Fort Oxford (1944-1953) - Fort Oxford was a long-range counter-bombardment coastal gun battery situated 4 miles north-west of the entrance to Sydney Harbor, Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia, Canada. Originally to be built at Oxford Point, but moved to a more defensible location to the west before construction began, about 1/3 mile inland of the coast between Merritt Head and Bonar Point. Last deactivated in 1953. Also referred to as Oxford Battery in some documents.
Part of the Harbor Defense of Sydney.
World War II (1939-1945)
The largest single army construction project at Sydney in WWII was Fort Oxford, built in 1943 by E.G.M. Cape and Company of Montreal at a cost of $780,000. Armament consisted of three dispersed batteries of 9.2-inch Mk. XV guns mounted on Mk. IX carriages equipped with powered rammers and hydraulic drives. These were high angle mounts allowing a maximum firing elevation of 35 degrees giving a range of 29,000 yards (26.5 km. or 14.3 nautical miles), however, the third gun was never emplaced before worked stopped in 1948. These were widely separated batteries, laid out in a similar manner to Fort Lingan, but on a more massive scale, each emplacement some 450 feet from each other and each a self-contained unit with its own deep magazine. A long-range battery on an exposed headland was the most likely target for heavy enemy bombardment, and these design features were intended to ensure that a direct hit on one position could not disable the others. Together with the batteries at Fort Lingan to the east, the guns at Fort Oxford could keep a modern cruiser beyond effective gun range for a length of the coast of over 50 miles, stretching from St Anns Bay to the north to Mira Gut in the east. A four-story reinforced concrete fire-control observation post was located about 1/4 mile further inland, behind the batteries. An anti-aircraft battery (one 20mm Hispano gun) was also located here. A CDX fire-control radar tower equipped with a long-range slow-scanning coast artillery fire-control radar set was built in 1944. A second fire-control observation post was located at Point Aconi 3 1/2 miles to the north. The battery plotting room was set more than twenty feet underground and had concrete walls of up to ten feet thick. Nearly two dozen wooden accommodation buildings were scattered about the rear of the gun positions, and they were designed on the advice of camouflage experts to resemble a village.
The construction task at Fort Oxford that invoked the most back-breaking labour was the installation of the armament at Oxford battery. The first of the enormous 9.2-inch guns - a Mark XV barrel on a Mark IX mounting, the most modern installed at any site in Canada - arrived at Halifax from Britain on 1 February 1944 and was shipped by rail to Sydney Mines. The load filled seven railway cars and weighed more than 125 tons, including the twenty-eight-ton barrel (almost 36 feet long), the mounting, circular armour plates to cover the pit of the emplacement, and a full turret-like armoured housing that enclosed the entire top of the mounting. The one-hundred-man detachment of the 36th Coast Battery that remained at Chapel Point undertook the work of trans-shipping each massive component onto flatbed trucks, moving it out to the site, and hoisting and levering it into place. Expert artificers were installing the last of small parts and making adjustments when the second gun arrived at the end of May. The third gun would not arrive until the spring of 1945. The project lost its urgency while the second gun was being installed, and none of the Oxford guns was in fact ever brought into action during the war.
The 9.2-inch guns provided the mainstay of the British coastal defences located all around the world for over 50 years. The first were naval guns but by the 1890s they had appeared in land service on a wide variety of disappearing and railway mountings. The Mark 7 carriage introduced a powered rammer and hydraulic drives, the Mark 9 carriage was a simplified Mark 7.
Post World War II (1946-1953)
Work at Fort Oxford continued until early 1947, with the assistance of technical parties from Ottawa and Halifax, to complete the installation of Oxford battery's third 9.2-inch gun.
In 1947 and 1948, the army stripped the coastal fortifications and placed the equipment into immediate reserve at Fort Petrie and Killkenny Barracks where it could be properly preserved, ready for quick reinstallation should war again seem likely. At Oxford and Fort Lingan, only the main components of the heavy guns at were left in place under the charge of a few caretakers.
In 1953 or 1954 the stored equipment was removed, possibly shipped to NATO partners in Europe still conceivably at risk of naval assault on their shores.
The battery site is located mostly on Crown Land, a short walk through the woods along a path found near the junction of Little Pond Road, Schoolhouse Road and Beachview Drive in Little Pond. The site contains the concrete gun emplacements and over twelve hundred of feet of concrete trenches interconnecting the gun emplacements and the fort's other infrastructure. The remains of the three-story concrete fire-control observation post are located nearby on undeveloped privately owned property, 300' west of Boutiliers Lane. All of the concrete structures are damaged and covered with graffiti. No period guns or mounts in place.