Lonehort Battery, which was operational during World War One, is the largest of seven gun batteries built on Bere Island by the British Admiralty.
The Admiralty wanted to protect its fleet when it lay at anchor in Berehaven harbour. It is estimated that, when the British fleet dropped anchor in the harbour, the local population could swell by up to 13,000 men.
The British Navy at Lonehort
In 1898, the British admiralty issued a compulsory purchase for the eastern end of Bere island. They wanted to equip the area with fortifications that would protect their dreadnoughts when they anchored in Berehaven Harbour.
The British had had a garrison presence on Bere Island since 1797, but these new fortifications reflected their interest in creating greater security at Berehaven – a prescient move ahead of the outbreak of World War One.
Tenants were cleared from the land to make way for the works and seven gun batteries were constructed at the Ardaragh Battery and the larger Lonehort Battery.
In all, seven gun batteries, a signal tower, a barracks, a quay and assorted storage buildings on the island. The battery constructed at Lonehort was the largest and most strategically important of these fortifications.
Its role was to cover a portion of the southern part of Bere Island and the eastern entrance to Berehaven from Bantry Bay.
The structure of Lonehort Battery
Two types of guns were installed at Lonehort. A 9.2-inch gun Mark X and two 6-inch BL guns, Mark VII.
The Mark X was a familiar feature in British coastal defences at the Needles, Malta and Gibraltar. It weighed 28.4 tons and had a range of 26 km (16 miles) over a firing arc of about 200° from northeast to southwest.
It could, therefore, cover the area from the Sheep’s Head peninsula to a point that was nearly east of Shot Head, Adrigole.
The Mark VII formed ‘the backbone of the British Empire’s coastal defences from the 1880s to 1956. The 9.2-inch gun Mark X
As well as its two 6” guns and one 9” gun, Lonehort Battery also included ammunition stores, barracks and watchtowers with high-powered searchlights.
The centre of the battery holds three engine rooms, some of which were used to supply power to other military positions on the island.
The battery is surrounded by a mile-long, 15-ft dry moat, and it is accessed via a small iron bridge. It is the only Bere Island battery to feature a moat.
Historians of British Port Defences have noted that Lonehort’s plans show the intention to build four caponiers (fortified tunnels) in the dry ditch, for additional defence, but this does not appear to have been realised.
Lonehort after World War One
Bere Island remained under British control, under the terms of the Treaty Port agreement, until 1938.
A permanent Irish Army Garrison remained on the island until 1947 when the fort was closed except for seasonal use.
Irish forces still operate on the island, with the base used for occasional traiining at ‘Fort Berehaven’ which is located only one mile from Fort Lonehort.
Lonehort Battery is still owned by Ireland’s Department of Defence. However, there are plans to develop the battery as a tourist attraction over the next few years in line with the island’s heritage plan.
A comprehensive restoration plan for the site was commissioned in early 2023.
Tours of Lonehort Battery
While Bere Island Projects Group is still working to restore Lonehort Battery as a visitor attraction, tours are already available which bring its story to life.
The Lonehort Tours – which must be booked in advance – usually take place at 12 noon on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, subject to minimum numbers. The tours, whiich cost €10 per person, are led by licensed tour guides Barry Hanley and Teresa Hall.
Booking is essential. Call +353 (0)27 75099 or email email@example.com – please make sure your booking is confirmed before making travel plans.
For Group Tours at other times, please contact: Barry Hanley 086 8845709 or Teresa Hall 0861981541