The Fire Command Post at Dover Castle, from where watch was kept for enemy warships and unidentified ships during the First World War

Fortress Dover and the First World War

When war was declared on 4 August 1914, Dover assumed a vital role in the defence of Britain. The huge Admiralty Harbour supported naval forces controlling the Straits of Dover and safeguarded troops and supplies going to and returning from France. The town itself became one huge fortress, with a garrison to hold the port at all costs.

Among Dover’s defences, an obsolete gun battery within the castle was transformed into a command and control centre that played a vital part in safeguarding Dover as a garrison and naval base. You can explore this building using the virtual tour below, and find out more about Dover’s role in the First World War.

Command, control and communication

The Fire Command Post and Port War Signal Station building in the foreground, with Dover town and harbour below

The Fire Command Post and Port War Signal Station building in the foreground, with Dover town and harbour below

The building began life in 1874 as a gun battery to defend Dover from attack by enemy ships. But by 1890 its guns had become obsolete, and from 1891 its structure was adapted, so that by the First World War it had two key roles.

On the lower floor it served as a Fire Command Post, controlling the coastal artillery around the harbour that protected Dover and the Straits of Dover. The floor on top of this, which was added in 1914, operated as a Port War Signal Station. From here the Navy controlled the movements of all ships in and out of the harbour, communicating with ships and other signal station using flags and wireless, and providing early warning of attack by enemy ships and aircraft.

These two installations played notable roles in both world wars.

Explore the building

Explore the Fire Command Post and Port War Signal Station with this virtual tour. Use the hotspots to find out more, and the control panel (bottom right) to toggle the information panels and plans on and off.

       
The tour is best viewed on desktops and tablets.

360° panoramas © Pan 3Sixty

More about Dover Castle’s history

  • Aerial view of Dover Castle, Dover, Kent

    History of Dover Castle

    Learn about the long history of the castle, from its likely origins as an Iron Age hillfort, through its development as a great fortress, to its secret role in the Cold War.

  • Troops on the beach at Dunkirk in May 1940, awaiting evacuation (© Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

    Operation Dynamo: Things you Need to Know

    Find out the key facts about Operation Dynamo, the near-miraculous evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, which was controlled from Dover Castle.

  • Dover Castle: A Frontline Fortress guidebook cover

    Dover on the front line

    This guidebook tells the story of how a network of tunnels, first cut within the white cliffs during the Napoleonic Wars, played a vital role in the Second World War.

  • Wrens in front of the Officers’ Mess at Dover Castle

    Dunkirk on the Home Front

    Read some of the personal stories of what it was like to work in the tunnels beneath Dover Castle during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

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