During the Second World War
, cross-Channel guns
were long-range coastal artillery
pieces placed on the English Channel
coasts of Kent
and the Pas-de-Calais
, at the point at which England was closest to continental Europe, with which to bombard enemy shipping in the Channel and towns and military installations. Dover and East Kent also suffered from hits by V1
(and would also have suffered from the German 150 mm V-3 cannon
, had it proved a success), though these were all primarily aimed at London and were not part of the Cross-channel gunnery duel.
The first such guns to be put in place were Wehrmacht
guns on the French coast, which began to be installed around the end of 1940. First came Siegfried Battery
to the south of Cap-Gris-Nez
, with its 38 cm gun, shortly followed by:
- Three 30.5 cm guns at Friedrich August Battery, to the north of Boulogne-sur-Mer
- Four 28 cm guns at Grosser Kurfürst Battery at Cape-Gris-Nez
- Two 21 cm guns at Prinz Heinrich Battery just outside Calais
- Two 21 cm guns at Oldenburg Battery in Calais
- Three 40.6 cm guns (from among the so-called Adolf Guns) at Lindemann Battery between Calais and Cap-Blanc-Nez
- Four 38 cm guns at Todt Battery at Wissant outside Cap-Gris-Nez
All these could shell across the Channel, but not target Channel shipping, which was later rectified by the addition of three K5 rail-mounted guns, which could not only fire on British shipping but do so in a targeted and accurate manner.
Having just survived the Dunkirk evacuation
and Battle of Britain
, the British did not have an immediate answer to this threat, but the high ground to either side of the Port of Dover
was fortified on the personal order of the Prime Minister
(who had visited to see the situation in person), and high calibre guns dug in there. The only British cross-Channel guns already in place were Winnie
and - later in 1940 - Pooh
(named after the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and the bear Winnie the Pooh
). These were two 14 inch (35.6 cm) guns positioned behind St Margaret's
with 18 inch (45.7 cm) turrets to give increased room for their operation), operated from a separate firing-control room, and manned by 25 men of the Royal Marine
Siege Regiment. These boosted morale - Winnie fired Britain's first shell onto continental Europe in August 1940 - but proved slow and ineffectual in comparison the German guns. Together they targeted the German guns (though they were too inaccurate and slow to target German shipping), and were themselves protected from German aerial attack by anti-aircraft emplacements. Their separate and well-camouflaged cordite and shell magazines were buried up deep layers of earth and connected to the guns by railway lines.
Enraged by the existing guns' lack of success in targeting shipping, Churchill ordered three new heavy gun batteries to be built in Dover for that express purpose, manned by the Royal Artillery:
These were later joined by Lydden Spout Battery. Also, three BL Mk V naval guns from the First World War (named Gladiator, Scene Shifter and Piece Maker) were brought out of retirement in 1939 and mounted on railway chassis. The resulting railway guns were operated by the Marines but moved by a team of Royal Engineers, and when not in use hidden in - among other places - Guston railway tunnel and Eythorne railway station on the East Kent Light Railway.
This gunnery duel, along with heavy German bombing of the Dover
area, led to this stretch of the Channel being nicknamed Hellfire Corner
and led to 3,059 alerts, 216 civilian deaths, and damage to 10,056 premises there. The British guns fired on the German warships Scharnhorst
and Prinz Eugen
during their 1942 Channel Dash
, but were unable to stop them. The duel only ceased when the Allied invasion of France
overran the German gun positions on the French coast in the second half of 1944. On the last day of shelling – 26 September 1944
– 50 shells landed, killing five, the last of whom was 63 year old Patience Ransley, killed by a shell from the Lindemann Battery whilst sheltering in the long "Barwick's Cave" reinforced cliff tunnel.
One of the guns can still be seen at the Todt Battery Museum (also known as the Atlantic Wall Museum) at Wissant
. Since 1954 a section of painted armour plating taken as a war trophy
from one of the Lindemann Battery's turrets has been on display on Dover's seafront.
Between Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer, considerable parts of the concrete gun emplacements and associated bunkers remain, in accessible although often somewhat dangerous condition.