ST2859 : A night to end it all

taken 3 years ago, 4 km from Brean, Somerset, Great Britain

A night to end it all
A night to end it all
This is part of the main magazine of the fort on Brean Down. Built in 1870 to repel the French threat that didn't ultimately arise, it became a rather inactive area and was largely involved with training instead. Life was not terribly exciting for the few men stationed here.

However, the fort's history ended abruptly one night. At 04:50h, 6th July, 1900, a certain Gunner Haines is believed to have discharged a carbine into the ventilation shaft of the main magazine. The resulting explosion ignited some 5,000lbs of gunpowder. The magazine, nearby buildings and two large guns were uprooted, leaving much of the fort in a poor state. Taking all things into consideration, the military decided to close the fort thereafter.

Gunner Haines and his colleague Gunner Johnson had left the fort at around 17:00h to visit Burnham on bicycles. Permission to leave the fort is not recorded so it is thought they were taking a chance by going out. The pair rode back late on the night of the 5th, but Haines suffered a puncture, arriving an hour after, about midnight. He is reported to have been in the barracks thereafter.

Gunner Haines had served for thirteen years with good record, but was noted as being somewhat sullen and had a bad temper at times. Perhaps the likelihood of arrest may have been weighing on his mind, and there are comments about his behaviour around that time as being morose. Whatever the problems, Haines appears to have stolen a carbine from a fellow soldier and fired it down the shaft.

His Sergeant stated that his uniform was left on his barrack bed, so he was possibly naked when carrying out the act. Haines body was blown to bits, his legs and one of his arms were severed from his body and blown a considerable distance away. Identification was made due to the ring on his finger; his head was never found. Consequently, it was concluded that he was not in the magazine, but outside by the shaft - otherwise his body would have been totally lost.

The explosion tore out a large part of the fort; a 112lb coping stone was hurled into the air and found 200 yards away. Miraculously, only one other man suffered severe injury but survived. The fort was closed, the old guns hauled away by traction engines and sold for scrap.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Neil Owen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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ST2859, 131 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Monday, 13 March, 2017   (more nearby)
Submitted
Thursday, 16 March, 2017
Geographical Context
Coastal  Historic sites and artefacts  Defence, Military  Estuary, Marine 
Former (from Tags)
Magazine 
Primary Subject of Photo
Fort 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! ST 2804 5931 [10m precision]
WGS84: 51:19.6990N 3:2.0514W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! ST 2804 5931
View Direction
Northwest (about 315 degrees)
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Other Tags
Former Fort 

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Image Type (about): close look 
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