The world’s least successful fort?

Whilst recently going polar bear watching in Canada, I visited what must be a very strong contender for the world’s least successful military fort.

Construction of the Prince of Wales Fort, at the mouth of the Churchill River on the Hudson Bay in Canada, started in 1731 (probably; though the plaque on it says 1733), to replace a previous wooden affair. The inhospitable and far-flung location meant construction went not only slowly but really slowing. It was not until 1772 that it was completed, 41 years on.

It was meant to be a modern design displaying the very latest in fortification knowledge, but it was a design that was badly flawed as was discovered when a cannon was test fired for the first time on site. The recoil on the canon was greater than the width of the wall, meaning that each time a canon would be fired there would be a big risk of it recoiling back and falling off the inside edge of the wall on which it was positioned. Appropriate for Carry On Up A Fortress perhaps, but not very practical. As a result, the walls had to be nearly doubled in width during the construction.

A decade after it was finished, the fort went into action for the first time. A French expedition under Admiral Jean-Francois Galaup arrived, finding the fort without any soldiers and only 39 civilians. The absence of soldiers was not completely surprising as the fort had been a private construction by the Hudson Bay Company, but even so with a mere 39 people to possibly defend the fort against the French ships their commander, Samuel Hearne, wisely decided to surrender without a shot being fired.

Forty years in the making and handed over without a shot being required; the world’s least successful fort?

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About Author Profile: Mark Pack

Mark Pack is a public relations expert, blogger and leading Liberal Democrat commentator. His website is here.

4 thoughts on “The world’s least successful fort?

  1. Worm
    August 8, 2011 at 09:11

    …and, in payback to the froggies mentioned above, let’s not forget the enormous but laughably feeble Maginot Line

    August 8, 2011 at 09:54

    A well spotted glorious failure. Glad you survived the polar bear watching. A week ago I would have looked at your pictures and thought how sweet and lovely they look. Not so sure now though.

    August 8, 2011 at 10:00

    Not a high status building, as Tony Robinson would intone. The trouble with the French is that since way back, like NUFC, they ain’t won nothing. A bit of dosh for their farmers perhaps but stooshies? null, zero, zilch, really hacks off M.Sarkozy. One assumes that you kept a reasonable distance between yourselves and the bears Mark as they seem to view humans simply as munch-upons.

    Here is another duff castle, used as the local nick for years and to keep the bandits (or clan chiefs as they liked to be called) warm at night, ended up as a ghosts care home although Mary queen of the porridge scoffers did stay there, fourteen nights B&B, courtesy of QE1.
    This in itself is remarkable as claims that she stayed at, among other places, the Shell filling station in Jedburgh, our garage, the Hawick cottage hospital and the new cop shop in Lauder.

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