Posted: 31 March 2007 23:47
I set out today to investigate the nodal points of Ninfield and Cripp's Corner. I only had limited success though, as I never got near Ninfield, but I did see some of the well-known enormous anti-tank cubes at Cripp's Corner.
Despite having read up on the defences, the site of a large number of concrete blocks roaming across the fields is still something to behold; the cubes run the extent of this photograph and off to the right, out of shot.
I must've been out this way many times in the past, but never really noticed them before; the vegetation is still low and the roadside hedge has been trimmed, making the cubes more visible than they will be in summer.
However, I made a snap decision to go back and visit the two-storey pillbox I visited last week for some reason.
Abandoning nodal points, I drove back out to Udiam. It's hard to classify where this pillbox is; Bodium is possibly the nearest well-known place on account of Bodium Castle (don't forget the Type 28a pillbox just outside it!), but Salehurst and Robertsbridge are also close at hand.
Whilst walking along the verge taking photos, I had a chance encounter with the owner, who, interested in the history, gave me permission to fully examine the interior and a Type 28a elsewhere on his land.
I didn't need a second invitation, and set about gaining access to the upper level of the circular pillbox. (Interestingly, the owner referred to this as a "Martello" pillbox on account of its broad similarity to a Martello Tower).
I'm developing a set of standard equipment to carry in my car on these little jaunts into the countryside; the set of folding steps I had the foresight to include proved immensely useful in this case. (Note to self: add torch, strong rope and wellies to equipment list...)
The lack of wellies was a nuisance; as I had only planned to investigate a couple of nice, dry, nodal points, the wellies hadn't made it into my boot. (Excuse pun.)
This meant that I had to traverse several feet of 8-inch deep water to lean the steps against the blast wall. Avoiding a non-living rat (next time somebody likens me to a drowned rat, I'll be able to correct them, although I thought rats were good swimmers), I encountered a non-waterproof boot situation, but managed to step on some pieces of rubble on the pillbox floor and scramble up the steps.
Heaving myself up onto the concrete floor, I found that the upper level embrasures had semi-circular weapons platforms at them.
Having a hunch about what these were intended for, I clambered back down the steps to retrieve a Bren Gun tripod (another piece of essential equipment) from the car.
Stupidly, I'd not brought the rifle slings that allow me to carry the tripod on my back; again, I wasn't expecting to be carrying the tripod in difficult circumstances, but was originally hoping to find a ground-level pillbox at Ninfield.
Tripod slung over shoulder (this h-u-r-t-s; I have a large bruise as a result), I struggled up the ladder to the upper floor to test my theory. I'll write this up as a separate piece.
Moving on to the Type 28a pillbox, this was situated on the bank of water-filled ditch. The presence of a holdfast on a brick pillar confirmed that a 6-pounder gun was intended to be mounted here.
The purpose was to cover the nearby bridge over the River Rother, the line of which in this area was recognised as a stop line.
The Defence of Britain Project Database queries the location of this pillbox; the given grid reference is about half a grid square north of the actual location, so to be able to place it accurately and determine its purpose is satisfying.
Anti-tanks blocks, popularly known as dragon's teeth. Not to be confused with smaller blocks known as pimples, cubes can be upwards of 1m square. Many examples in Sussex have apexes or chamfered edges, leading to them being incorrectly recorded as coffins.
A large project run by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) 1995-2002, collecting data on 20th century military structures submitted by a team of some 600 volunteers. The result was a database of nearly 20,000 records which is available online. The anti-invasion section of the database contains nearly 500 entries for East Sussex.
A loophole or slit that permits observation and/or weapons to be fired through a wall or similar solid construction.
Napoleonic gun towers built along the vulnerable coasts of SE England 1805-1812. Most that still stood in 1940 were occupied for military defence, as artillery observation posts or by the Royal Observer Corps. Many towers had a concrete roof added for extra protection.
Defended road junction(s), usually within a village/town with a Home Guard garrison intended to deny enemy use of the roads. Nodal Points were not to defend the village, but solely the road network. Category 'A' Nodal Points were to hold out for 7 days after invasion without outside assistance.
Generic term for a hardened field defensive structure usually constructed from concrete and/or masonry. Pillboxes were built in numerous types and variants depending on location and role.
A physical continuous anti-tank barrier, normally a river and/or railway line, often defended by pillboxes. Stop line crossings (roads, railways and bridges) were to be made impassable.
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Hibbs, Peter Two-storey pillbox (2) (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216525/ Accessed: 22 September 2017
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