Abandoned ireland

 

Bere Island Fortifications,

West Cork

Documenting our Heritage

This report brought to with a lot of help from explorer ‘Limerick Student’.

Many thanks to LS for his excellent research.


In 1898 the British Military raised a compulsory purchase order on the eastern end of Bere island, West Cork.


Tennants were cleared from the land in order to construct fortifications. The purpose of these fortifications was to protect the British Fleet at anchor in the bay while routine maintenance was carried out. Seven gun batteries were constructed at the Ardaragh Battery and the larger Lonehort Battery. The Ardaragh battery pointed northwards towards Castletownberehaven bay while the Lonehort battery faced eastwards towards the eastern approach to the bay.


Three batteries were also built to defend the western approach to the bay, Reenduff, Derrycreveen and Ardnakinna.


All of these batteries were modest constructions compared to the site of Lonehort battery. The Lonehort battery consisted of two 6" guns and one 9" gun. Over time the battery developed into a fort with ammunition stores, barracks and watchtowers with high powered searchlights. A 15 foot dry-moat was built surrounding this fort and this could only be crossed at one point by a small iron bridge. This fort became known as Fort Berehaven.


Berehaven remained in the hands of the British during the first World War. Ireland became a free state in December 1922 due to the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922, however a clause in the treaty meant the harbour defences at Cork, Berehaven and Lough Swilly were to remain in control of the British government and became known as the Treaty Ports. The defences at the Treaty Ports could not be extended or repositioned without the consent of the Free State government and whether they could be used during hostilities depended on that government's attitude at the appropriate time.


During the inter war years the value of maintaining the Treaty Ports was considered on a number of occasions by the British Defence Chiefs. In a potential war with Germany, the Royal Navy required Cork Harbour as a base for anti-submarine units and minesweepers to cover the western approaches. If Cork Harbour was not available for any reason, anti-submarine units could be used from existing bases in England, but because of the extra distance to be covered, would only be able to patrol for a shorter time and distance as compared to operating out of Cork. If the potential enemy was France, Cork Harbour and Berehaven were required as bases for the fleet.


With their advent to power in 1932, the Fianna Fail Party, with de Valera as prime minister, adopted a policy of severing ties with and distancing the Free State from the United Kingdom. This resulted in a period of strained relations between the two governments. A new constitution was introduced in 1937, whereby the Free State, now called Eire, became a republic in all but name. As de Valera laid claim to the Treaty Ports, as well as Northern Ireland, he was not prepared to enter into any defence agreement with the United Kingdom. The most that he was prepared to offer was a declaration that Eire would not allow itself to be used as a base for attacks on the United Kingdom.


The impasse was broken in March 1938, when the British government announced that the Treaty Ports would be returned to Eire unconditionally by the end of the year. In May, the British and Irish military authorities met to discuss what equipment was to be handed over. This reclamation of the treaty ports allowed Ireland to claim neutrality during World War 2.


During World War 2, Churchill threatened to take back the treaty ports by force if necessary to use as refuelling bases for the British navy. Ireland set up defence forces at Berehaven fort at this time and these defence forces remained at the fort until 1945 when the war ended.


The Batteries on Bere island, including Fort Berehaven are currently abandoned and in various states of decay.


Further Reading:-

Irish defence forces during World War 2

http://www.hoganstand.com/general/Identity/stories/fortberehaven.htm


Please note: Berehaven fort is NOT open to public access. Many of the gun batteries and defences now exist on private farm land.


We do not condone trespass or any other illegal activity.

Bere Island
Fortifications
West Cork























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