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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Friday, 11 September 2020

Outer Bristol Defence Position (Stop Line Green) - Dulcote area

Completely new territory for me today, a brief visit to some pillboxes on the Outer Bristol Defence Position (Stop Line Green). The Position ran from Highbridge in the south, in a ring approx. 20 miles from Bristol to a point on the River Severn six miles south of Gloucester in the north. Dulcote lies in the sector from Upper Godney to Dinder, where the anti-tank obstacle was the River Sheppey stream which was only a partial obstacle and needed improvement and an artificial obstacle in places. Much of the Position was enclosed, including the Dulcote area, and would have been expensive in troops to hold. In fact, it was calculated that 16 divisions would be required to hold the whole Position, and that serious attacks could not be repelled for any length of time. 

Above; some of the artificial anti-tank obstacles - anti-tank cubes on Constitution Hill, not in their original position and sockets for anti-tank rails blocking the track up to Dinder Wood. Their was also an anti-tank ditch which has been infilled.

The Position was in effect a last ditch position, and was intended to keep Bristol Port open just long enough for potential evacuations. There are two main types of pillbox on the Position - bullet proof Type 26 Square pillboxes and shell proof Type 24 pillboxes. There are no pillboxes on the Position built to house anti-tank guns; one can only assume that at the time it was calculated if the Germans got this far, they would have all been lost in action. The two pillboxes visited today are Type 24's, constructed using red brick shuttering.

Above: Type 24 pillbox on the heights of Constitution Hill, overlooking Glastonbury Tor. Inside is a standard Bren embrasure with a small table to support the tripod.

Above: the second pillbox visited today.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Santon Downham military remains

During a recent visit to The Brecks,  a pleasant walk around Santon Downham revealed  some interesting  military heritage of both World Wars.  First was the village war Memorial, in the form of a silhouette of British soldier that will be familiar to anyone with an interest in the Great War. 

Above: village war memorial 

The bridge that crosses the Little Ouse was erected by the Canadians  as part of the logging line  from High Lodge to the sawmill near Santon Downham. This was part of the forestry operations set up by the Home Grown Timber Committee (set up in November 1915), which had powers to compulsorily purchase standing timber. No. 126 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps began to arrive in the Santon Downham Estate in April 1918. During WW2, the bridge was guarded by a spigot mortar, an example of the local hexagonal design within a raised concrete emplacement.

Above: bridge erected by the Canadians as part of the logging line.

Above: WW2 spigot mortar emplacement guarding the bridge.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

7th Armoured Division Memorial - Thetford Forest

The 7th Armoured Division moved down from Casoria on 20th December 1943 to embark for Britain following its role in the Italian Campaign. It docked at Glasgow on 7 January 1944, and was soon on its way by train to Norfolk for training and recreation.  The 131 Brigade were billeted relatively comfortably in the Kings Lynn while the 22nd Armoured Brigade  were 'less fortunate' to be billeted in the Brandon area.

Above : Memorial to the 7th Armoured Division: The Desert Rats, Thetford Forest.

According to the Divisional History:

“Our misgivings had already been aroused by the publication of an article in "Country Life" which, while attributing the district considerable importance for both archaeology and ornithology, made it clear that it possessed few, if any, other amenities. "Country Life" was right. Eager watchers, at the windows of the long troop trains, saw flat black fenland give way to sandy heath; Brandon station gave a glimpse at least of houses and a pub; but the Troop Carrying Vehicles into which we detrained carried us inexorably away from this brief vision of paradise, farther and farther into the waste, depositing us mercilessly into groups of decayed Nissen huts, clustered beneath the tall pines. The 4th County of London Yeomanry were perhaps the most unfortunate, the greater part of their camp having been constructed well below the water-level for the district, and they glared enviously at their neighbours, perched on their sandy islands above the waste. NCOs complained of the inadequacy of one hut for their Platoons or Troops; Colour Serjeants enquired bitterly how they were expected to put the stores into "that there 'ole there", and deep inroads were made into the coal stocks before it was discovered that this commodity was, in England, severely rationed. “

Evidence of the camp can still be found in the pine forest today.

Above : Concrete bases in the area of the camps cook hut still visible in the forest.

Above : Concrete base where one of the accommodation Nissan huts once stood.

Above : Two reconstructed Nissan huts.

The Division spent its time in England resting and training for the Invasion of Europe. This required re-equipping with new, and in some cases unfamiliar weapons and vehicles. 

Above : Cromwell tanks of the 7th Armoured Division, Thetford Forest, one of the vehicles the Division had to learn how to handle.

Training was also required in Combined Operations at the Divisional School at Yarmouth. Training areas were restricted, ranges inadequate and often distant, requiring anxious battles for rail-flats. 

Above :  Combined Operations - tanks of the 7th Armoured Division  landing from LST on the Normandy beaches on 7 June.

I also came across a much less known camp site which accommodated men from the Polish 3rd Carpathian Division after the end of WWII near Knettishall Heath.

Above : Memorial to 3rd Carpathian Division.