SMHS meeting: Hellfire Corner

19 Oct 2016

Our October speaker was SMHS member Ed Tyhurst. Ed works at Newhaven Fort and has previously addressed us on the Dieppe Raid, his subject this time was Hellfire Corner.

The Dover Strait is the narrowest part of The English Channel and in summer 1940 Germany engaged the services of Organisation Todt to build a string of batteries for coastal guns in commanding positions around the Pas-de-Calais. The batteries, Todt, Friedrich August, Grosser Kurfurst, Prinz Heinrich, Oldenburg and later, Lindemann (named after the Commander of sunken battleship Bismarck) had the ability to shell both Allied shipping in The Channel, and the Dover coast, which quickly assumed the name 'Hellfire Corner'.

Churchill needed to defend the Strait at all costs. Aerial and naval dominance of The Channel by either side was a necessity before any planned invasion in the area could proceed. Winnie and Pooh;, both 14inch Naval guns, were installed first; much to the annoyance of the golfers at St Margaret's at Cliffe. These guns were always in view of the Germans and were serviced by diesel locomotives so as not to create highly visible steam. RAF Tomahawks were used for ranging and were manned by the Royal Marines Siege Unit.

With the fall of Singapore, four 15 inch guns became available and these were installed at Wanstone Farm, between St Margaret's and Dover and were known as Jane, after the pin-up girl, and Clem for Clementine Churchill. These guns were used primarily against shipping. Additional batteries at Fan Bay and South Foreland were also established and it was in fact the battery at South Foreland that opened fire against the ships in the Channel Dash when the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, cruiser Prinz Eugen and their flotilla made their way from Brest to Wilhelmshaven during Operation Cerberus in February 1942.

Following the Allied invasion in June 1944 the British guns were busy weakening the coastal region of France before the Canadian advance into the Pas-de-Calais region in September 1944.

Ed rounded his presentation off with an excellent selection of then and now comparison photographs from his personal collection.

Follow us!

Social Media Follow us on Twitter! Like us on Facebook!

Contact us


For just £10 per year, you can join SMHS and be involved in our projects!

Membership details

Next meeting     [More]

Wednesday 18 Oct 2017

Indo-Pakistan War of 1965: Thunder Over Kashmir

7.30pm for 8.00pm start
Function Room of the
Royal Oak Public House,
Station Street, Lewes,
East Sussex.

Latest SMHS News

SMHS meeting: Show and Tell
21 Dec 2016

Mid Sussex RED launch event
11 Nov 2016

SMHS meeting: Hellfire Corner
19 Oct 2016

SMHS meeting: "1066 and all that"
21 Sep 2016

SMHS meeting: Operation Pedestal
17 Aug 2016

Return to top

This website is Copyright © 2017 Sussex Military History Society