The Cinque Port and Haven of

A Trust Port  Managed  by the Sandwich Port and Haven Commissioners under  ancient Acts of Parliament


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From Royal Engineers History

With credit to the ‘Great War Forum’ and the thread started by Neil Clark at...

Richborough Cross–Channel Service.

In view of the congestion at the original Barge Depot at Dover and also at Longmoor Camp, it was decided in January 1916, to develop Richborough as a depot and base for inland water transport. At this time Richborough consisted of a short length of quay suitable for barges, and one dwelling house. By 1918, it had become a large and well- equipped seaport, of 2,000 acres, complete with all services and capable of handling 30,000 tons of traffic per week. Building yards and workshops were constructed to increase the supply of barges and other small vessels needed in all theatres of war. The River Stour was diverted by cutting a new channel to render possible 2,300 ft of new wharf for the cross-channel barge service, in which, at the end of the war, 242 barges were employed, including ten of 1,000 ton capacity. On 10th February 1918 a cross-channel ferry service, approved early in 1917, was brought into operation between Richborough and Calais with a supplementary service from Southampton to Dieppe. These ferries were invaluable for the transport of locomotives, rolling stock, heavy guns and tanks. In all some sixty miles of standard gauge railway were laid at Richborough.

Transportation units at Richborough IWT Depot Nov 1918
Richborough Port during the World Wars


Locomotive repair and maintenance workshop, Richborough PortDuring the First World War 1914/18 a secret "Q" port by the banks of the River Stour was the starting point of a ferry service for troops and munitions to France and Flanders. Camps were occupied by thousands of soldiers who were taken by day or by night across the North Sea and the Channel to Dunkirk and Calais.

The chosen spot for the hidden port was under the Roman fortress of Richborough; and a railway was constructed from the main line which passes under the Saxon walls to the banks of the Stour. The river mouth was dredged; and a new port of embarkation was created. The camp was constructed in the marshlands on both sides of the river.

First Roll-on Roll-off Ferry.  Most work undertaken by the Royal Engineers and much of the equipment and arms for the Ypres Salient were sent across from Richborough Port, using sea going barges and the very first roll-on roll-off ferries.


After the end of the war the port silted up, the Quay was deserted, and the mile of camps lay derelict. Some years later, the area was sold by the Government to a combined industrial enterprise of Dorman, Long, one of the biggest steel firms in the Kingdom, and Pearsons, a big contracting firm who had carried out major constructions in many parts of the world. They made plans for the develop­ment of light industries on a large scale, using the camp, the railway, the river water, and the Kent coal for power but the plan did not get off the ground.

For nearly twenty years the Richborough Camp was not used until the end of the year 1938, when Sandwich received Jewish and political refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, driven out by Nazi persecution.


At the end of August, 1939, Britain was at war with Germany and a large majority of the men in the camp volunteered and eventually were accepted for service in and attached to the British forces.

A Plaque commemorating Richborough Transit Camp was placed on the wall of the Barbican, in 1971. to commemorate the Richborough Transit Camp, where five thousand people found refuge from Nazi persecution

Battalions of English infantry engaged in home defence were quartered in the Richborough Camp.

In 1942 Richborough Camp became a post of the Marines, named H.M.S. Robertson: and the former Q port was again a hive of industry. Part of the Mulberry harbour to be towed to the Normandy coast, for "D Day" attack on the German wall, was built there by the Royal Engineers., The secret of the factory was well kept; high walls shut off the workshops from the roads, and buses travelling along that stretch of road were blacked out until "D" Day. when the cumbersome

block of a breakwater was taken out to sea.

Workshop and Shipyard Coy's  11 to 17, 19 to 27, 37 to 40 and 43 to 48.

Construction Coy's  96, 97, 117, 118, 132, 136. 141 and 142.

Marine Coy's HQ and 70 to 75

Traffic Coy's HQ and 56 to 61

Train Ferry Coy's HQ and 85,86.

Stores Coy's  HQ, 90 and 91.

Accounts Coy  95


World War 1

Page 2 of WW1 click here

Down (child)

Map of the River Stour in the 1870’s.  Compare with the bottom map below.

King George V at the Upper Wharf barge building slipways - what is now part of the Sandwich Enterprise Park.

Barges loading at the Lower Wharf.

Building the Lower Wharf - known now as Richborough Wharf

Above:  The Upper Wharf and barge building slipways.

Right:  General sketch plan of the complete complex.


‘The Engineer’

Locomotives returned to Britain and placed in storage at Richborough.  27/02/1946.

Photo credit not known.