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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Monday, 11 June 2012

Anti-invasion Landscape of Minsmere South Levels

The 1/6th Lancs Fusiliers (42nd Division) took over the area Theberton - Sizewell from 9th Lancs Fusiliers in Jan 1941. The War Diary notes "as they [9th Lancs] had only one Company on the extreme left of the area, the area was almost entirely devoid of any defence whatsoever". The reason for this was probably the decision to flood Minsmere North Levels in June 1940, which made it impassable to tanks, although infantry could have moved inland along raised embankments and the New Cut bank. The New Cut bank was wired and mined. The pillbox built into the old chapel was presumably sited to cover the Sluice and the New Cut bank. In 1940  Minsmere beach and Levels were covered from the flanks only (Goose Hill, Sizewell in the south and Minsmere Cliffs on the right), although there were obstacles on the beach (tank blocks and minefields).

Above: Pillbox built into ruins of 13th Century Chapel

The 9th Lancs Fusiliers began work on defences immediately with working parties of up to 100 men. In this area, the War Diary describes the ground as:

"(a) A ridge of high ground in area LOWER ABBEY gradually sloping down to the line of the GROVE

(b) From the GROVE to the BEACHES the ground is very flat and comprises numerous small dykes. These dykes do not afford any serious obstacle even when in flood".

As it was planned to deny the beach to the enemy by the RAF and Royal Artillery and not by Infantry, the battalion sighted defences at the south end of The Grove and in the area of the north end of The Grove / Lower Abbey to be able to bring fire down onto the Levels. It was supported by Vickers machine guns from 4th Cheshires - these guns could sweep the Levels and dunes and a fixed line was set on the Sluice.The rear platoon was situated in the Eastbridge area.

Above: Top - the defence of Minsmere South Levels, Jan 1941. The rear anti-tank ditch and the mine crater were added later in 1941.
Middle - the landscape in 1945
Bottom: The high ground in Lower Abbey area which overlooks the Levels -  three platoon localities were sited in the area (at north end of the Grove, in the area of the Plantation and one in-between in Lower Abbey area).

The 1/6th Lancs Fusiliers were relieved by the 6th Royal Scots when 15th Division took over the defence of Suffolk in March 1941.

Two anti-tank ditches were dug on South Levels by mechanical excavator, both were the improvement of existing ditches to form an anti-tank obstacle. The ditch running from Goose Hill to the New cut was completed by 15th Division but I'm not sure if the ditch running from the rifle range to the Sluice was in place before.

Above: Anti-tank ditch at the south end, in front of Goose Hill. Created by improving existing drainage ditches.

On "Action Stations" the Sluice was to be raised, flooding the area south of the Sluice to an area west to the Grove and as far south as  Goose Hill.  The raising of the sluice was to be carried out by employees of the East Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board, Mr A Smith and Mr T Spindler. The local battalion commander was to provide an escort and ensure the Sluice was not interfered with. This was to be combined with blowing a mine crater in the bank of the New Cut. The mine may have been removed later - in 1943 a document states that it would take three weeks to flood the marshes by raising the sluice (local farmers were to be warned by the Home Guard giving them a chance to remove cattle).

Above: The anti-invasion landscape of Minsmere South Levels with anti-tank blocks on the dunes in the foreground.

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