Recently two historic 'stones' were recovered from St. Catherine's Church, graveyard by the Coalhouse Fort Project, in order to interpret and preserve, another aspect of the heritage of our military operations in East Tilbury, which stretch back to 1402.
The stones relate to the Great War, when the garrison at the fort were employed on a number of useful 'community' or moral boosting projects. One was to build St. Catherine's church a new tower, another to erect a war memorial to their fallen comrades and the final one to build the Officers of the Garrison some garages for their cars?
Perhaps it was this that broke the camel's back? The war memorial was completed and officially declared 'opened' standing just outside the fort's main gates and the full garrison proudly stood to attention for the official photographer alongside the Vicar of the day.
However it appears that the Commanding Officer of the London Electrical Engineers, who were based at the fort, running the searchlights, which protected the river defences against attack, was not happy! Perhaps the Officer's Garages, built close to the main gate and limiting the field of fire, for its defences or the use of War Department materials and man power for civilian use without 'Permission' was part of the story, it was all too much and the work was curtailed. The church tower half completed, the war memorial 'blown up' and scattered, while the Garages were turned into workshops.
The memorial inscribed tablet, carved on each side with The Great War, the Countries Allies around the world, the Commanding Officers and the detachments which formed the garrison at Coalhouse Fort during this period, eventually found its way into the cemetery as well as another stone probably part of the cenotaph. The Church tower was sealed off and still requires a topping out! It is hoped to display the stone within the fort under controlled environments and perhaps one day re-construct the war memorial on its original spot, where still today the base stone can be found.
The Coalhouse Fort Project is actively researching all aspect of the fort and recently the discovery of the Royal Engineers magazine produced a Coalhouse Fort by the London Electrical Engineers is revealing a lot on what went on and perhaps will reveal more about the story about the forts war memorial.
- Thurrock Goes To War: By: Roger Reynolds M.V.O and Jonathan Catton.