Making a Martello Tower from Scrap – Fort Crumble

To match a bunch of 15mm pirate and Redcoat preventive men from another random job lot of figures, I have added a coastal defence fort.

This is not the familiar Airfix WW2 one of my childhood but an original Napoleonic one – the Martello Tower.

I remember seeing these curious flowerpot coastal castles on childhood holidays to the south coast. I have a feeling I might have been inside one as well. We visited the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch area of Kent, the curious home of light railways, Dr. Syn, smuggling museums and marshes. All equally fascinating to a small child.

Martello Towers are the ultimate bucket and spade seaside sandcastle with a flag and a cannon on top.

If you are not familiar with them, there are several websites about them. Wikipedia has a wide range of information and a useful photo gallery from round the world on Martello Towers. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martello_tower

There is an entire dedicated website to Martello Towers, including ones that have been undermined by the sea revealing parts of their construction.

https://martellotowers.co.uk/armedforces covers the garrison of 24 men (cramped), Napoleonic era gun crews, Artillery Volunteers, Militia and “sea fencibles” (or ‘reformed’ smugglers).

There are in their 1990 English Heritage Martello Tower no. 24 booklet online here some wildly imaginative LacePunk / Steampunk original Napoleonic era prints of how the French might invade by raft, balloon and airship etc. – “typical shabby Nazi, sorry, Napoleonic tricks” as the 1805 version of Captain Mainwaring would say.

https://theromneymarsh.net/martello24guidebook

Cinque Ports Volunteers reenactors https://theromneymarsh.net/martello24#inside

Some smart Militia Volunteers, perfect for my scratch 15mm Napoleonic era garrisons of Forgotten Minor States.

Lots more at: https://theromneymarsh.net/martello24#inside

https://www.papershipwright.co.uk/product/south-coast-martello-tower/

Several manufacturers make resin or even Paper ones on the unusual Paper Shipwright website (which has free downloads of some things).

Some useful Martello Tower words for instant expertise: The roof gunnery platform floor is called a terreplein. The irony – a French word for a seaside castle cannon platform against Napoleon. Impressed?

Building your Crumble Pot Martello Towers

So where to start?

What first gave me the idea was a bit of scrap recycling from a recent sweet treat gift, some mini crumble puddings.

“First eat your puddings …”

Add in the plastic top to some lovely lunchtime Itsu noodles, the only unrecyclable bit but which also comes in handy for flocking trays.

So in Blue Peter style you need in suitable size or scale for your figures, in this case 15mm:

    Two plastic containers or flowerpot shapes, one cut down to sit inside the other to give the roof space.
    A base or lid upturned to give extra height if needed
    A spare cannon such as this one from the Risk boardgame,
    Some lolly sticks for the gun pivot
    A drawing pin for the pivot
    Acrylic model paint to coat the plastic
    Scalpel or sharp scissors to cut out the roof hole and cut down the inner pot.

Cut a neater hole in the base than I did (wrong sort of jaggy plastic, didn’t want to try the candle / knife method to smoothly melt the edges). This gives you your roof opening.

Place this cut open base over the other pot and work out how much you need to cut off to give you the gunnery space and shelter for the Gun Teams. Pop a figure and the gun inside to get an idea of size.

Cut in stages or strips away at the bottom part of the inner pot until your figures and gun sit right inside. Like Lockdown haircuts, you can’t add it back once you’ve cut it off.

The swivel: The gun is on a raised up platform to give that 360 degree swivel. Measure the lolly stick from middle of the pot top / base. Insert drawing pin as pivot. Put through plastic top. Secure pin bit underneath with a piece of thick card or balsa.

Paint the outside of the tower with an undercoat of white or light grey. Don’t forget to paint the inside (pot base) of the tower roof gunnery platform before you start sticking these together.

Stick your gun onto a short piece(s) of lollystick to step it up step by step on the swivel piece until it can freely move around the rim of the tower.

Dry Run – Once you have tried all the finished bits and bobs together, then glue the cutdown pot onto the noodle lid, and add the top pot.

The stepped cannon is the last fiddly bit to add, the barrel poking above the battlements and freely pivoting.

Avoiding cutting out recessed windows and doors into jaggy plastic, I used thin card to make the door and window frames.

These doors and windows were on the landward side to protect them from ship attack. The seaward walls were slightly thicker brick walls to cope with attack from the sea.

An external ladder from the Airfix Commando set was added but could be made from card. The doorway platform and ladder were designed to be easily taken inside or demolished by the tower gun crew.

Cleverly the towers had a rainwater collection from the roof to basement water tank or internal well to survive sieges. Tucked away are musket racks inside, gunnery stores, shot lockers, ration stores. Officers quarters were small but separate from the men’s. It is part castle, part stone naval ship.

Martello Towers were built all around the world so I can feature them in some ImagiNations and Colonial games like the Forgotten Minor States.

What next for gaming scenarios with the Martello tower?

Add some sandy coloured felt and blue felt,

  • a lighthouse, quay, warehouses and scattering of wooden houses,
  • my random job lot 15mm pirates and tricorne men
  • a cheap plastic boat / ship (what is the difference anyway?) from a seaside toy shop pirates set stocked away for rainy days,

All this is surely a scratch recipe for a coastal / pirate / naval game of Close Little Pirate Wars! Pistols, cutlasses, cannons, blunderbusses, muskets …

This lovely Murray King postcard of Cornish Wreckers vs the Excise or Preventative Men gave me some uniform colour ideas. I have some random tricorne figures to paint up as Customs redcoats.

I mocked up a quick harbour scene with the Martello Tower in place, using a Tamiya stone paving baseplate.

I blame Gridbased wargaming for his St. Nazaire raid game last year https://gridbasedwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/01/st-nazaire-raid-game-report.html

I think you can see the influence of this St Nazaire harbour game in my simple dockyard buildings and warehouses using some crafty Christmas decoration presents:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/to-the-lighthouse-more-christmas-gaming-crafty-surprises/

These ‘make your own Christmas decoration houses’ were easy to transform into flexible 15mm warehouses. Other blocks of wood were used to add storehouses.

Further Gaming Scenarios

After 1815, Martello Towers around the world were reoccupied as needed by troops, coastguard and preventive men throughout troubled times in the 19th and 20th century. Some were adapted as signal stations.

Others were reused in WW2 for coastwatch, observer Corps and effectively as pillboxes against German invasion.

So Captain Mainwaring lives on, he can again guard the coast of the Novelty Rock Emporium to the Pier at Warmington on Sea against seaborne and airborne German troops – disguised as nuns? – another “typical shabby Nazi trick”. Mainwaring really ought to have a Martello Tower to defend as well.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/to-the-lighthouse-more-christmas-gaming-crafty-surprises/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 29 April 2020

Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

10 thoughts on “Making a Martello Tower from Scrap – Fort Crumble”

  1. I first came across these towers as a boy when we were travelling in the car somewhere in England and driving down hill turned a corner and one came into view. So different from castles I had seen.
    Your post is full of interesting links to information which whets the appetite to find out more. I really enjoyed the reenactors. The craft aspect is fantastic and you have made a super tower from nought. Well done ! I look forward to seeing it in action.
    Martello towers on Mars has got me thinking and possibly rushing to the recycling bin to see what I can find.
    I have always found Napoleonic semaphore towers to be interesting too both the network along the south coast and the ones abroad in say Norway. There are accounts of landing parties coming ashore to destroy them and meeting opposition from coastal militia. . I have seen pictures of reconstructed ones in I think Norway. Do you know thevnovel “Pavane” about an England where the Armada wins? It is set in an industrial revolution time with steam traction engines ploughing their trade transporting things by road. Anyway there is a chapter about a signal tower and it’s day to day routine which is well written. Brian Froud has fantasy painting of an enigmatic signal tower based upon those chimneys/towers/wheelhouses in Cornwall.

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    1. Mars needs signallers! I became interested in signal towers building one out of an orange box – I was even contemplating for two +person games sending messages by wigwag or original number code book. Chaos!
      https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/of-semaphore-and-signal-towers/
      Pavane sounds interesting – with the smugglers pirates and redcoats in tricornes we are stretching back into Lacepunk (Polldirke territory) as well as forward into Napoleonics – did you see the print of the Napoleonic balloon and raft invasion and British riflemen on kites soaring up to defeat them whilst the Napoleonic channel tunnel was invaded? “Typical Shabby Nappy Trick”
      Sure I remember reading about such small scale raids but this might have been WW1 WW2 These are the equivalent of coastal commando raids in WW2 like Bruneval knocking out radar stations etc and stealing the radar equipment, staff and codebook kit etc
      https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/28/churchills-last-wartime-secret-the-1943-german-raid-airbrushed-from-history-book-review/
      I am surprised there are not more such towers in Cornwall and Devon besides Pillboxes but there are a fair number of Elizabethan to Napoleonic small Forts at river sea like St Catherine’s in Fowey, Little Dennis below Pendennis Castle

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  2. Nice piece of work, I love adding strongpoints like this to a game, can’t wait to see what you come up with inn40/54mm for the garden. I have some of those pirate ships going spare if you need any more.
    Best wishes, Brian

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