How things have changed from centuries past up to more recent times just before my life began, even beyond to the present day with these great wind turbines. On the North Kent coastline the spireless twin towers at Reculver are mostly all that remain of a church, though it is still an unmistakable landmark that dates from the 12th century AD. Once every ship's master and sailors would have recognised these towers for navigating out of London as they signal where the Thames Estuary changes into the open sea.
A World War II military facility still stands proud in the North Sea. The Red Sands fort. This complex of seven towers was constructed in the Summer of 1943 about 6 miles off the Isle of Sheppey. The towers themselves had been towed into position and each placed on its own four concrete legs. The complex comprised of five gun towers, a searchlight tower and a main control tower all 100ft above sea level, although these towers are no longer interconnected by narrow catwalks.
Further eastwards, the World War II Tongue fort recently collapsed into the River Thames Estuary and had been standing sentry long after its function became unnecessary. For me it was a relic of an unknown time, a defence station with its two huge anti-aircraft guns used against German bombers attempting to strike at the heart of London. I remember it from my childhood as I viewed it at close quarters from a local cruise vessel. I seem to recall that the guns must have been housed inside huge glazed cabins, although the guns themselves had been removed. It did look a sad wreck though. In any case, the entire structure was covered in the grey and white evidence of seagulls using it for their own target practice.
The Tongue lightship has since been towed away, sold to become a restaurant in Hamburg. I had always thought that the lightship was a marker for the North Goodwin sandbank, which is still clearly visible especially when standing on the clifftops along the northcoast near Margate. Even before low tide in a rough sea waves can often be seen crashing over them in a fury of whiteness. It struck me as very odd that the last lightship, the third in a total of more than 100 years, should be removed around the same time that the conveniently named Tongue fort suddenly collapsed. The sandbank is still there, but the lightship marking its presence has been removed as if there is no hazard anymore.
I remember it was 1963 when the sea froze. Large ice floes forming a mosaic like a sheet of shattered glass as far out to sea as I could see. Margate pier is now long gone having been destroyed by fire and the resulting iron wreck ultimately removed. Never again to see the pleasure steamer 'Daffodil' coming over the horizon to berth at the pier. This smart looking white vessel with its twin yellow funnels and polished wood handrails was always a striking shape on the horizon as it approached Margate from Southend. The course was always to the west of the Tongue fort in the deeper water clear of the sandbank.
All of a sudden I felt dizzy and I had to sit down before I fell and the throbbing pain in my head started. A familiar bright point of light appeared in my vision and closing my eyes never made it disappear. It grew bigger and changed into a slowly rotating jagged circular shape. I could never focus on it as it elusively remained on the periphery of my vision. There was a blinding flash and in that moment I had a strong impression of a concrete structure being towed out to sea. I felt very cold. I didn't actually see anything. Any more than I could ever focus on the jagged circle. Nevertheless it was an incredibly intense impression. Almost real, yet unreal. I must have imagined the towers being placed at the Red Sands.
Beyond the horizon to the North-East lay the unsighted Essex coast. Up and round in an anti-clockwise direction is the location of my destiny fork. One way into the abyss, the other to sense and reason.
Silently I stalked my prey. So easy. Even after several years of no contact whatsoever, only a fool would imagine safety by absence.
© Louis Brothnias (2007)