For the best view of Georgetown, the island’s capital, there is nowhere that can compare with the view from Fort Bedford. More on the view later but it should also be clear from the picture above why Fort Bedford, tasked with defending the capital, is located where it is – half way up Cross Hill, just behind Georgetown. The peak of Cross Hill remains a military site and thus out of bounds.
Fort Bedford was the last constructed of three naval forts in the Georgetown area – the other two being Fort Hayes and Fort Thornton. It was constructed between 1903 and 1906 and, like the other two, decommissioned after World War I. With the start of World War II Fort Bedford was recommissioned and armed with two 5.5 inch guns salvaged from HMS Hood during a 1934 refit of that vessel.
The guns, which arrived in Ascension Island in April 1941, had been manufactured in 1918. Soon after their arrival they sprung into action (for the one and only time) against U-Boat U-124 which attacked Ascension Island to create a diversion to give other U-Boats from the South Atlantic unimpeded access back to a then occupied France. Captain Mohr’s tactic worked but his U-Boat was forced to crash dive following a strike from the guns at Fort Bedford – though it escaped. The guns are now the only parts of HMS Hood that exist, as the ship itself was sunk on 24 May 1941 by the German battleship Bismarck in the Denmark Strait, with only 3 survivors out of her crew of almost 1500.
Sited close to Hood’s guns is a small plaque erected to celebrate 50 years of peace since World War II .
The fort was decommissioned again in 1953.
Just below the main Fort area and the two Hood guns are two black painted 7 inch guns (pictured above) manufactured in 1866 and of the type typically used in battleships at that time.
Slightly lower down on Cross Hill, below the guns, are the ruins of Admiralty Lodge, also known as Bates Cottage after its first occupant. It was built for island commandants in 1828. Post Bates, who died on Ascension Island in 1838, successive garrison captains occupied the lodge until the departure of the navy from the island in 1903 when it became the Governor’s residence (only used he visited from his base on St Helena). In 1941 it was taken over by troops of the Royal Artillery detachment that manned the Hood’s guns on Fort Bedford. Post WWII the lodge served as the Island Club and Scout Headquarters before it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1998. The picture above is courtesy of of the Government of Ascension Island website.
Fort Bedford is now used to ‘monitor’ the mating behaviour of Green Turtles on Long Beach (pictured above) and sports a strategically placed park bench and a picnic area for those wishing to enjoy the fantastic view from the former fort.
The picnic area was opened by HRH The Duke of Kent on 8 November 2012 in recognition of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. A plaque advises the visitor that the Diamond Jubilee was celebrated on Ascension Island with “pride and joy”.
In a few of my attached pictures you will notice a solitary ship. This is a British Ministry of Defence supply ship which, I think, visits monthly. It does not take passengers but it does bring in the Administrator’s gin supply (amongst other things).
Pack your picnic hamper (ok, lets get real – grab whatever you can find from the supermarket or the NAAFI shop on the RAF base) and come up here, relax and enjoy the views and perhaps the sunset.
Address: Cross Hill (halfway up)
Directions: You must take the road to One Boat and turn back to Cross Hill – the Road in my main picture is one way (the only one way road on the island) and the one you will take if returning to Georgetown from Fort Bedford.