Eighty plus members were it this talk which made it one of the
most successful of the year. Dave Perry is an engaging speaker
who kept the audience's attention with a mixture of historical
fact and personal experiences.
The origins of the fort can be traced back to the sixteenth century
but its zenith as a real fort was reached in the nineteenth century
when Palmerston enlarged it to be the principal fort in the inner
ring round London in case the French invaded and succeeded in
breaching the coastal defences.
Thankfully it was never needed for this purpose !
During the two world wars it was gradually enlarged until it employed
4,000 people, and was the largest employer in the Sevenoaks area.
The Fort has always been associated with the development of explosives
of various sorts but has also been employed amongst other uses
as an interrogation centre during World War 2.. Rockets have been
developed there since the 1930's.
In the early post war years Dr Penny and his team worked there
on the development of the atomic bomb. Information of much of
the research carried out there is still not on the public domain.
There are still 1,000 people employed at the Fort and much of
the work is still shrouded in secret. It is so secret in fact
that it does not appear on ordinance survey maps and does not
appear on sat-nav's either.
Recently a contingent of the SAS stopped in Otford to ask where
the Fort was and how to get there ! During World War 2 photographic
maps showed the Luftwaffe where the railway tunnel was as a possible
target...but did not mention the Fort.
A secret well kept. It was a most interesting talk and Dave is
to be congratulated on the research and effort he must have put
in to make such a fascinating evening.