Thorney Bay Army Camp & Scars Elbow Battery

Canvey Fort Aerial

In the Second World War, a German invasion was imminent. Thousands of pillboxes and defences were built in almost every town across England. With Canvey being the start of England’s first line of defence, otherwise known as the GHQ line, this was were defences were most strongly built. Canvey defended us from the invader entering through either ‘the Ray’ (the water where Hadleigh and Canvey are separated, from the old French word ‘Reigh’ meaning water body or river) Canvey was more heavily armed than you may realise, in fact more heavily defended than most other towns. One gun emplacement that would defend the sea was the emplacement at Scars Elbow, very close to Deadman’s Point, situated at Thorney Bay. The battery was sometimes known as ‘Canvey Fort’ despite this being an inaccurate descrition of the battery and camp. The Deadman’s Point battery had existed from the First World War yet was mothballed until 1938 when it was recomisioned and many of the buildings it is remembered for were built, as well as having an armament upgrade to 6 inch guns. It is unclear although it seems that Scar’s Elbow battery and Deadman’s Point battery may have been two seperate yet very close sites, with the latter dating from the previous world war to the first. Thorney Bay army camp would have been used to house the British soldiers who would fire/work at the Scars Elbow Sea Defenses.As confirmed by locals and the original documents the main gun emplacements would have had shelters underneath, for ‘war’ which could be assumed to be bombing, air-raids, or any other attack. Locals believed them to be loading areas for the shells although this may be innacurate now that we know there were underground ‘war shelters’ under the guns instead. Perhaps they both, and they may still survive somewhere underground. Another local remembers two tunnels appearing when the gas works were being developed long after the war – presumably the buried shelters.

Another defence empalced in the Thorney Bay region of Canvey was a large boom going across the Thames over to Cliffe in Kent. It was simply a barrier that opened up in the middle to prevent emeny craft accessing London. In some of the old aerial photographs it does appear there were lined ditched in the fields behind Deamans’ Point battery – possibly anti-tank ditches with anti-tank blocks, or anti-glider ditches designed to impair landing of paratroops in gliders.

The Batteries

Sited on Scars Elbow Point, this battery was constructed in 1940 to guard against forays by torpedo boats. A twin 6-pounder gun turret was installed and “although hand-loaded, a mounting could deliver a stream of aimed fire at over 100 rounds a minute in the hands of a skilled detachment”, a necessary requirment to cope with fast-moving boats. The battery never saw action and was dismantled soon after the war.

Liam’s father James Heatherson was looking through my uncle’s family photo album, and found a picture of himself in 1977 as a boy sitting on the old creek wall, with the Deadmans’ Point emplacements in the background (further along the wall fromt hose at Scar’s Elbow). This was a really unique and clear view of the battery, and really is a momentous find. We can see that the gun housing seems to be similar to pillboxes, but taller, with struts coming out of the top, and slits at the very top of the structure’s sides. It also features dark rectangular areas of concrete in its sides, and an entrance by way of a doorway  shielded from being directly open with a ‘walk-in’ small porch.

Also, here is a scan from the book ‘Fortifications of East Anglia’ of a diagram showing the layout of the emplacement along with the defence boom in, which doesn’t remain at the time of the photo.

Thorney Bay Army Camp

The army camp was used to house the soldiers who would work on the battery. The two ammo magasines are all from the camp that still survive today and would’ve housed the rounds that were to be fired out to sea. In the 1950s Lt. Fielder, said to be a man very defensive over his property towards inquisitve youths, turned the army camp sheds into a holdiay camp amongst the gun site. It is a fond memory of many Eastenders who formed much of Canvey’s population today because they moved down after going on holidays here, such as my father who visited in the 1970s as a young boy seen in the photograph above.

Next up are some pictures I found over at the formidable resource ‘SEAX’ at http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk. This site features a map with literally the exact location of every Roman coin, old boat, or WW2 pillbox throughout Essex, along with pictures for a few of them. The photos were taken in the 1990’s by Fred Nash, an old owner of the site.

The other pictures I got of the original plans and aerial photographs for the battery. The most interesting images are above but the additonal pictures below can be used for research and further interest:

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