Posted: 7 August 2008 23:28

Roadblock recce I went out today to investigate a few more roadblock locations with a list of 42 sites at Ninfield, Lunsford's Cross and Bexhill.

I didn't have enough time to mark up the map of Ninfield's defences, so I decided to press on to Lunsford's Cross, which is a crossroads (photo; looking east) on the north-western outskirts of Bexhill.

Each of the four road branches were blocked; the northern and southern arms with a handful of buoys, the east and west with a combination of buoys and cylinders.

Unfortunately, nothing remains today. Just to the south of the crossroads was situated a battery of four 4.5-inch howitzers tasked to shell the beaches in front of Bexhill.

I moved half a mile eastwards to check out another couple of sites, again, without luck.

Roadblock recce

The next site on the list was by the local cemetery, situated to the south.

The photo shows the approximate location, with the cemetery gates in centre background.

This is good defensive terrain; a sunken lane on the top of a hill, flanked by earth banks is easy to block and difficult to outflank.

The problem with this sort of terrain is that it's unlikely that any buoys or cylinders will remain; the banks mean that such obstacles were removed as they could not be just left at the roadside as is seen on flat verges.

I continued on and arrived at a site that I had discovered almost a year ago to the day.

Roadblock recce

I originally got the grid reference from a defence scheme, wandered along a road and chanced upon an outcrop of pimples, of which only one (right) was photogenic due to thick vegetation covering the others.

On that day I counted eight pimples on one side of the road and six on the other; a second visit last December with less dense vegetation revealed the same number.

So why was I revisiting a site I'd already been to twice before and knew well?

It has been a temptation to avoid going back to familiar sites to concentrate on as yet unknown ground, but throughout my research repeat visits have always proved beneficial, as regular readers will know.

Today was no exception; I returned to this site with the roadblock report (i.e. with new knowledge) and came away with success in the form of three extra pimples located.

My original visits were a matter of counting up all the pimples I could see in the close vegetation, resulting in 14. Today I knew I was looking for a possible 19 and left having located 17. A key factor was the diagram in the roadblock report that illustrated the alignment and spacing of the pimples and it was this that allowed me to pick out the formation, although I'm still two short.

To illustrate the difficulty of spotting pimples, the photo below shows a cluster of five; mouse over the image to highlight them. It may seem obvious that an ivy-covered hump is a pimple, but there were also natural earth lumps and bumps, not to mention fallen branches and rubble also covered in ivy and easily mistaken for pimples.

Roadblock recce

However, the most interesting discovery today came about through sheer luck.

I've checked the photos I took previously, and it seems as though the road surface has been worn down in the past year, exposing what I believe to be evidence of bent rail sockets; see the photo below.

Roadblock recce

The evidence is compelling; a close inspection (not easy as the road is quite busy) revealed that these are not just random marks or scratches in the asphalt. They are very slightly indented in the road and the edges are actually cracks in the surface outlined by moisture following last night's heavy thunderstorm.

Not only this, but they appear in between the pimples that line the road, and a quick stroll up and down the road revealed no similar patterns elsewhere locally.

They are also set perpendicular to the road edge with roughly equal dimensions; highly unlikely to be a random occurrence. (The bottom right socket in the photo above measured 50x50 cm; the lower left was 50x45 cm.)

Now cast your mind back to my introductory post on roadblocks and the 3D Google Sketchup model I constructed (based on an official plan within the report) of the standard roadblock design that was deemed desirable to upgrade active blocks to.

The image below shows a view of the model.

Roadblock

As this model exists in 3D I can navigate around it as though it were real - I can also measure distances in it.

The diagonal spacing between the two sockets on the road is 1.45m; measuring the same dimension in the model gave a reading of 1.34m. Allowing for local variation and error on my part in constructing the model, this is spot on, making it certain the markings on the road are evidence of sockets.

The roadblock report lists no sockets at this location (just 30 cylinders, 19 pimples and 21 buoys) but outlines a requirement for 18 sockets and 18 bent RSJs.

The report also states that the necessary authority had been given for the local civil or military engineer to proceed with the installation of sockets at this location, and the evidence suggests that this happened, although whether the bent RSJs were ever delivered is another matter.

I need to spend some more time at this location; by measuring the width of the road (the pimples close to both edges indicate that it hasn't been widened since the war), knowing the position of the visible sockets and the fact they're seemingly arranged closely to the official specification theoretically means that I should be able to work out the arrangement and location the remaining sockets, assuming that the full complement of 18 were installed.

So, thanks to a return visit, I have located more pimples and made a chance discovery of sockets having been set in the road surface due to the latter being worn down by traffic since I last visited - not a bad day's work!

- Pete

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Buoys

Small concrete roadblock obstacle comprising a truncated cone with domed base. A hollow shaft down the centre allowed the buoy to be manhandled using a crowbar. Buoys were deemed of little value by 1941 and cylinders seen as a better solution.


Cylinders

Reinforced concrete cylindrical obstacles with a shaft down the centre in which could be inserted a crowbar for manhandling, or a picket for barbed wire. Cylinders were 90cm high and 60cm wide and deployed in groups of three as a more effective alternative for buoys.


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.


Pimples

Small anti-tank block in the form of a truncated pyramid. Pimples were used to extend anti-tank obstacles and roadblocks and were intended for use on soft ground.


Sockets

Concrete-lined shafts dug into road surfaces into which rails or RSJs (hairpin or straight) could be inserted to form a roadblock. When not in use, a wooden cover was placed over each socket.



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Hibbs, Peter Roadblock recce (6) - Bexhill (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216561/ Accessed: 22 November 2017

The information on this website is intended solely to describe the ongoing research activity of The Defence of East Sussex Project; it is not comprehensive or properly presented. It is therefore NOT suitable as a basis for producing derivative works or surveys!