Popular Posts

Search This Blog

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Gunton / Corton WW2 Defences, Lowestoft

I had an interesting couple of days around the Gunton / Corton area over the last two weekends. The defences remaining in this area are well known and along with those at Shingle Street to Boyton, must rank as one of the best preserved stretches of WW2 Defences along the Suffolk Coast. Having said that, the sheer amount of litter and rubbish in the area makes the walk at Shingle Street/Boyton much more pleasurable!

Above: Top - the beach at Gunton
Bottom - the defences in 1941

This area more or less formed the northern boundary of Lowestoft’s defensive perimeter. The reason for this section of coast being so heavily defended was because of the port facilities at Lowestoft. The JC Plan, produced during the autumn of 1939, considered that any invasion during the winter of 1939/40 would not take place on beaches but that “A more likely course would be an attempt to enter a port with transports”. The plan identified The Humber and Harwich as the most likely ports to be seized by the enemy during an invasion, but noted that Aberdeen, Dundee, Lowestoft and Ramsgate were also likely targets. The importance of ports was also highlighted in GHQ Operating Instruction No 2 (11th June 1940), and ports were heavily defended during the course of the War.

The Naval assessment of Landing beaches from Lowestoft-Yarmouth carried out in 1940 considered the beaches only suitable for landing infantry and light armoured fighting vehicles. A seawall running 1 ½ miles north of Ness Point and sand cliffs at Gunton / Corton were considered as tank proof. The hinterland although was assessed as good tank country. Lowestoft was given an all round defended perimeter which as already stated the Gunton area formed the northern boundary. In the area today many pillboxes, two 6 pounder anti-tank gun emplacements and anti-tank blocks can still be seen.


Above: Type 22, Golf course, almost buried!

Above: "Suffolk Square" on the west side of the old railway line running along the Golf course.

Above: Three of the "Suffolk Square" pillboxes that can be seen on the cliffs above the beach. Note that in the top image the embrasures have been blocked, the result of many pillboxes being deemed as not required by 1941.

Above: Some of the defences along the old seawall that has now been undermined. Top - a small square pillbox built into the seawall. Bottom the remains of a "Suffolk Square" and the holdfast for a 6 pdr anti-tank gun. The position of the holdfast is confirmed by the map of the defences in the area attached to a Battalion War Diary and shown at the start of the post.


Above: 42"x42"x42" tank cubes that ran along the northern edge of the defensive perimeter from Tramps Alley.

Above: Two railway blocks, described as 'road' style blocks as opposed to waggon blocks. They consist of a 'fixed' portion outside the running line and a movable portion across the running line. In the top image the 'fixed' portion consists of one  3'6"x3'6"x4' block either side of the running line; the movable portion would have been  rails, the concrete platform on which the sockets would have been set in can still be seen. On the bottom image the 'fixed' portion consists of two 5'x5'x5' blocks either side of the running line.

Above: Top - Road block, vertical rail obstacle (six sockets) - Cart Score
Bottom - Vertical rail obstacle (seven sockets) - Ravine Score

Above: Top - Location of Naval Depth Charge road crater obstacle - Cart Score
Bottom - Location of Naval depth charge road crater obstacle - Ravine Score. Listed as incomplete as at Sept 1941.

Above: Map from Battalion War Diary showing the rail road blocks (marked by a cross) and the road craters (marked by blue circle with red dot) shown above. Cart and Ravine Score are the roads either side of Bellevue Park.


Above: This emplacement consists of a holdfast provided with a circular concrete roof for protection against dive bombing

The second gun position consists of a holdfast with a concrete sandbagged wall. Presumably some sort of overhead protection would have been provided.

The area was considered for Assault Landing Training in 1944 for units that would take part in D Day as part of Force L. Minefields were swept and cleared but just to make sure a Churchill tank was requested to run up and down the beach (with adequate protection for the crew with sandbags placed on the floor of the tank!). However in the end, the presence of underwater spikes, or “Dragon’s Teeth”, resulted in the beach not being used for Assault Landing Training. However some sort of training does seem to have occurred in the area, one pillbox has been blown up and another seems to show weapons damage to its embrasures.

Above: Evidence of training in the area? Top image shows demolished "Suffolk Square" pillbox while the "Suffolk Square" in the bottom image seems to show weapon fire damage to the embrasures.

A relic of  so the called ‘Tip and Run’ raids in the form of a Bofors gun emplacement also survives. Lowestoft was one of many coastal towns along the south and east coasts provided with LAA defences against Tip and Run raids.

Above: Top - The Bofors emplacement.
Bottom - plan of the emplacement; it is a slight modification of the official plan. It would have been surrounded by an earth bank, part of which still remains today.

Friday 12 April 2013

Gnr Arnold MM, 178 Siege Battery

This is the last post on our recent trip over to France. Years ago I got hold of a copy of  178 Siege Battery's history for £3.50! Soon after, the M.M. of Gunner Arnold came up for sale so I also bought his medals.
I have visited the site where he won his medal in the past, Feuchy Chapel Redoubt,  but that was pre-digital camera. This is the second time that we stopped of at Feuchy Chapel, this time with a digital camera!

Above: Top - 178 Siege Battery Sept 1916
Bottom: The Battery was equipped with 6" howitzers (the image shows a 6" howitzer in use during the Battle of The Somme). During the Battery's service in France, from Oct 1916 to 1918, the Battery fired 108,271 rounds, from 42 battery positions.

Feuchy Chapel Redoubt was a German strong point that covered the southern exit of Battery Valley, and was captured on the opening day of the Battle of Arras.

Above: Top - Map showing Feuchy Chapel Redoubt
Bottom - The site of Feuchy Chapel Redoubt today, occupied by an industrial unit

178 Siege Battery took part in the intense bombardment that preceded the infantry attack on April 9th, 1917. Due to the success of the infantry attack on April 9th, the Battery's guns were out of range of the enemy and so the Battery moved forward to Blangy. It had to move forward again on April 13th to positions in front of Tilloy and it was in this area that Gunner Arnold won his M.M.

According to the Battery history:

"Sleeping accommodation was found for all the Battery in the deep dug-outs at Chapel Redoubt, and although somewhat foul-smelling, they provided good shelter. Down one of these dug-outs one of the first decorations of the Battery was won by Gunner J. Arnold, who at great personal risk removed a live hand grenade from a chimney-pipe, thereby saving the lives of a number of men in the dug-out at the time. At the top of the stairway he was wounded in the leg by the explosion of the bomb, but refused to leave the Battery for hospital".

Above: 83748 Gunner J.H Arnold, M.M., 178 Siege Battery R.G.A
Gunner Arnold survived the War.

Above: Feuchy Chapel British Cemetery, near to the site of Feuchy Chapel Redoubt.

Snow on the Somme!

The week before we travelled over to France, a storm struck northern France causing strong winds and snow. The strong winds caused most of the problems, resulting in snow drifts blocking many roads; the Somme, with its sunken roads, was especially hard hit. I must admit, we did think that we might have to cancel going over.

But news seemed to indicate things were getting back to normal by the time we travelled. However evidence of the storm was still to be seen, as these images show!!

Luckily for us the snow was not an issue, but had we gone a week earlier.......

Above: Mill Road, Thiepval. Last two images shows the road finally being opened.

Above: Top image - Beaumont-Hamel British Cemetery
Middle - one of the Redan Ridge cemeteries
Bottom - Thistle Dump Cemetery

Thursday 11 April 2013

Some more Somme Relics

The usual post on some of the more interesting items we came across by field walking during our March trip. As I've said before we don't metal detect and all explosives are left well alone!

German shell, Serre

Essex Regt Cap Badge, Serre - almost certainly belonging to someone from 2 Essex which were involved in the attack at Serre on 1st July

Hampshire Regt shoulder title, Beaumont Hamel. From the attack between Hamel and Beaumont Hamel on Sept 3rd, 1916

Pile of shells and Mills bombs plus a 3" Stoke Mortar round and a rifle grenade - Gueudecourt

British shell (4" ?), Gueudecourt with the Caribou in the distance

German trench mortar shell, Lesboeufs

German shell, Lesboeufs

Remains of British leather cartridge pouch, Gird Line, Gueuecourt

British 18 pdr HE with Bernafay and Trones Woods in the background

British 18 pdr shell, 3" stokes mortar and remains of British mess tin, Lonely Copse, Monchy le Preux

German shell, Rifle Trench, Monchy le Preux

German 'egg' grenade, Rifle trench area, Monchy le Preux

British HE shell, Observation Ridge, overlooking Battery Valley

British HE shell, Battery Valley

French rifle, with bayonet still attached, from the 1915 battles at Serre. It was not just the British that fought at the Somme!

Remains of German mess tin, Beaumont Hamel

British Mills bombs, Trones Wood - note the ring pull still in place on the nearest grenade