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, 10 January 2013

Practice Trenches, Westleton: Part 2

This post will look at the GPS plans of the four positions shown in the overview in Part 1 of this post. Whether or not the positions were laid out deliberately as suggested below I have no idea, but although it cannot be appreciated by the plots, actually out on the ground it was easy to imagine the primary fire task of each weapon-slit.

First the Overview  plot again:



Next some diagrammatic representations of section posts from various manuals:




Above: Top - section post, "The Instructor's manual of Fieldcraft and Battle Drill"
Middle: Vickers MG section post, "Infantry Training 1937 - Supplement No. 3"
Bottom: Section post, "Infantry Training 1937"

The above images may help put the following Practice Trenches in to some sort of context. A section would seldom be called upon to occupy an isolated position - the ideal layout for a platoon post (three sections) would be arranged in a triangle to ensure mutual support.

Number 1 group of trenches  consists of a number of one man/ two man weapon slits and a machine gun position. The trenches have been dug on a hill which overlooks a series of short spurs and ravines. The machine gun is sited to sweep the tops of these short spurs but the ravines would have been dead ground. The weapon-slits cover the slopes and ravine leading up to the position. The number of trenches would be sufficient for two sections / Gruppes.




Above: Top - plot of trenches. Bottom - the position (dotted line) and the arc of fire of the MG - it can be seen how it would sweep the top of the series of spurs.


The machine gun emplacement is almost identical to that shown in various Field Work manuals (e.g. Field Engineering Vol 1 1933) for a Vickers Machine gun. It may well be that this trench was dug to represent a MG position rather than specifically for a Vickers.



Above: Top - Vickers Machine Gun emplacement - Field Engineering Vol I 1933
Bottom - plan of the pit at Westleton - it matches Fig 3 in the manual  including the spoil used to build a parados. It is the only pit where the spoil has not been removed. The platform for the gun is about 7" deep (the manual gives 1'3").


Number 2 group of trenches appears to show a perimeter of pits, perhaps of a platoon / Zug position with pits sited for all round defence. In practice, pits would be dug  for all round defence but those occupied would be to meet the direction of an actual attack. Again sited on high ground with some of the pits on the forward slope to cover a valley/ravine.




Number 3 group of trenches has some of the slits connected by crawl trenches. Again perhaps a platoon / Zug position.




Above: Top GPS plot of trenches.
Middle and bottom - the general aspect of the landscape can be seen here with weapon-slits sited on the forward slopes to cover the ravines.

Number 4 group of trenches also has some crawl trenches and  also a large circular pit - perhaps to represent mortar / Granatwerfer position? The trenches are more or less sighted along the crest of a ridge, with some pits again on the forward slope to cover the ravine.




In summary, although all the above is speculation on the purpose of these practice trenches, if they were dug by men eventually sent over to fight in Europe, surely they are just as much a part of our WW2 Heritage as more obvious features such as the pillbox?

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