GREY POINT FORT
WW1 COASTAL DEFENCE BATTERY
GREY POINT FORT AMATEUR RADIO SOCIETY - Helen’s Bay Crawfordsburn 2008
Flight Lieutenant Alfie Martin’s recollections: Alfie had signed on to join the RAF before the second war, but his mother persuaded him to abandon that ambition 24 hours later. He therefore joined the Antrim Fortress Royal Engineer (TA) Company in early 1939, which manned the searchlights and the engines at Grey Point Fort. He was summoned to Kilroot Fort by telegram from a hotel in County Cavan on the declaration of war. His first task was to dig out the latrines. After some months he moved to Grey Point Fort. He was put on the Crossley engines generated power for the searchlights; for the first 15 minutes they used petrol then transferred to paraffin. Alfie had a 1928 Austin standard car, and so one solution was to run on petrol only for five minutes and then put some into the car’s tank, of course only for appropriate purposes such as driving Capt Ronnie Greeves who was then the local commander of the Engineer Company. Alfie said that it was a very boring business – one person was put in each searchlight emplacement, all you had to do was to sit and smoke a cigarette, although you were allowed to take a sleeping bag, and you hoped the alarm wouldn’t go off too often. He said that the two units of Artillery and Engineers at Grey Point Fort did not mix. They had separate huts, and the engineers did not go inside the Fort. There was the dance at the Ballyrobert Orange hall, the main excitement was the New Year party at Clandeboye. After his day’s work Alfie would normally drive home to Belfast, freewheeling as much as possible. (After petrol got a dream in short supply, he then had to bicycle backwards and forwards to Finaghy.)  The shift would be from dusk to dawn. The engineers also put up barbed wire and dug trenches. The huts had not arrived until February or March 1940 – the engineers had spent Christmas 1939 in bell tents, with eight sappers to each tent on duck boards. In summer 1940 group was sent to Magilligan to open up there, and Alfie’s car was used for transport. They set up tents close to the Martello Tower, and he learned to fry cockles and mussels. He was in Northern Ireland until May 1941. He said that it was only really towards the end of 1940 when things began to move – up to that time the approach had been based on that in the First World War, e.g. digging trenches. They were issued with greatcoats and puttees. Engineers started being posted out of Northern Ireland in late 1940 in early 1941, some to Ripon and Chatham for training, others to new regiments. Alfie left in summer 1941, having seen a sign on the noticeboard looking for air crew. He remembered being in the engine room on the night of the Blitz, and walking out onto the parade ground to see the flames in Belfast.
Flying Officer Alfed (Alfie) Martin - DFC 102 (Ceylon) Squadron Prior to the RAF - Alfie served with the Antrim (Fortress) Company Royal Engineers (T.A.) at Grey Point Fort 1939
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