SUNK ISLAND BATTERY

and STONE CREEK ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY

Sunk Island Battery was a two gun installation built upon the outbreak of World War I. Its purpose was to defend the approach to the port of Hull and the Royal Navy fuel depot at Killingholme. It was reactivated during World War II and a new installation, Stone Creek heavy anti-aircraft battery, was constructed nearby to provide air defence.

History

 

A battery was first proposed for Sunk Island in 1911 and was intended to be paired with another at Stallingborough on the North Lincolnshire coast. Sunk Island, which is a flat and low-lying area that had ceased to be an actual island in the nineteenth century, was chosen due to its relative proximity to the navigable channel along the River Humber. The original intent was for a hexagon shaped fortification which was surrounded on all sides by a ditch flanked by caponiers and crossed by a retractable bridge. The battery's main armament was to be two 6-inch Breach Loading Quick Firing guns which were to be installed within concrete emplacements embedded within an earth rampart. Barracks, workshops and other ancillary buildings were planned to support the garrison. Work started on the battery in early 1914 but, with the outbreak of World War I in July of that year, the plan for the fortification was completely changed.

 

With the outbreak of hostilities, the requirement for new defences along the Humber became critical. Two forts at the mouth of the Humber - Bull Sand and Haile Sand - were proposed but these were long term projects that would take years to complete (Bull Sand wasn't actually completed until 1919 - one year after the war ended). Accordingly temporary batteries were built at Stallingborough and Sunk Island re-using the sites that had originally been proposed for the permanent defences. The design consisted of twin concrete towers with each equipped with a single 6-inch Breach Loading Quick Firing gun installed on the roof. At Sunk Island construction was particularly difficult as no road infrastructure led to the site. Nevertheless by October 1914 the towers had been built and the guns were operational.

 

Upgrades were made to Sunk Island Battery in February 1915 with electric searchlights installed on the foreshore. An electrical generator, which was originally installed at Paull Point Battery, was relocated to Sunk Island Battery. Concurrently barbed wire was erected around the site and trenches dug to provide anti-personnel defences. A Port War Signal Station (PWSS) was installed to the rear of the battery to act as a combined fire control post and command centre for the Examination Service, an organisation tasked with clearing vessels for onward transit along the river. All this activity led to increased use of the battery but, in wet weather, the unpaved surface became a quagmire. Accordingly it was provided with a network of paths and roads to ensure all weather access.

 

Although the German Navy mounted several attacks on coastal towns during World War I, Hull itself was never attacked by enemy warships. However, the town was bombed by Zeppelin airships and, on the 7 June 1915, Sunk Island Battery opened fire upon one of these aircraft which was returning from a raid. Despite firing in excess of 9,000 rounds, no hits were recorded.

 

After World War I, Sunk Island Battery was abandoned and it wasn't reactivated in 1939 as the primary defence of the Humber rested with Bull Sand and Haile Sand forts. However, a submarine minefield was laid across the river and its control point was built on the foreshore by the old Sunk Island Battery. As the shipping and control measures within the Humber evolved, it was deemed prudent to re-install guns in Sunk Island Battery and accordingly it was fitted with two 4.7-inch Quick Firing guns. These remained in position until March 1943 and thereafter the site was abandoned.

 

Stone Creek Anti-Aircraft Battery

 

In September 1939 a heavy anti-aircraft battery was constructed at Stone Creek on the western extremity of Sunk Island. Known as Station J, it was first armed on the 19 September 1939 when it was equipped with two 3-inch guns. Like all such outposts, it formed part of the Anti-Aircraft Command which was under the operational direction of RAF Fighter Command. The initial garrison was the 286th Battery from the 91st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery (286/91 Bty). In Septemver 1939 they were replaced by 172nd (1st East Riding) Battery from 62nd (Northumbrian) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery (172/62 Bty). It was this unit that commenced upgrading the facilities at Stone Creek including building the concrete gun emplacements.

 

By November 1940 the 9th Anti-Aircraft Division had been formed to control the air defence batteries across Yorkshire and by the end of that year this had been incorporated into 2nd Anti-Aircraft Corps (2 AA Corps). Stone Creek battery was under the control of these organisations and, as the defensive arrangements were adapted, it was renamed Station H9 in August 1941.

 

By June 1942 Stone Creek’s armament had been upgraded to four 3.7in Quick Fire guns installed with concrete emplacements and supported by a fire control radar. A Command building provided facilities for the gun controllers and included dedicated positions for the height finder/optical tracking tools. It was also fitted with a machine gun for engaging low level aircraft. Barracks and domestic facilities were constructed to support the garrison which, from September 1942, was the 510th Battery of the 151st Heavy Anti-Air Regiment Royal Artillery (510/151 Bty). This was a mixed unit with the male gunners supported by women drawn from Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) to man the radar and communications systems.

 

A further re-organisation of air defence in October 1942 saw Stone Creek transferred to the 5th Anti-Aircraft Group, an organisation with responsibility for protecting the East Coast from Norwich to Scarborough. The battery was credited with shooting down one enemy aircraft and remained active until November 1944 after which the garrison and equipment were moved to a new position at Ringborough.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Dobinson, C.S (2000). Twentieth century fortifications in England. Coast Artillery, 1900-1956.

Dorman, J.E (1990). Guardians of the Humber. Humberside Leisure Services, Hull.

Dyer, N (2014). British Fortification in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inky Little Fingers Ltd.

Historic England (2016). Stone Creek Heavy Anti-Aircraft gunsite, List entry 1020187. Historic England, London.

King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands.  Kraus International Publications.

Salter, M (2001). The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire. Folly Publications.

 

What's There?

Sunk Island Battery is a relatively rare surviving example of a water-level defensive structure from World War I. Both gun towers still stand to their original height (the weapons have been removed) and the attached service buildings are accessible. Regrettably the woodland that has emerged around the site conceals the once clear views the battery had over the River Humber. The site is accessed via a public right of way along the waterfront and passes Stone Creek Anti-Aircraft Battery which is in a good state of preservation but is on private land with no public access.

Humber Defences. Hull was established by Edward I in 1293 and in the decades that followed a town wall was built. Henry VIII constructed a castle and two blockhouses opposite the port in 1542. During the civil war, Hull supported Parliament and temporary defences were constructed around the town to keep back Royalist forces. In 1681 the castle and one of the blockhouses was converted into the Royal Citadel. As developments in artillery continued apace, gun batteries were established upstream and, during WWI, two large forts were built to guard the entrance into the Humber.

Gun Towers. The guns were mounted on top of 10 metre tall concrete towers. The aim of the elevation was to maximise the range of the weapons as the River Humber was over two miles wide in the area opposite the battery.

Gun Positions. The bolts that held the gun mounting in place are still visible (for visitors inclined to climb).

Magazine. Each of the gun towers have a service building attached which included a magazine.

Submarine Minefield. A brick built structure originally housed the equipment for the submarine minefield that crossed the Humber.

Engine Room. In February 1915 electric searchlights were relocated from Paull Point Battery to Sunk Island. A dedicated engine room was built to house the generator.

Woodland. The site is now overgrown with trees. It was originally completely clear with superb views over the Rover Humber.

Sunk Island Battery. The entire battery site is engulfed in woodland.

River Humber. The river as seen directly in front of the battery position. It is over two miles wide at this point.

Stone Creek Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery

Stone Creek Anti-Aircraft Battery. Stone Creek was the location chosen for a World War II heavy anti-aircraft battery.

Stone Creek Battery. The concrete emplacements for the 3.7-inch Quick Firing guns. The battery’s magazine, fronted by a blast wall, can be seen to the right. It was built to a standard Air Ministry design.

Command Building. The Command building included the optical sites and a plotting room in order to direct the guns. A fire control radar was later added.

Brick Buildings. The buildings on the fringe of the battery were ancillary buildings including the guardhouse, cook-house, canteen, wash house and general storeroom.

Getting There

Sunk Island Battery can be accessed via a walk along the shore from Stone Creek and this route also passes the remains of the anti-aircraft battery. On-road car parking is possible at Stone Creek.

Car Parking Option

HU12 0AP

53.652802N 0.130331W

Sunk Island Battery

No Postcode

53.639640N 0.111783W

Stone Creek Anti-Aircraft Battery

No Postcode

53.650810N 0.128268W

From Stone Creek, walk along the river bank for around one mile. The battery site is thick woodland.

The river bank skirts around the battery site. A causeway leads into the site with the engine room buried on the left and the battery itself to the right.