Canvey's Cold War Magnetic Loop Station
MOD Building at Thorney Bay
On the east side of Thorney Bay stands a strange looking building next to the former Council Toilets. The building used to have a sign saying “MOD Property” and in the late 1980’s it was still listed in the Private MOD internal phone directory. The building has a balcony that would have had a clear view accross the Thames before the new higher Sea Wall was built in the 1980’s.
This building hit the news recently as Castle Point Council are trying to sell it along with the adjacent former toilet block (I guess people no longer need toilets). I think they had visions of it selling Ice Creams but it is probably a little too far from Thorney Bay Beach Car Park and to its west side is the popular long established “Welcome Hut”.
The latest news is that local War Historians Allan Reed & David Thorndyke who run the Thameside Aviation Museum at Coalhouse Fort plan to turn it into the “Bay Museum & Research Facility” which will house local military memorablilia. We wish them all the luck and hope to be able to help collect local info on Canvey’s military past.
So what is the history of this building? I understand it is the last remaining complete WW2 Degaussing station on the north of the Thames. There were a number of these along the river including one at Colehouse Fort pictured. Magnetic sea mines were a big problem so ships had to be degaussed (de-magnetised) to prevent the mines detecting them. I assume cables ran out under the Thames from the building and I have seen a map that suggests there was a Boom running from this area. The Stations tested that the passing ships degaussing equipment was operating properly before they hit the perilous seas past the Shoeburyness anti submarine boom.
If you have any information, old photos or memories about this building please leave a comment below or email in. Click on the Photos below for more views of this building.
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The first time I ever came to Canvey was about 1973/74 when I was a degaussing wren attached to HMS President in London. As members of the WRNR we were training on the Canvey Loop, as it was called. The loop was a very simple device, designed to monitor merchant ships.
Little did I know then that I would end up working on Canvey in later life!!
My seafaring career started aboard a new British ship in 1948. She was not equipped with degaussing and at that time I guess it was considered to be unnecessary. Older vessels in which I subsequently served still had degaussing coils in the tween decks left from WW2. The company built all new tonnage at British yards and later ships delivered in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s were all fitted with degaussing at MOD expense at the time of building. I eventually found myself in the Marine Superintendents Department where one of my responsibilities was to report any of our ships departing from London to enable ranging to take place on passing Canvey Island. At some stage the MOD considered it unnecessary for degaussing to be monitored, the tension of the cold war having become more relaxed. Interestingly whenever a ship was sold to foreign owners the degaussing gear was removed in accordance with MOD requirements and the valuable non ferrous metals were taken over by the MOD. In a few instances when a ship was disposed of at a remote and distant overseas port the British authorities would consider removal to be uneconomical and the value of the non ferrous materials were left for the benefit of the new owners benefit. I trust my comments will be of some interest.
Hello A quandry. Dave Bullock refers to the degausing station as WW2. This was my belief until I noticed an aerial photo on the wall of the bay museum. It shows St Nicholas church but does not include the de gausing station. The church wasn’t built until 1960. When I pointed this out to Dave and Allan of the museum they were kind enough to present me with a copy. Pop along and have a look, they’re nice people. Regards Sparrow
Thanks Sparrow. We know all about the Bay Museum Sparrow, we work closely with them. This article was written a long time ago.
I remember as a very green Engineer Cadet on my first deep sea trip in 1969 being told to turn on the degaussing. When I laughed at this order thinking I was being made a fool of I was forcefully reminded of my lowly position
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