Posted: 4 October 2008 20:58

I've undertaken four visits to Kew in the past two months. I usually compile a brief post during each visit but the habit has died out since TNA killed off the cyber cafe in which I used to type away whilst having lunch.

I could post a blog using my laptop, but it's a nuisance to carry it downstairs (through security) from the reading rooms and back again, and I find all my time in the reading room consumed with actual research.

31st July: following some desktop work compiling an Order of Battle for various divisions that were in East Sussex, many files I drew today were filling in gaps of British formations, mainly 55 Division. The day's best finds were in relation to the construction of sidings for Super-Heavy Railway guns at Glynde and Hailsham.

14th August: continued with British diaries and looked at material (some Admiralty) relating to Newhaven, including HMS Forward.

I also began a slight detour into WO 199, where files from Headquarters and Commands are kept; I was focussing on papers relating to correspondence, policy and descriptions of various aspects, mostly roadblocks, railblocks, petroleum warfare (flame fougasses and sea flame barrages) and Canadian Pipe Mines.

28th August: Continued with British diaries, recommenced the work on Canadian files and took a new direction into the files relating to Phantom, the GHQ Liaison Regiment. This unit was tasked to recce probable invasion areas and report back to GHQ on the situation regarding progress in defence works and other aspects of anti-invasion preparations. Phantom was also to report directly to GHQ on the situation during an invasion, bypassing the communication lines of local forces. Unfortunately, apart from a brief and uninformative report on Cuckmere Haven, there was little of interest found. This visit resulted in my taking nearly 1,200 photographs - the most I've taken in one day!

13th September: this visit was dominated by research into the South Downs Training Area, concentrating on the requisition and eventual rehabilitation of this area. This research was inspired by work I've been doing on the Downs; future posts will describe my ongoing extensive fieldwork.

- Pete



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Canadian pipe mine

A speciality of Canadian Engineers, the pipe mine was designed to render roads impassable to enemy vehicles by blowing a large crater in them. Lengths of 3-inch steel pipe were inserted under a road either by using pipe-pushing equipment or by slant-drilling. The pipes were then packed with explosive and left in place until the road needed to be destroyed. Large amounts of pipe mines were used in a cross-hatch pattern under airfields, to destroy runways. The pipe mine was also known as McNaughton Tubing, after General McNaughton, commander of the Canadian Corps in the UK.


The GHQ Liaison Regiment. Phantom units patrolled forward areas in a reconnaissance role to report directly to GHQ. Phantom vehicles carried an identification plate of a white 'P' on a black background.

Sea flame barrage

Incendiary coastal defence work wherbey oil is pumped from tanks along a pipe network, released onto the surface of the sea and set aflame.


The National Archives (formerly The Public Records Office or PRO).

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Hibbs, Peter National Archives visits (2024) Available at: Accessed: 17 July 2024

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