Fort Austin Auxiliary Unit and
OB By Nina Hannaford
This page last updated:
Fort Austin from above.
Fort Austin in 2011.
History of the Fort
Construction of Fort Austin was started in 1863, commissioned by Prime Minister Palmerston fearful of a
French invasion. It was designed by Captain du Cane as one of a ring of fortifications built around Plymouth
but was redundant almost as soon as they were completed 5-6 years later.
Inside Fort Austin
The first Informational Officer in the South-West was Joshua W "Stuart" Edmundson who was resident in the
Hartley area of Plymouth, Devon at the time.
Before Dunkirk, Captain Edmundson set up an assembly line, making Molotov cocktails, in Fort Austin,
Plymouth. These were to be distrubuted to the Local Defence Volunteers. When Edmundson was recruited he turned Fort
Austin into the South-West's Resistance headquarters not only using it as a production line but also a training
area and storage for explosives and fuses before distribution.
At the outset the local Army command was not aware of what was happening in Fort Austin but rumours of
explosions made him station armed infantrymen in the area (1)
After the War
During the 1980's to 1992 Fort Austin was kept prepared to be Plymouth's Emergency Centre.
Today the main Fort is used as a council depot making use of World War 2 era huts in the centre. Two tunnels run
from the fort to the mid-ramparts with one leading down to the counterscarp gallery that lies in a defensive ditch.
This contains a musketry gallery, most of which is burried from infilling of the ditch. It seems more likely that
Edmundson whould have made more use of this undergound area rather than the main fort.
Photos show the unburied section of the counterscarp gallery and inside a gun casement. The tunnels to and
from the main Fort are now blocked off at the Fort ends.
The mid-ramparts and Counterscarp gallery now stand within a nature reserve.
Bibliography (1) :Lampe, David, "The Last Ditch" 1968, page 88-90
(Report and images by CART member Nina Hannaford. Can you provide anymore info? Please email