Posted: 9 February 2008 22:51

I spent today back at Martello Tower 61 as the 'resident historian' during the estate agent's open day.

About 250 people dropped in throughout the day, about 90% of them climbing up to the viewing balcony where I was stationed in order to tell me they were petrified of heights...

It was an interesting day; many visitors were local people who were just interested to see inside the tower that overlooks their house, and I had some very interesting conversations with several who had played in the tower just after the war.

An interesting aspect was the tendancy of those who were living in the area during the war to attribute everything to the Canadians. One resident described the "Canadian bunk beds" that used to be in the tower, while another talked of the Canadians building pillboxes at Pevensey Castle.

It goes to show the impact that the Canadians had on the area; however, I suspect that many of the works they are credited with may have been undertaken by the British Army instead. For example, although there was one Canadian Pioneer Company in the Bexhill/Hastings area in 1940, as far as I can tell from the documents, no Canadian unit was involved in the 1940 work at Pevensey Castle. A Canadian Division did occupy East Sussex later on (at around the time of the 1942 Dieppe Raid), and it is perhaps this 'friendly' occupation and the build-up to D-Day that people remember most fondly in a dark period of history.

Another impression I got was that people generally are interested in their historic environment and were keen to ask questions about both the Napoleonic and WW2 eras; this is certainly encouraging for the oral history element of my project.

- Pete

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Martello Tower

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.


Pillbox

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 (2) (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216541/ Accessed: 22 November 2017

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