casemates. In one of these generously sized caponiers I counted at least 30 firing positions including those in the scarp galleries too either side. On Rupert's Tower Battery two 1904 6" Mk VII Guns are stilll in place in camouflage paint and can be traversed. The BOP behind with pillars for position finder served this and the second 6" Battery. There was another BOP for the two 9.2" guns to seaward.

In 1911 electric light was provided in the Shell and Cartridge Stores. Two 80,000 gallon tanks were erected in the Old Fort and an electrically driven pump installed in 1911/12.

In the 1914 - 1918 war the fort was occupied by the Royal Artillery Coastal Defence.

Fort Davis was one of the forts retained by the British under the Anglo Irish Treaty of December 1921. Fort Carlisle passed from British control to to Irish control on 11th July 1938. An advance party of two NCO's and fifteen other ranks inder 2/Lt. B. O'Brien arrived at Fort Carlisle on 9th July 1938. The main body of the 2nd Heavy Battery under Capt. D.J. Collins OC, Lt. A, Dalton and 2/Lt. W. Rea arrived on the 11th July 1938. The British troops had by then been withdrawn to Spike Island with the exception of one Master Gunner and four instructional Sergeants. The Union Jack was lowered by Master Gunner Barratt, R.A. and the Tri-Colour raised by Capt. D.J. Collins.

Originally on the native government taking over the fort it was occupied by the army but during The Emergency it was occupied by the Coastal Defence Artillery (CDA). The first OC of the post was Comdt. O'Herlihy. The CO of the Coastal Defence Artillery at Spike and as such in overall command was Col. Dan Collins. Comdt. J. H. Byrne was another early commander. During The Emergency period there were four search lights located in the fort. These were No's 5,6,7 & 8, the four others were in Fort Camden. A boat based in Haulbowline named the "Windham" was used to tow targets in the bay for gun practise. Another boat used more for equipment was the "John Adams".

See Also

External Links

Defence of Cork Harbour