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Tuesday 26 January 2010

Walberswick Common Section Posts

Mon 25th
I was keen to record a couple of section posts I'd found at Walberswick Common last summer before they became completely covered in bramble. Despite a detailed search of the area last year, I found a third post - don't know how I missed it!. Also nearby are two 6'x4' weapons pits and a V shaped weapons pit. The usual question comes up - training or defence? The first battalion to arrive in the area, 2/4th South Lancs did not have a platoon in the area, but 14 Platoon, 'C' Coy of the 10th Cameronians, who relived the South lancs, were in the general area. The section posts are clearly based on designs given in the 1925 and 1933 field work manuals. If the works are a genuine section post (as opposed to training), it would consist of a section locality with alternative positions prepared.
Top photo: plan of one of the section posts. The measurements of each post varies slightly but they are all more or less of the same dimensions. Also plan of 'V' shaped weapons-pit.
Top middle - map of posts
Bottom - photo of part of one of the posts - slowly becoming covered in bramble
Bottom photo - plan of section posts, 1933 Field Engineering 1933

Walberswick Pillbox

Well, considering the name of the website, I guess it's about time for a pillbox photo. You have probably guessed by now the name of the website was to enable it to be found relatively easily on a google search. Anyway back to the pillbox. This is a Suffolk Square. What strikes me about Suffolk Squares is the slight differences that can be found. Some have blast walls only, some blast porches, some have an overhang roof, others not. This one shows a neat, almost looks like rendered finish to the embrasure area although close access was not possible to verify this; presumably the whole area is pre-cast concrete as opposed to just the embrasures. Nothing unusual about the slight variations (just look at for eg type 22's), presumably the variations arising due to different contractors used in the construction (the design was apparently 558 Field Co's but various contractors were used in the actual construction). This pillbox was part of the rear defences of Walberswick overlooking the Blyth Estuary. Hope tomorrow to post some details of section posts in the area (yes, more earthworks!) and also if all goes well some photos of nature conservation work benefiting WW2 remains!

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Google image

Have been thinking is it possible to get GPS data onto Google Earth - the only way I can do it is with an overlay - here is an example with the anti-landing trenches mapped on Sun. I can clean up the overlay by removing the waymarker no's in future images - it should be possible to map any trench in this way (although not sure if it actually adds anything!!)

Goose Hill

Some more information on the cartridges found. The range in dates and manufactures is quite fascinating as is presented below:
Defence Industries, Verdun, Canada - two cartridges (both 1944 and both with a nitro-cellulose propellant - prefix "z" - both fired by a rifle); head stamp DI  z
South African Mint, Pretoria, S.A - one cartridge fired by a rifle (date 1943); head stamp U
ICI, Kynoch, Yeading, Hayes, Middlesex - one cartridge fired by a MG (date 1941); head stamp K4
Crompton Parkinson Ltd, Doncaster, Yorks - one cartridge fired by a MG (date 1942); head stamp C-P
Kynoch & Co, Witton, Birmingham - two cartridges (one fired by a MG, date 1940 and one fired by a rifle, date 1939); head stamp K
Royal Laboratory, Woolwich Arsenal, Kent - three cartridges (one fired by a MG, date 1939 and two fired by rifles, dates 1928 and 1929); head stamp R L
Crompton Parkinson Ltd, Guiseley, Yorks - three cartridges (one fired by a MG, date 1942 and two by a rifle, dates both 1941); head stamp CP
Royal Ordanance Factory, Radway Green, Cheshire - two cartridges (one fired by a MG, date 1941 and one by a rifle, date 1941); head stamp is WO arrow
Greenwood and Batley, Leeds, UK - two cartridges (one fired by MG, date 1941 and one by a rifle, date 1941); head stamp GB
Winchester Repeating Arms Co, New Haven, Conn., USA - one cartridge fired by a MG, date 1942; head stamp WRA
Dominion Cartridge Co, Canada, one cartridge fired by a MG, date 1941; head stamp DC
In addition were four cartridges fired by MG where no date/head stamp could be read and also four fired by a rifle.
I also found one .300" cartridge fired by a rifle (would have been USA 1917 model or USA Springfield) - manufactured by Dominican Cartridge Co, Montreal, Qubec, Canada (head stamp R), date 1941.
So if my maths is right 29 cartridges, 12 factories, two calibres and dates from 1928 - 1944.  Just to the south, where the Sizewell Power station now stands was a rifle range (often referred to in War Diaries), so this area was certainly in use for training as well as defence right through the war.  Finally I also found a complete clip of five 303's (although the charger clip had all but rotted away in the acidic sandy soil).
Top photo - difference between a rifle (right hand)  and MG (left hand)  fired cartridge
Second down - .300" cartridge - note lack of a rim.
Third down - clip of five 303's - note the cordite propellant clearly showing in the damaged cartridges

Sunday 17 January 2010

Another visit to Sutton Heath today to continue mapping anti-landing trenches. Finished the first lot I have come across. Again as the maps show, the grid pattern is clearly visible, although unlike others I have mapped so far these are also laid out in a dash-dash-dash pattern instead of a continual linear length (see map showing close up of a section of trenches). Another good look around after, found more trenches to map at a later date and one 303 cartridge, but no other earthworks.  Given that this was a major training area comparable to Westleton/Dunwich, either all works were cleared after the war (some of the anti-landing trenches have clearly been in-filled to a degree), I'm looking in the wrong place (you can walk for miles around Westleton without finding any earthworks) or perhaps the main training area was on areas subsequently ploughed up after the war. In my opinion this just adds to the importance of the surviving earth works at Westleton, a unique insight into WW2 Field Engineering!

Monday 11 January 2010

Took advantage of the slight thaw in the weather today; the advantage of this weather (and having Mondays off work) is that you can often visit sites that may be normally out of bounds - like archery ranges! Went looking for the remains of a Anti-Aircraft camp in the Westleton Heath / Dunwich Forest area - no budding Robin Hood's around today!!

Some remains of concrete bases remain (Nissan style huts would have been built on them) - one is still in use with hut associated with the archery range.

The map shows the outline of bases I found today (may not be 100% accurate as GPS reliability in woodland and with waypoints in close proximity is not that reliable).

 Finally also came across this - perhaps dating back to wartime.

Saturday 2 January 2010

These photos are of the platoon locality at North Warren RSPB reserve (given as platoon locality in 9th Lancs, 42nd Div War Diary - 9th Kings, 55th Div would almost certainly have had a platoon here as well). It is an unusually well developed defence system, with fire trenches, communication trenches, three pillboxes (one of which is destroyed) as well as two probable dug-outs. It has a remarkable similarity to the isolated locality company plan given in the 1925/1936 Field Engineering manuals (Reference - D Sims field work). I hope to expand  more on this later.
The pillbox is a typical 'Suffolk Square'. The damage to the pillbox occurred in 1971. A walker discovered two bombs on June 13th 1971, one of which was broken, and which the finder removed. On June 14th Captain Stewart, R.A.O.C, Colchester attended and found the bomb left in situ to be a white phosphorus mortar bomb. He placed the bomb in the pillbox, and detonated it with plastic explosive, which caused the damage. As a result, Captain Stewart declared that the pillbox would be 'contaminated' with phosphorus for two to three months and as a result the pillbox was boarded up (the remains can still be seen on the entrance and should not be confused with a war-time door/gas curtain fitting!!). Given this is the reserve I work on, I guess I should have posted this a lot earlier!!

Friday 1 January 2010

New Years day Part 3

After mapping another crawl trench/weapons-slit system, had a good stomp around and found another two systems, one comprising of many pits including a text book V shaped weapons-slit. What strikes me about all the systems I've found so far is their field of fire - with hundreds of hectares of heath to chose from for training (if indeed that's what they are), my guess is the sites were chosen so that they could actually be utilised if the need ever arose. I am now wondering, if the vast area of Sutton Common (another major training area) contains similar remains I have many happy hours of searching to do in the future!
Todays icing on the cake however was the discovery of a field emplacement for a vickers machine gun. It comprises of  a six foot sq, within which is a 2 ft wide L shaped slit for the crew and a platform for the gun (see photo from Manual of Field Works 1925). Although photos of trenches etc never seem to really come out well, hopefully the photo does illustrate how well this fits the manual specifications - the L shape slit is clearly visible as dark shadow (outlined in red) and the platform is outlined in yellow. Whether it was dug for training or real, its still a real thrill to find such remains.

All in all a perfect start to the new year!

New Years Day part 2

After checking the ponies, decided to visit Westleton again (you may be thinking this website and blog are dedicated to Westleton, but with the short winter days, its only worth visiting sites within 15 minutes drive from my house!) A recent purchase on ebay (FSPB pamphlet No 7 Field Engineering 1944) has led me to re-evaluate some of the earthworks I've found to date. This pampphlet clearly illustrates field works now comprising of weapons-slits linked by slit trenches and crawl trenches (as opposed to the earlier fire trench dimension weapons-pits and fire trenches, which were no longer considered adequate protection against aircraft) - see two photos above from this pamphlet. Slits replaced pits from at least 1943 - does anyone know if it was earlier than this? My best guess is that at least some of the earth works at Westleton are training traces  - weapons-slits dug then linked by crawl trenches but never fully completed to full slit trench dimensions. The top map shows one system of earth works I've already posted on the blogs, but fire positions within the trench network are weapons-slits not pits! Hope this makes sense! The frosty photo shows a crawl trench from another system I mapped today. Ps sorry about the layout of photos, but this google blog seems to have a mind of its own in where to position them!
Note: the term pits and slits are quite often generally used - I am using the definitions given in various manuals: a (two man) weapons-pit typically was 4ft by 6ft and in fully developed systems would be dug to and linked with  full fire trench dimensions (approx 7ft wide at top). A weapons-slit was typically 2ft by 6ft

New Years day - part 1

I found this 20mm case (Oerlikon or Hispano-Suizas LAA gun). Its only the fourth I've found to date and in a different location to the other three. A good start to the new year!

Anti-tank ditch

December 31st
Decided to visit the anti-tank ditch at Aldringham Walks this afternoon. It was constructed between late 1940 and early 1941 and ran from (north to south) Sizewell to the north of Thorpeness Mere. Some of its length is still visible today (see map and bottom photo)). The war diary of 9th Cameronians (15th Div) mentions the construction of the ditch in Margaret Wood (vicinity of No 12 Platoon, B Coy).  The diary also mentions a pillbox being destroyed by the RE in No 12 platoons area, but no luck in finding any remains this time. The diary would also indicate the ditch was a combined obstacle with Z1 scaffolding. The top left photo shows the remains of a weapons pit/shell slit; six pieces of angle iron revetment still exist - one of the pieces is clearly visible in the photo. Perhaps this is part of No 12 platoons position. Many years ago when beating up the young woodland I found a Yorkshire billhook with the WO arrow dated 1946, so this area would appear to have been occupied right through and just after the end of the war.Near by (second photo) are some concrete ramps, according to local knowledge used for tank training in D Day preparations.