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Sunday 25 July 2010

Kessingland - Pakefield Part 2

As well as the CHL Radar site already I've already posted about, also took in three pillboxes and the site of the Pakefield Emergency Coastal battery. The first pillbox is on the north side of Kessingland beach front, in the grounds of a small housing development. A typical 'Suffolk Square', but the entrance and all embrasures have been blocked up. The second is on the higher cliffs in between Kessingland and Pakefiled and required a climb up the cliffs to reach! Another 'Suffolk Square', sunk into the ground to embrasure level that would have enjoyed a sweeping field of fire over the beach (assuming of course it was actually built on the cliff front and is not there today as a result of coastal erosion!). Its now almost hidden from site by brambles. Further north still, can be found the site of Pakefield Emergency Battery. Even during the war, coastal erosion was a problem and the site of the guns and battery observation post has now disappeared, with just a few bricks, bits of concrete etc remaining. The lighthouse, which housed a Royal Observer Corps Post during the war can still be seen, with a loopholed wall. The old field ditch shown on the battery plan still exists in the grounds of the holiday park.
Lastly, on the south side of Kessingland Beach is a pillbox built into the seawall, a twin machine gun post sited to enfilade the beach. There is an interesting note in the 1/4 South Lancs War Diary, 1st June 1940, in which 'C' Company forwarded a message that a police inspector reported that would be likely trouble from Kessingland Fishermen as slipways onto the beach had been removed to clear a field of fire. Perhaps for this machine gun post??
Image 1: Suffolk Sq on the north side of Kessingland Beach
Image 2: Suffolk Sq on the cliffs between Kessingland and Pakefield
Image 3: View from the roof of pillbox in image no 2, looking north towards Lowestoft - this pillbox has sweeping views over the beach.
Image 4: View from cliffs looking north towards the site of the Emergency battery at Kessingland (note the lighthouse). Lowestoft is in the distance, showing how this battery operated in support of the defence of Lowestoft Port.
Image 5: Lighthouse which housed the ROC post during the war, with loopholed wall
Image 6: Pakefield Holiday Camp today - the ditch in front of the camp buildings is an old field ditch and is marked on the war time time plan of the battery.
Image 7: Remains of a building associated with the battery - the concrete footings can still be seen.
Image 8: Pillbox housing two machine guns to enfilade the beach to the north and south - south beach, Kessingland.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Kessingland - Pakefield

An interesting walk along the coast from Kessingland to Pakefield last Monday. Took in three pillboxes, Pakefield CHL Radar site and the site of Pakefield Emergency Coastal Battery. This post will concentrate on Pakefield CHL Radar station. The British had realised the need for methods of detecting aircraft in the event of war and in the mid thirties, research was undertaken and developed on the use of  'Radio Direction Finding', or RDF. A prototype RDF system was built at Bawdsey (called Chain Home or CH) in 1937, and further development led to a 'beamed radar' (called Chain Home Low or CHL). This was more reliable than CH in bad weather and had a range of upto 160 km. Pakefield was one of the CHL sites operational during the war.
Toady the remaining buildings are perilously close to the cliff edge. The site was also used as a Cold War Royal Observer Corps post.
Image 1: Main building, Pakefield CHL, perilously close to the cliff edge
Image 2: View of site
Image 3 and 4: Interior of main building
Image 5 and 6: Interior of one of two identical buildings either side of main building
Image 7 and 8: Cold War ROC underground post entrance
Image 9: Underground ROC bunker
Next post will detail the pillboxes.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Eastern Command Line - a lazy post

As the title suggests, just a lazy post today, a few pics of CRE Colchester design pillboxes in the Sudbury area to round of the thread on this May visit. Also one pic of concrete road block cylinders now being used as part of river bank defences. This is the first time I have come across this type of road block in Suffolk although I suspect it was probably used quite widely on this Stop Line, perhaps I will come across more examples / references in time.
These pictures do show a timeless landscape - traditional floodplain meadows still used for grazing, with the Second World War clearly marking its presence. Lets just hope both the pillboxes and  grazing meadows will be preserved.

Monday 12 July 2010

Eastern Command Line - Ballingham Bridge, Sudbury (May 2010)

Although many anti-tank gun pillboxes (Type 28 and 28a) were constructed throughout the country on either the GHQ Line or various Corps Stop Lines, how many actually had guns mounted in them is another matter. Certainly work on the GHQ Stop Line was halted before many (if any at all) were actually installed. On the Corps Lines in was another matter - certainly in Suffolk the defences on the Eastern Command Line were being maintained until 1941 at least (although again, given the shortage of anti-tank guns during the period 1940-41 most would have been installed for Coastal Defence rather than interior Stop Lines). However at Ballingham Bridge, Sudbury a six pounder gun was installed in a Type 28 pillbox according to documents at TNA. Today this pillbox still exists.  It would appear to be a variant of the standard design in that it has a non standard arrangement of embrasures for Bren guns / rifles. It also has a porch entrance.Whether it was built to a standard Type 28 design and then modified when allocated a six pounder gun, I don't know. Most likely, it was constructed specifically to fit in with the location. The holdfast for the six pounder can still be seen. Just to the rear of the pillbox another building can be seen, which appears to be a typical Home Guard store.
6th Royal Sussex (15th Div - Covehithe-Benacre area) now on website, although I'm still not happy with the map quality!!
Photo 1: Type 28 covering Ballingham Bridge, Sudbury, Eastern Command Line
Photo 2-4: Embrasures for infantry weapons
Photo 5: Holdfast for 6 Pounder anti-tank gun
Photo 6: Rear of pillbox (picture taken from disused railway line)
Photo 7: Plan (not to scale) showing atypical embrasures for infantry weapons
Photo 8: Military building - presumably Home Guard Store.

Monday 5 July 2010

Eastern command Line - belated post

A belated post on a visit to the Eastern Command Line in the Sudbury area during May. Here, the anti-tank obstacle is the River Stour which is covered with numerous pillboxes along its length. Most are of a regular hexagon with a central open well with a mount for a light AA machine gun and a sunken entrance porch. One just to the south of Sudbury, near Great Cornard, has an extended separate blast wall instead of the sunken entrance. These are often incorrectly referred to as Type 27's, however the official DFW3/27 plan is a regular octagon. Research by Mike Osborne has shown that the examples found in Sudbury (as well as other parts of the Eastern Command Line and in Essex) are almost certainly a design by CRE Colchester - probably to plan CRE1113 which has both bullet and shell proof versions. The shell proof version have standard Bren gun embrasures, while the bullet proof ones have rifle embrasures which are reinforced with a metal plate. Remains of steel bars can be seen on some of the roofs, no doubt for draping some sort of camouflage over the open AA well.
More to come on this visit.
Photo 1: Shell Proof version
Photo 2: Interior of shell proof vrsion showing sunken entrance and Bren embrasures
photo 3: AA well in shell proof version
Photo 4: Bullet proof version
Photo 5: Interior of bullet proof version showing entrance to AA well and rifle embrasure
Photo 6: Metal plate reinforcing embrasure
Photo 7: Sunken entrance with porch, bullet proof version
Photo 8: AA well in bullet proof version with remains of metal rods, which presumably had a role in camouflage.