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Wednesday 28 April 2010

Mon Apr 26th: Sizewell/Minsmere Dunes - part 2

On the way back from Minsmere, I walked the tide line and came across quite a few naval scaffolding brackets (see photo). But perhaps most significant was the remains of a scaffolding pole in concrete - part of the base for the scaffolding obstacle set in quick setting concrete? (see website and Bert Kennell's account). Also had a quick look around Goose Hill again and found the following .303 cartridges:
Headstamp R L :-Royal Laboratory, Woolwich Arsenal, Kent - one fired by rifle (1928), two fired by machine gun (1928 and 1941) - the 1928 mg fired round must have been either vickers or lewis as the bren was not around then!
Headstamp GB :- Greenwood & Batley, Leeds, fired by rifle (1933)
Also two .300 - headstamp R  A :- Remington Arms Co, Bridgeport, CT; dates 1941 and 1942.
The bottle stop is from a Cobbolds Ale Bottle. Cobbolds was founded in Essex in 1727 and had a big presence in Ipswich. It was acquired by Ridleys Brewery in 2002, itself bought by Greene King in 2005. The attached cartoon shows a HG recruit hurling Cobbolds Ale bottles at the Germans, having brought along a case of Cobbolds Ale by mistake instead of a case of Molotov's! The two bullets are one each of a .303 and .300 (the one on the left) - the first .300 I have found.
First image: Scaffolding brackests
Second image: Scaffolding pole set in quick setting concrete?
Third image: Cartridges and Cobbolds bottle stopper
Fourth Image: HG cartoon
Fifth image: Some cubes at Sizewell almost completely covered by shingle - they appear and disappear depending on the amount of shingle deposited/eroded!
Sixth image: Suffolk Square, Sizewell Cliffs

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Mon Apr 26th: Sizewell/Minsmere Dunes - part 1

Well, this post was never intended. With spring migration well under way, went birding (the feathered kind) today, walking from Sizewell up to RSPB Minsmere. A number of WW2 remains can be found along this section of coast, which have inspired the next couple of posts. Firstly in the dunes can be found this dugout - a picture is already on the website. Since my last visit to it however I have discovered Google Sketchup, so offer you this reconstructed cross section. The dug out has been constructed by digging a trench and revetting the sides with corrugated sheets held in place with 2" poles. The roof seems to have been constructed with corrugated sheets nailed onto a 2X1 inch batten. If this is all it was it would not have supported sufficient material to be splinter proof and was probably only topped with sand for camouflage. The dug out was probably only used for cover against the weather or air attack, much in the same way as a slit trench. The spoil has been used to build a fairly high parapet in front, which would have added to the protection and would not have looked too much out of place within the dunes. In front of the parapet can be seen the remains of weapons-pits.
Well, as always a good selection of birds to be seen at Minsmere but the only 'wildlife' photo I can offer is this quickly snapped picture of an Adder!
Tomorrow hopefully some interesting Z1 naval scaffolding remains and a pic of the first ever .300 calibre bullet I've found (a few cartridges in the past, but never the bullet).
Image 1: Google sketchup of dugout, Minsmere Dune
Image 2: Remains of dugout
Image 3: Batten with remains of corrugated sheets nailed onto it
Image 4: Small nail/tack used to fasten corrugated sheets to batten
Image 5: Dugout and high 'parapet' created with the spoil
Image 6: Adder!

Sunday 25 April 2010

Exercise Force Donnerwetter

Continuing on the Wilford Bridge theme after last weeks discovery, this post is about a training exercise held on Sept 9th 1940. This exercise envisaged a successful enemy sea-borne landing at Bawdsey. This was followed by an airborne landing at Sutton Walks - this airborne force (Donnerwetter Force) was to seize and hold Wilford Bridge, making good the bridgehead over the River Deben. For the purpose of this exercise, Force Donnerwetter consisted of 120 'parachute' troops, 20 bren carriers, 60 motor cyclists, 20 engineers, one vickers mg platoon and two mortars. Force Donnerwetter 'landed' at Sutton Walks at 0830 hrs and by 0930 had seized Wilford Bridge (1). Reconnaissance units were sent out to hold off the enemy until the main sea-borne force could arrive. Home Force Reconnaissance units were ambushed and destroyed at Wickam Market Bridge (2,2) and by a force at Quill Farm (3). The main British Forces were delayed by a 'fake' despatch rider who told the Home Forces that a rail crash had closed the Melton Level crossing and that the road (1) was no longer usable!
At 1145 Home Forces succeeded in crossing the Deben at Ash (3) and as a result the 'enemy' rushed up reserves from Rendlesham (4). Fierce 'fighting' resulted around Copperas Wood - the Home forces were also attacked from the rear by some carriers coming south from Wickham Market (2). By 1305, Home Forces had retaken Wickam Market Bridge from the east (5) and at  1400 also crossed the Deben at Ufford (4) and more enemy reserves were rushed up (5). 
It was not until 1505 that Force Donnerwetter was overwhelmed and the Wilford Bridge secured (by which time according to the narrative the enemy had already crossed with 8 coy's of tanks which were plunging deep into Suffolk - 6).
I must admit that I did not really take much notice on training exercises from the Home Force War Diaries during my visits to The National Archives (will have to revisit) - although from memory most diaries just give the objectives of the exercise and lack the detailed feedback narratives, such as the one from Exercise Force Donnerwetter.
Coloured numbers correspond to those on the map below (red = Force Donnerwetter, blue = Home Forces).
Image 1: Map of Exercise Force Donnerwetter
Image 2: Bridge over River Deben at Ash
Image 3: Copperas Wood, with the road from Rendlesham
Image 4: Bridge over Ufford
Image 5: Possible loop-holed wall (Rendlesham) - recorded just in case I come across information in the future!

Friday 23 April 2010

Wilford Bridge, Melton Sun Apr 18 part 3

It was quite a thrill to come across this pillbox, which as far as I have been able to ascertain has never been 'officially' recorded before (at least its not on the Defence of Britain data base or Suffolk County Council HER - although both have now been sent details!), but even more surprisingly is a design never recorded before. In all likelihood, it is a one-off unique design. It is basically an irregular hexagon, which housed a six pounder anti-tank gun on the usual holdfast. Standard Bren gun embrasures are on four of the other sides and the smallest side has a rifle embrasure. It had a low level protected entrance on one side plus another low level entrance on one of the other sides, no doubt an access point for the six pounder. On the side with the anti-tank gun embrasure there is a second very narrow embrasure - an observation slit? Its a shell-proof pillbox (approx 40 inches thick). The nearest pillbox that resembles this design is the Eastern Command shell proof version of CRE1094 (Osborne, 20th Century Defences in Britain - Suffolk) - a regular hexagon with six Bren embrasures and the same type of   protected low level entrance. 
It directly covered Wilford Bridge, and I can only assume its gone unrecorded for so long because it is actually on the northern side of the Deben (all the other known pillboxes covering this bridge are on the south side). It just goes to show that even today, new finds can be made in the field. British WW2 Home Defences are still a largely neglected and forgotten subject, with pillboxes still regarded as 'eyesores' or 'in the way'. Considering the period 1940-41 probably saw the biggest military engineering project ever undertaken in this country at a time when Britain faced a grave threat, its a sad state of affairs.
Nearby I also came across this Nissan Hut, still lived in with the apt name of 'Nissan Cottage'! Finally thanks to the owner of the garden in which one side of the pillbox is in for allowing me access for photos and to take measurements.
Image 1: Plan of the pillbox
Image 2: The anti-tank gun embrasure
Image 3: Bren embrasure, with metal plates on the inner 'step' of the embrasure
Image 4: Interior shot showing a standard Bren embrasure, the small rifle embrsaure and the low level entrance
Image 5: Protected low level entrance
Image 6: 6 pounder holdfast and embrasure - also the second narrow embrasure - an observation slit?
Image 7: Narrow (observation slit?) embrasure with eight metal bars across it
Image 8:  Exterior of pillbox - the protected entrance can be seen on the left with the second low level entrance (access for the 6 pounder) on the right.
Image 9: 'Nissan Cottage'

Thursday 22 April 2010

Wilford Bridge, Melton Sun 18th Apr part 2

Two type 22 pillboxes still remain from Wilford Bridge WW2 defences and both are of interest. One still has traces of a supporting fire trench visible - both pillbox and trench are visible in an aerial photo (dated 1944) in English Heritages's 'Suffolk's Defended shore'. The pillbox has an L shaped blast wall which is tied into the pillbox with a metal rod - never seen this before. One of the embrasures is also damaged.
The second pillbox is identical except it lacks the metal tie rod and also has a second low level embrasure in the blast wall, again something I've not seen before. 
On the north east side of the bridge, a new post has been dug into the ground and I suspect this short screw picket (see photo below) was found while digging! One use of these short pickets was in the construction of 'double apron' barbed wire obstacles - they were used for anchoring the diagonals (see website for a diagram of a 'double apron fence').
Tomorrow some notes on a pillbox location and design which I dont think have been 'officially' recorded before.
Top: First of the two remaining type 22's
Second Down: Close up showing remaining camouflage paint
Third Down: Metal tie rod between pillbox body and blast wall
Fourth Down: The pillbox viewed from the north side of the River Deben
Fifth Down: Second of the two remaining type 22's
Sixth Down: A second low level embrasure in the blast wall
Bottom: Short screw picket

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Wilford Bridge, Melton Sun18th Apr - part 1

As promised a few lines on the Second war remains in this area. Any German force that landed in the Bawdsey-Hollesley area would have moved west inland hitting the River Deben. Wilford Bridge was and still is the major crossing point so was heavily defended. Most obvious is the 'Suffolk Square' pillbox on the A1152/B1083 roundabout. Just behind this pillbox the ground rises sharply, with a steep embankment up to the Bromeswell Golf Course. The Golf Course would seem to have destroyed a number of second war remains judging by the amount of concrete etc tipped over this embankment. Clearly identifiable amongst this rubble is the remains of a pillbox blast wall with camouflage paint finish still visible. Also at the bottom of the embankment, some footings for buildings remain. I also came across four angle iron pickets  - the remains of revetting for a weapons-pit? Aerial photos of the area during the war show a complex of defences consisting of Z1 scaffolding, wire obstacles, anti-tank cubes and pillboxes. As well as the Suffolk Square, two type 22's still remain - more on these tomorrow, followed by the discovery of a pillbox that has not been 'officially' recorded before. More importantly, it would seem to be a design that has never been recorded before and is perhaps unique to this location!
Top: Suffolk Square pillbox on the A1152/B1083 roundabout
Middle: Amongst the concrete rubble, the remains of a pillbox blast wall can be identified, still with traces of cammo pint.
Bottom: Four angle iron pickets (revetment for a weapons-pit?) with some of the remaining building footings in the background.

Monday 19 April 2010

NMR Visit and other things

Had a couple of days at the National Monuments Record centre in Swindon last week looking at oblique aerial photos of the Suffolk Coast taken during WW2. Have already found some anti-tank cubes at Thorpeness that I was unaware of as a result (despite living in this area for the past 15 yrs!). Took over 300 photos (of photos!), but cannot post any as yet as copyright remains with the NMR but when I've had a good look through them all I'm hopeful of getting permission to put some on the website to illustrate particular points.
Took advantage of a beautiful sunny day here on Sun for a walk at Shingle Street, probably one of my favourite spots on the Suffolk Coast. Had a look in a pillbox which I had not been able to get into the past due to bramble (still had to fight my way in!) and was rewarded with some good remains of a turnull mount. Also some remains of Z1 naval scaffolding along the beach.
Stopped off at Wilford Bridge on the way home - many WW2 remains, will post over the next few days.
Top photo: some of the nine remaining anti-tank cubes at Thorpeness - not recorded on the Defence of Britain data base as far as I can see
Top middle: remains of turnbull mount in a Suffolk Square, Shingle Street
Bottom middle: remains of naval Z1 scaffolding, Shingle Street
Bottom: screw picket and type 22 in background, Shingle Street

Sunday 11 April 2010

6 pdr anti-tank gun pit?

Came across this earthwork at Westleton walks today and am wondering if it is a gun pit for the six ponder antitank gun (which replaced the 2 pdr). The main pit is approx 90" wide (7.5 ft) by  approx 72 " (6 ft), with two 'arms' running off at an angle (approx 100"). Each arm is approx 16" wide and ends with a wider rectangle approx 24"x15". The rear  is ramped down into the main pit. The pit is 2 ft deep with the spoil used to build up a parapet approx 60" wide at its widest point which adds approx an extra 8" cover. I don't have any measurements for the six pounder so cannot say whether it would fit or not.
As with all earthworks at Westleton, would have been dug for training.

Below: A photo of the pit and 'arms' outlined in red. The parapet is outlined in green.
Bottom photo - a 6 pdr in use in the desert.

Eastern Command Line: Part 2

A number of pillboxes are within easy walking distance from Judes Ferry, West Row. With the exception of a type 22  guarding the bridge, they are all shell proof type 24's. One has a square slab added onto the roof to disguise the distinctive shape from the air. It is also noticeable how the surrounding peaty soil has 'shrunk' since the pillboxes were constructed, the concrete rafts now standing proud of the field.
As mentioned above, a type 22 guards the bridge along with two concrete sandbagged weapons-pits and a spigot mortar. A certain Sgt Rolfe inscribed his name in the concrete mortar base!
First image: rear of shell proof type 24 - note how the concrete base raft now stands proud of the field
Second image: bren gun embrasure, inside a type 24
Third image: shows how one of the pillboxes has been carefully sited, on a slightly rising contour in an otherwise flat field
Fourth image: type 24 with concrete slab roof added as camouflage from aerial observation
Fifth image: type 22 nad spigot mortar base
Sixth image: Sgt Rolfe name inscribed in the concrete base
Seventh and eighth image: the two concrete sandbagged weapons-pits