Posted: 5 July 2008 22:38

My previous post cryptically referred to some "unbelieveably fantastic papers" that I found several weeks ago in The National Archives.

I haven't mentioned them until now as I've been so engrossed in them and a side-project that resulted from my finding them, and I'm still on an enormous high!

In recent months, a success in the reading room for me has usually comprised finding a trace map or just coming across one or two new defence works with grid references - you don't expect to find Holy Grails every time, so you have to extract as much satisfaction from these small discoveries.

However, my previous two visits yielded documentary finds that, within the scope of my research, qualify for 'Holy Grail' status.

Shortly after I compiled my post of 7 June, finishing with the words:

...I've found some useful map tracings of firing range areas, an anti-raid scheme and a brief defence scheme too.

I'll hopefully be finding more of the same this afternoon!

...I promptly went back upstairs to the reading room and uncovered the following:

  • A statistical report on minefields
  • An illustrated report on railblocks
  • A report on anti-tank ditches
  • A complete artillery location statement
  • A report on roadblocks

My subsequent 'mopping up' visit added a defence scheme and a bridge reconnaissance report to the haul, but nothing can supercede 7 June 2008 as my most successful and rewarding day in the archives. Finding all of those treasures in the space of two hours was absolutely astounding; eyebrows were raised on neighbouring tables as every discovery brought a celebration of "Yesss!" under my breath, though audible enough to attract a few knowing smiles.

I had to take a break and compose myself; I was literally nearly in tears at finding all of this information. It may seem a complete overreaction to finding what to most people is a trivial set of documents that mean very little, but in the context of my research, I cannot overstate their importance.

To give an indication, my Documentary Evidence database currently contains 893 records; I estimate that the documents listed above have nearly doubled this total.

The report on roadblocks was the icing on the cake; I'll be posting some more about it and the side-project it has stimulated.

- Pete



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Anti-tank ditch

Ditch designed to hinder movement of tanks and AFVs. Ditches could be entirely artificial or existing ditches or natural features such as rivers, might be dredged, shaped and revetted to improve their effectiveness.

Defence scheme

A military plan of defence for a specified area. Defence Schemes were issued at numerous levels. Defence Schemes were later known as Plans to Defeat Invasion on the orders of General Montgomery.

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Hibbs, Peter Some Holy Grails of research (2024) Available at: Accessed: 17 July 2024

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