Posted: 12 August 2008 21:29
I went back out to Bexhill again last Thursday - I've been a bit run down of late, so progress in fieldwork and blogging has been delayed.
Bexhill, for some reason, had more roadblocks than anywhere else with a total of 30, hence my needing to do a few visits.
I started out by locating my set of WW2 German marker flags and giving them an impromptu 'ironing' by dangling them in the steam of a boiling kettle to remove the creases.
These flags were designed to be placed next to mines when clearing a minefield or to mark the edges of an area contaminated by gas; had Sealion been launched, then these would have been a common site on the beaches of Kent and Sussex marking the locations of mushroom mines.
We'll come back to these flags later.
My first target of the day was Little Common crossroads.
This is where four roads meet on a large roundabout, allowing traffic to move north, south, east or west.
The crossroads were also registered as a target of the 4.5-inch guns of the Emergency Coast Defence Battery at Cooden, 1,500 yards to the south. Fire was to be predicted, i.e. there was no observer to correct the fall of shot, making it likely that the whole area surrounding the crossroads would probably be in for a rough time if the guesswork was not accurate.
All four branches of the crossroads were blocked, along with a couple of minor roads in the area. Surprisingly, despite the busy urban environment, a pair of pimples actually still survive on the road heading east, in a front garden.
About 500m to the west, past the crossroads and along Barnhorn Road was another block, consisting of 42 cylinders, 26 sockets and bent RSJs, 11 pimples and 8 buoys. This block was one of only two listed as 100% complete.
Until last year there stood in a garden a single cube and a buttress block (cubes and large blocks were not included in the report); a sad loss.
Next on my list was a location near this railway bridge at Collington.
From the grid reference, it would appear that the block was on the north side, and the photo shows a bank on the left and a hedge and small ditch on the right which is better terrain than the southern side of the bridge.
According to the local defence scheme, this area was a platoon locality for the reserve platoon for the centre company holding the forward defended localities at Bexhill. Weapons pits were dug in Collington Wood just to the north (I haven't had a chance to have a close look yet), with Bren gun pits on the railway embankment.
Two houses just over the road on the other side of the bridge contained snipers - the only reference I've come across to the deployment of hidden marksmen so far.
I then drove down to the site of the pimples and sockets I reported in my previous post as I wanted to take some measurements.
In order to measure the spacing between the pimples that are covered in dense vegetation, you need to be able to see where they are; this was why I brought the flags along. The fact that the flags stood up indicates the density of the ivy and why it was so difficult to see the pimple locations.
Planting the flags, I quickly realised that I had over-counted the pimples on this side of the road by two, making the total found 15 and not 17 as I stated previously.
I then turned my attention to the socket locations I had found in the road surface and located an extra socket, making four in total. I have not been completely successful in recording their relative locations, as the road is in fact very busy, and those data I did obtain involved running into the road during gaps in the traffic, taking one measurement and retreating rapidly to the verge before the next vehicle came.
I measured the width of the road too; the roadblock report lists 18 bent rails at this block and I was satisfied when comparing this with my 3D model that I found with the prescribed distance between rails 18 rails would have fitted exactly on this road.
This prompted me to construct a Google Sketchup 3D model of this particular roadblock; the plan view below shows the positions of the surviving pimples, a possible layout of the 18 bent rails and 30 cylinders.
The seemingly erratic distribution of the pimples is of interest; the ground level is uneven on one side of the road (the bottom side in the image), but this doesn't explain why they are not in evenly-spaced staggered rows as per the official plans. The locations of the 4 missing pimples can only be guessed at as a result of this arrangement.
The four red squares indicate roughly where I think the sockets are in relation to the roadblock, and it can be seen that there is not an exact match. Again, this might be explained by departing from official plans, or errors on my part.
The image below shows a close-up of the bent rails.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A defended locality intended to be held by a platoon.
(German Seel÷we) - Operation Sealion was the code name for the German plan for the invasion of Britain.
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 (7) - Bexhill (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216562/ Accessed: 25 September 2017
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