FORT DRUM 1930’s “The Concrete Battleship” EL FRAILE ISLAND, MANILA BAY
This build is based on the OKB GRIGOROV 700 scale resin kit which was on sale last year, and has been featured in WARSHIP NEWS in Scale Military Modeller international magazine.
I had started building the kit straight away, and out of the box but like all builds these days it needs reference back up, and so I bought the soft back book by F J Allen called “The Concrete Battleship” ISBN 0-929521-06-4. It says that work started in April 1909., and it was proposed to level El Fraile Island to a height that was suitable to take a reinforced structure to carry 2 x turrets with 2 x 14inch guns. By these means, the channel between leading into Manila Bay could be better protected and would have better surveillance.
The “battleship” comparison also includes lower decks, secondary armament, and a cage tower lookout. To finish the analogy, there is a bow and stern, and crane with boats to complete the ship similarity.
The fortification was never put to the test as it was meant to do however as the slow passage of time left all the equipment out of date by the time the Japanese came to invade in 1941. The fort was left for a time while the Japanese concentrated on the mainland and it was in March 1942 that they brought up 10 x 240mm howitzers firing 3000 rounds to try and make an impact on the structure as nothing else had any success against the defenders.
With the eventual fall of the islands, it was on the 6th May 1942, Col. Kirkpatrick finally surrendered Fort Drum. A small Japanese garrison took over the fort after that, and it can be said that the state of hibernation came back once again that is until the final battle in early 1945. An LCM of marines assaulted the fort with the plan to fill it with 3000 gallons of gasoline and set fire to it. The fire ignited the 6” shell magazine, and the fire lasted for several days.
Today, Fort Drum looks very much like other Second World War gun emplacements but still has its rusting main armament on deck but nothing else. The decks have been taken apart for scrap and so there is little left to see.
I originally showed my Fort Drum build at the Lancing model show, and I was approached by someone interested in the build who said they had been to the site, and had some still images on DVD if I wished to see them, This is Guy Hall of Lewes and he kindly sent me the DVD record for my use. From this I was able to fill in some of the missing detail, and out the build into a time frame. This included the boat arrangements, and the tents on the top deck together with some of the outhouses, and water tank. It was important to show these tents and facilities as being inside a concrete structure in the tropics was very uncomfortable with temperatures reaching 100 degrees F.
Peterf warshipnews April 2011