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Monday 14 December 2009

Westleton Common

Mon 14th Dec: Returned to Westleton Common to map the field works I found last month. A search also found some more, including a weapons-pit/gun pit with associated length of slit trench. This area was certainly by 1941 designated a Garrison location, and it was even planned to surround the village with an anti-tank ditch. I'm sure more is to be discovered in this location.
Top left: Slit trench (shell slit) associated with gun pit
Top right: Crawl trench and weapons-pit

Another new pillbox (or whats left of it!)

Sun 13th: Decided to have a look around Stone House, Aldringham today - I already knew of some remains in this area but was intrigued by the location of a road block in the 9th Lancs war diary, which was supposed to be located near  two pillboxes at the junction of the Aldringham-Thorpeness Road and tracks leading to Stone House. On the heath just north of the small car park is a slit trench, probably associated with the road block. Found some pits in the woods around Stone House, which I recorded on the strength of a piece of angle iron by one. Stone House was a battalion HQ in 1940-42 and for 26 Assault Sqn RE, 79th Armd. Division in the build up to D Day. In Little Beauties Wood are concrete bases, which local knowledge states  were to hide vehicles/huts from aerial observation during D Day preparations. Also found a manhole in nearby Church Wood indicating a camp being present during the war. Have also found a live .50" Browning round in this wood several years ago. But the icing on the cake for today's field work was a little pile of concrete - one lump of which was clearly identifiable as once belonging to a Suffolk Square Pillbox (the characteristic pre-cast blocks used as shuttering were clearly visible). A search through surrounding scrub failed to find any evidence of the second pillbox supposed to have been in the area. Will carry out a more detailed search when I have time.
Top left: Remains of Suffolk Square.  Top right: Concrete base for hut, probably associated with 26 Assualt Sqn RE
Bottom Left:  Remains of concrete base, probably associated with 26 Assualt Sqn RE

Monday 7 December 2009

Mon 7th: Visited Darsham CH radar station today. Today its largely scrubbed over but much still remains, including at least five of the eight pillboxes guarding it.  The pillbox design is unique to this site and is basically an L shape brick shuttered bullet proof pillbox. Perhaps its most unusual feature is the the variable loophole arrangement.  On top of the pillboxes can be seen the remains of presumably protection for a LAA gun. In addition, other buildings still survive such as the two guard houses at the entrances. Also at least one of the huge concrete blocks that would have supported the mast still exists.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Top: weapon-pit and crawl trench system. Bottom: brick lined pit (dug-out or weapon -pit?)

An excellent day in the field. Went back to map the system of crawl trenches and weapon-pits I found a couple of weeks ago. Also had a good look around another area I have not visited before and found two more crawl trench and weapon-pits localities, as well as several other earth works included crescent shaped weapon-pits. Also of note was a brick lined pit - I am not sure as yet if it is a weapon-pit or dugout. It had two recesses in the brick lined walls plus a 50" earth parapet. No sign of any roof material to indicate a dug-out, but that could have been removed long ago. As with other areas on Westleton Walks, these localities do not tie in with any platoon localities given in Home Forces war Diaries so the possibility of training/dummy positions cannot be ruled out.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Sun 22nd Nov

Managed to get some recording of anti-landing trenches at Sutton Common before the rain came. Sutton Common was also a training area right from the start of the war. I have come across several references to this location in battalion war diaries at NRA, including Gen A Brooke attending a demonstration of a tank attack through barbed wire and across an anti-tank ditch. As well as recording the anti-landing obstacles I had a wonder around and came across many earthworks, some certainly second war including the photo of a shell slit which was part of a group of shell slits and weapons pits in the vicinity of a dug-out (all would have been dug during training). Sutton Common is a huge area and will take much searching to see if other earthworks are present!

Sunday 15 November 2009

Made a start on surveying the defences between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness. Some anti-landing trenches remain on the Church Farm Marshes, but are mostly filled in. They can still be traced by a change in vegetation or by rough ground. The two destroyed concrete structures over looking the marshes were almost certainly Suffolk Square Pillboxes. They were destroyed after the war by ball and chain, the contractor was supposed to remove all remains but was either unable or unwilling to do so; most of the broken concrete was just buried on site. Also learned of a Suffolk Square in a nearby private garden which I'd never noticed before - I must have walked past it countless times over the last 14 years!. All these pillboxes are within a platoon locality of the 9th Lancashire Fusiliers, 42nd Div; have not yet checked the platoon localities of the other battalions also in this area during 1940-42. Also mentioned in the 9th Lancs war diary is the ROC post.

Of to the NRA tomorrow for a couple of days.
Top photo - Suffolk Square Pillbox hiding in a garden
Bottom Photo - ROC Observation Post

Wednesday 4 November 2009

The results of two recent surveys. Snape Warren is again anti-landing trenches.  At this site it would appear that existing field / rabbit warren boundaries were incorporated into the obstacle grid.
The Westelton Walks map shows another section of weapons pits/crawl trenches over-looking the anti-tank ditch. What I did not make clear on my first post regarding this site is that the two maps posted so far are 'selective' in that many weapons pits/shell slits/shell scrapes nearby are not shown on the maps. This is because I'm sure most are training earthworks, with the ones shown on the maps the most likely to be truly defensive in that they at least would have provided fire to cover the anti-tank ditch. It is my intention to produce a map showing all the earth works eventually, in the meantime any comments would be welcome! Just to repeat from my last post, with the exception of the anti-tank ditch, to date I have found no reference to this site other than a training site.

Monday 2 November 2009

Visited Blaxhall Heath today to map the anti-landing trenches. To map all theses obstacles in Suffolk is a project in its own right! A wide deep trench appears to have been incorporated in the layout of this obstacle, not sure of the date or purpose of this trench. This site was apparently also used as a firing range - I found the remains of two tail fins of 2" mortars. The layout of the trenches is typical - a grid pattern. The spoil was placed in piles at intervals along both sides of the trench to further improve the obstacle to any landing aeroplanes/gliders.
Also some more work on the website today - its taking much longer than anticipated. If you have found this blog via the website, please be patient, I will get round to posting the field work stuff on it!

Sunday 1 November 2009

Thur 29th Oct
Visit to Shingle Street today to record two pillboxes I'd seen in the summer but was unable to get two due to crops. These were a Type 22 with a L shaped blast wall and a Suffolk Square with damage to the blast wall. As with other Suffolk Squares in this area its lacks any concrete weapons shelf found in Suffolk Squares further north.
I also came across a First War pillbox that I had not seen before. It is identical to the other nearby circular First War pillbox, in excellent condition but is virtually buried and hidden from view.

Top left - Suffolk square
Middle - Type 22
Bottom - WW1 pillbox

Thursday 22 October 2009

Right place at the right time

Wed 21 Oct - strong SE winds resulted in a large chunk of the beach at Thorpeness being washed away, revealing some interesting concrete. These turned out to be slabs with embedded iron lengths in them, protruding and angled up at one end. In total there were five of them. I'm sure they are obstacles to prevent German Invasion barges from landing. A good photo of what they would have looked like can be seen in East Anglia at War 1939-45 by D E Johnson. Today (Thur 22nd) they have again been covered by shingle so was lucky to be able to record them. They are however facing the wrong way, which is a bit of a mystery.