Welcome to this blog which is intended to accompany a website on how Suffolk was defended during the Second War. The blog will describe my trips out and about looking for the remains of the Second War defences while the Website will concentrate on putting these into context.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010

Boyton AFV Range

As the British Army's attention moved away from anti-invasion defence to preparations for engaging the enemy in foreign theatres of war (esp the build up to D Day) there was a need for ever increasing training and Suffolk became a major area for such training. Boyton Marshes played a part in this. Here an Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) range was established, part of the Orford Battle Training area. Tanks would tack around a triangular track and live fire at targets - tank shaped targets that were towed along a narrow gauged track, controlled by large block houses, both the block house and track built into substantial earth banks as shielding.  Two target tracks and sets of block houses were built to provide a variation in range. Smaller block houses controlled flip up targets for the tanks machine guns. 
Today three of the block houses remain (although the earth banks are no longer present),  all easily viewable from public rights of way but no close up access - but I had permission to visit two of them. Other remains include a destroyed concrete structure (no doubt the remains of another of the block houses), what would appear to be some of the remaining triangular track and two Romney Huts at the nearby farm yard.
The attached map (plotted from a war time aerial photo) shows a plan of the range, with surviving structures circled in blue (two of the large block houses controlling the tank targets, one blockhouse (and the destroyed remains of the second) that controlled the flip up mg targets, part of the track which tanks fired from and two Romney Huts.

Images 1-7: Large block house that controlled moving tank targets
Image 8: Destroyed smaller blockhouse, controlling flip-up machine gun targets
Images 9-12: Surviving smaller block house, controlling flip-up machine gun targets
Image 13: Second surviving large block house, controlling tank towed tank targets at a greater range
Image 14: Romney Hut
Image 15: Rear of Romney Hut in image 14 plus second Romney Hut in background (roof largely new)
Image 16: Part of surviving track that tanks tracked around


  1. Dave
    Do you know what the Romney Huts were used for, storage of ordnance [??], I visited here on Wenesday http://suffolk.activeboard.com/t15885533/boyton/ [Page 8]
    John Cooper

  2. Hello John
    Have not found any details on what they would have been used for but certainly ordnance/kit etc for running the range would be a reasonable guess. Also I suspect there may have been a small detachment of personnel living on site for security/running/maintaining etc.

  3. Many of the men who trained at AFVR Boyton were "put up" in various places in nearby settlements. I will have to look up my notes to give more detail. The large block houses would have contained winches for hauling targets behind banks and on rails. The blockhouses at Boyton are rather atypical when compared with those on other AFV ranges.

  4. Was there also a Diver gun site here later?

  5. There was also an AFV range for a short time near Orford.

  6. Hello Adrian
    Yes there was a Diver site here - site G5 (4 x 3.7" guns). I don't suppose you have any more info on the AFV range near Orford?

  7. Hello Dave
    I do somewhere and I will get back to you when I have dug the info out. Thanks for the information about the Diver site.

  8. TM43285345
    The Firs


  9. Hello Adrian,
    Thanks for the grid ref; was this an AFV range such as Boyton complete with moving targets etc or part of the general training area ( I know mock German pillboxes, Atlantic Wall etc were all constructed in this area),
    Many Thanks

    1. No Dave, I think it was a more ad hoc arrangement. There were several such ranges set up across the UK during WW2. It does not seem to have had the purpose built equipment as at Boyton. There were well established ways of producing setting up such temp suitable ranges. Orford also included a short battle run.