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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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Cheddar Villar, St Julien

Cheddar Villa was the name given to a farm on the west side of the road from Wieltje to St. Julien.  The area was part of the German gains during the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915. Part of the defences was a massive concrete pillbox, one of many in which the Germans waited in for the expected assault which began on 31st July 1917 -  the Third Battle of Ypres.

Above: The German pillbox at Cheddar Villa. A wide main embrasure would have taken an artillery piece while at least one embrasure for a machine gun can be seen. There are three separate chambers in the pillbox.  The last image shows all types of scrap metal were added to the reinforcement!

Cheddar Villa was captured on the first day of the battle - the 13th Royal Sussex captured 17 German officers and 205 soldiers from the dugouts and pillboxes at St Julien. The opening day of the offensive was reasonably successful, due to the heavy preliminary barrage of a massed 3,091 guns (of which 999 were heavy) which lasted 10 days and detailed briefings on tactics to capture the fortified buildings and pillboxes. These tactics consisted of outflanking movements covered by concentrated fire of mortars, rifle grenades and Lewis guns.

The pillbox was then used as a First Aid post by the British. However the wide opening, which now faced the enemy, was hazardous and many soldiers who were  sheltering in the pillbox were killed when a shell landed straight in the entrance.

The success of the first day was not to be repeated - heavy rain saturated the low lying ground which had been churned up by the opening barrage and the offensive met stiff  resistance in the area where the Menin road crossed the Wytschaete-Passchendaele ridge - the key to the German position.

Above: Top - Seaforth Cemetery, Cheddar Villa today and in the 1920's. The cemetery was started on April 25th and 26th, 1915 during the Battle of St Julien (Second Ypres). Records 147 U.K., and 1 Canadian burials.

A final stop off at Oosttaverne Wood cemetery on the way down to the Somme, arriving early evening for a few beers at Tommies in Pozieres.

Above: Oosttaverne Wood. Third image shows the grave of Private H Anderton - the inscription added by his family reads "O WOULD THE KINGDOMS OF EARTH  DECIDE THAT PEACE IS BEST". Bottom image shows one of two concrete blockhouses behind the cemetery.

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