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Artefact of the Month

THE PICKETT HAMILTON FORT

This particular artefact is one that is often missed by visitors to the Museum. Situated behind the Gloster Meteor F8, near the main gate, is one of the few complete Pickett Hamilton forts still remaining in this country.

Designed by the inventor Norman Pickett just before the start of the Second World War, the Pickett Hamilton (the word Hamilton means ‘pressure’) forts, as they were officially known, were pillboxes placed on military airfields in late1940 alongside runways. Manned by three men with a machine gun these pillboxes were designed to rise out of the ground and surprise attacking enemy paratroopers landing on the airfield. When not in use they were flush to the ground and therefore presented no hazard to aircraft operations.

Each fort had an outer concrete casing about ten inches wide. Inside this outer casing was installed an inner one which could be pushed above ground level by a ramrod device. The hydraulic mechanism to raise and lower the pillbox was operated by a double acting pump mounted on top of a vertical cylindrical oil reservoir. The whole turret could be raised in eight seconds and lowered in about twenty seconds.

It is interesting to note that the famous racing driver Donald Campbell, a friend of Norman Pickett, allowed his workshops to be used to build the prototypes. Campbell also attended the operational trials of the prototype at Andover airfield in early 1940.

The Museum is very fortunate in having such a fort with all its component parts. It was recovered from RAF Tangmere’s satellite airfield Merston by Royal Engineers and moved to the Museum in the autumn of 1984.

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