Posted: 26 January 2008 22:44
I spent this afternoon taking a look around Martello Tower No.61 at Pevensey Bay.
Considering my interest in the South Coast Martello Towers, this was a double bonus as the tower had been occupied and refortified in 1940, and it became the Battery Observation Post (BOP) for an Emergency Coast Defence Battery consisting of two 5.5-inch guns situated to the south east.
The photograph shows the tower as seen from the beach; the 1940-41 concrete additions are obvious.
The highest structure was the housing for the Barr and Stroud rangefinder, on the level below this was the BOP itself, facing south-east. The rest of the roof consisted of the standard concrete fortification and embrasures seen on other local Martello Towers.
The photo below shows the original Napoleonic gun platform with concrete blast walls shuttered with corrugated iron. These blast walls have probably been cut back during the conversion to a residence, hence the addition of the brick support pillar.
Moving through the bead curtain on the left of the above photo, you enter the BOP area. My theory, yet to be proved, is that this part of the concrete roof was remodelled with a single, larger embrasure when the gun battery was formed in March 1941, although the advance party did not arrive until April.
Climbing up a ladder from the BOP level, you enter the rangefinder housing via a hatch in the floor. The equipment installed in here arrived on 12 May 1941; communication down to the BOP below was via a speaking tube. The area of sea visibility was 058° east to 201° west. A final nerdy piece of information is the serial number of the rangefinder, which was 17351.
A slightly enlarged window allows access out onto the roof.
This is a telephoto view of Pevensey Castle; the embrasure of one of the camouflaged pillboxes is visible.
A fire control centre for a gun battery, the term is usually synonymous with Emergency Coast Defence batteries. A BOP might be purpose-built or be established in an existing building, such as a Martello Tower. The BOP usually housed a range-finder as well as a Dumaresq fire control computer.
A loophole or slit that permits observation and/or weapons to be fired through a wall or similar solid construction.
As the name suggests, a battery established during wartime for coast defence to augment batteries established in peacetime. Emergency batteries established during 1940-41 usually employed a pair of old naval guns, usually either of 6-inch, 5.5-inch or 4-inch calibre.
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.
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.
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Hibbs, Peter Martello Tower 61 Battery Observation Post (2021) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216540/ Accessed: 17 January 2021
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