TRAINING: The Brennan Torpedo Launch, Cliffe Fort, Kent

16/09/2016  |  6 p.m.

Cliffe Fort, Kent


The dwindling remains of the Brennan Torpedo Launch, Cliffe, Kent
The dwindling remains of the Brennan Torpedo Launch, Cliffe, Kent

A technological marvel

Launched down a concrete slipway on iron rails, the Brennan torpedo was equipped with two contra rotating drums inside the main body, both connected by wires to a steam powered winch on shore. These drums were then interally attached to two propellors at the rear of the missle. When the driver, stood in a periscopic tower on land, released the corresponding brake handles the winch would pull on the respective drum in the torpedo, spin the propellors and drive it forward through to water towards it's target at up to 31mph. 

Installed in the late 19th century, the Cliffe Fort torpedo installation is one of only seven that were built in England (fifteen were planned). Yet the superstructure of this fascinating invention is now extremely eroded and in desperate need of recording. The very end of the concrete slipway has been lost to the Thames and many of its iron running rails lay in the shallows. The riverbank behind each side of the concrete slipway has also been eroded away leaving the structure fragile, cracked and exposed.

A weekend of exploration

On 16 - 18th September CITiZAN South East will be delivering a free evening training session and running two sessions on site to record as much of the torpedo launch as possible. We'll be drawing a measured plan of the site, exploring the stratigraphy of the visible construction cuts at either side and the wider foreshore to the east and west. We'll also begin the process of creating a 3D model of the structure as well as updating CITiZAN app entries for the wreck of the Hans Egede and many other nearby features. 

Friday 16th 6-9pm: Evening training session in Chatham (venue TBC shortly)

The session will include and introduction to the CITiZAN project, a brief summary of the coastal archaeology of the area around Cliffe, a look at the recording methods we'll be using on site to plan the features and create a 3D model and some practice of measured drawing teechniques.

Saturday 17th 07:00 - 12:00: Fieldwork (low tide 08:30)

Begin recording the site. Split in several teams to cover as much of the feature as possible and create a detailed hand drawn, measured plan of the torpedo launch. Produce an elevation of the construction cut to the east of the torpedo launch. Begin 3D modelling

Sunday 07:30 - 12:30: Fieldwork (low tide 09:08) 

Complete plan of the torpedo launch and 3D modelling photography. Update the features around the site using the CITiZAN app, most notably the wreck of the Hans Egede (see image below)


If you'd like to join the team and preserve this unique piece of our island heritage email Oliver at or call on 07718 570382.

The wreck of the Hans Egede, it's stern now steadily falling apart with each tide