Posted: 29 October 2008 21:54
I managed to get out to see a total of 20+ roadblock sites today, mostly in the Mayfield area. I recorded a total of 17 buoys, although only two were at a site listed in the 1941 Roadblock Report.
There are 20 roadblocks listed in the vicinty of Mayfield, which was a Category "A" Nodal Point. I managed to visit 16 of them, missing out a few that were scattered in places a mile or two out and not on a convenient route. I'll pick up these sites in future as I pass by them on my way to other places.
Parking up at the roadside, I made my way down to a road junction where three blocks were listed.
The only evidence I found today of materials still in situ was a pair of buoys deliberately buried upside down in the earth banks on either side of an entrance to path into some woods. While the most common use for buoys today is as gate guardians, I've certainly never seen anyone go to the trouble of inverting them!
Moving around the town I found life made easier by the fact that many building uses hadn't changed at all. Although I've never been to Mayfield before, finding the site of a 12-buoy block listed as being in South Street by the Baptist chapel was not difficult due to some handy signage. Another block is listed in West St. also by the chapel, so the photo below shows two sites.
Another building that is still used for the same purpose as it was in 1941 is the convent school; the archway seen below was obstructed by 6 buoys. The road running up the side of the convent was also blocked, but a side entrance provided a means of circumventing this block (18 buoys), hence the archway being blocked to prevent access to Mayfield High Street.
Having finished at Mayfield, I drove south to St Dunstan's Bridge, the site of another block. There was nothing here (there is a Type 28 pillbox covering the bridge though), but I did find two outcrops of buoys at farm entrances; a group of 5 ½ mile to the north and 10 ¾ mile south of the bridge.
Neither of these locations are listed in the report. Both are on bends in the road and might have been roadblocks and simply overlooked. However, each roadblock was inspected and the location of materials listed. The officer inspecting blocks in 1941 would have driven past at least one of these locations and should have recorded their presence.
The block on the bridge had five sockets and rails, but also 20 buoys; are 15 of these those at farm gates? The distances involved are considerable, but it's not entirely impossible.
I made my way to Heathfield only to find that I'd left my carefully-marked Cassini map at home. Although I did have a list of converted grids with me, I sometimes find working just from a modern map difficult because I'm studying the landscape as it was in 1940-41, not as it might be today.
This was not a problem though, as it left me more time to investigate Horam, a couple of miles south.
There were two roadblocks on this junction, both consisting of 30 cylinders.
Horam was a Nodal Point, the perimeter being the grounds of Horam Manor; the brick wall at left in the photo above is part of this perimeter and has four loopholes covering the junction and roadblocks. A large section of wall appears to have been rebuilt, and so there may originally have been more embrasures.
Horam was also "B" Subsector of the Divisional HQ area that covered Horam - Heathfield - Little London. A 1941 map I found in the archives shows the defences of the area around Horam, including slit trenches, observation posts and minefields.
The map doesn't show the blocks on the junction but does show other roadblock locations that are not in the later report. I took a slight detour to visit a couple of these sites and found they both coincided with small bridges, which are logical places to cause maximum disruption.
There were no remains at these bridges, but on the whole the day was a productive one simply in terms of the ground covered.
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.
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 loophole or slit that permits observation and/or weapons to be fired through a wall or similar solid construction.
An existing (e.g. garden) wall into which a loophole has been made by the removal of bricks or stones. Usually applied to freestanding walls as opposed to walls in buildings, which are known as defended buildings.
Defended road junction(s), usually within a village/town with a Home Guard garrison intended to deny enemy use of the roads. Nodal Points were not to defend the village, but solely the road network. Category 'A' Nodal Points were to hold out for 7 days after invasion without outside assistance.
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.
Small, narrow trench designed to provide protection against shrapnel and other battlefield hazards. Technically distinct from a weapon pit (which was intended soley as a defensive position) slit trenches were also used as defence works.
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.
A pillbox designed to house a small artillery piece (typically a WW1 6-pounder gun), usually sited to cover a bridge or other defile. Type 28a variant had an additional compartment for infantry defence.
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Hibbs, Peter Roadblock recce (16) - Mayfield and Horam (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216579/ Accessed: 22 November 2017
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