Milford Haven Coast


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Milford Haven

Neil Oliver visits Chapel Bay Fort in Milford Haven. The ex-military fort is owned by George Geear, who has spent more than ten years restoring it.


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Admiral Lord Nelson described Milford Haven

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as one of the finest natural harbours in the world.

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In its glory days,

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this was the largest deep water port on the Atlantic.

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The historic defences that ring the estuary

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show how highly it was prized.

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The military have now abandoned these coastal forts.

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They've fallen into private hands

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and they make an ideal spot for the security conscious.

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Talk about taking things to the limit.

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Look, VR 1891, Queen Victoria.

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She didn't like to be taken by surprise either.

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How do you get in here?

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BELL RINGS

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Classy doorbell.

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Hello the house.

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-George.

-Hello, you must be Neil.

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-Yes.

-Welcome to Chapel Bay Fort.

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What a fantastic place!

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George Geear bought his coastal fort 14 years ago.

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Since then, he's devoted himself to restoring it to its former glory.

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What about this brute, George?

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What does this fire?

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This is an 18-tonne 10-inch rifle muzzle loader,

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fired a pointed armour-piercing Palliser projectile,

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penetrating nearly a foot of armour plating from 1,000 yards.

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This is the original gun put here in 1891.

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If you fire something out of the end of this, how far does it go?

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About three or four miles at this sort of elevation,

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12 degrees, I think the range is three miles.

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George's restoration has been a labour of love.

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The previous residents were pigs - a pig farm, to be precise.

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Even in its heyday, the fort never actually saw action.

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But it was used to train artillerymen before they faced the Western Front in World War I.

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This is the battery control station which

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we have nearly finished restoring, with help from the Lottery.

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You are under an inch and a half of steel armour plate.

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Up in here is where, if you like, this was the nerve centre for this battery.

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-This is the brains of the whole operation.

-This is the brains.

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From here, you can see everywhere from the entrance to the Haven, all the way round past Dale,

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you can see all the way down the Haven to the dockyard.

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So nothing passes this fort, but the men in here can see it.

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-And they're in communication with the guns.

-So how do you do the clever bit?

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The clever bit comes from this instrument,

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which is a Watkin Depression Range Finder.

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First appeared in 1873. It was so good,

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it was still in use in 1956 when Coast Artillery was closed down.

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So by working these controls together,

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you can keep the crosshairs on the waterline of the ship.

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Absolutely, and get a continuous read-out of range.

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Brilliant. I've got one, George.

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Right now, your number two would pass the range to the chap sitting behind you,

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who by telephone and loudspeaker

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would relay the elevation and the azimuth to the guns.

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Coast gunnery was the very peak of artillery of the period,

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the most intelligent men were posted to Coast Artillery batteries

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because it was so dependent on engineering and mathematics.

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This really WAS the brains of the outfit.

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This was the white heat of military technology 100 years ago.

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The trainee gunners would've had no shortage of ships

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passing through their sights.

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Over the years, fishermen, the Navy and even the odd whaler

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have made the most of Milford Haven's deep waters.

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