Posted: 8 March 2009 20:37

I visited a total of 14 roadblock sites in Lewes and the surrounding area today, finding only a batch of buoys that are already well-known.

I don't travel to Lewes very often due to the parking restrictions; today's experience was certainly in line with my belief that the system is draconian. Paying the full price for 5 hours' parking, the machine promptly dispensed a ticket entitling me to 2 hours. There's probably a small print sign somewhere explaining the game, but I can't help but feel that the system is designed to catch you out. This trickery unfortunately limited my tour around the 10 roadblock sites in central Lewes, so luxuries such as wandering around the local cemetery were rapidly cut off the agenda.

Roadblock recce

Anyway, if the threat of a parking ticket wasn't enough, the German armoured columns would have to contend with a series of roadblocks, which was why I was here and so I made rapid progress to this group of 18 buoys in the Cliffe area.

This array would not normally be of much interest, but even a casual glance revealed two different methods of manufacture, as shown below.

The buoy on the left shows evidence of having been cast in a mould seemingly constructed of wooden staves, barrel-fashion.

That on the right has a clear seam running its length, perhaps suggesting some sort of two-part metal mould. I've not seen either of these construction methods in any other buoys I've seen, and I have wondered whether these are genuine buoys. However, local, hurried production was probably undertaken to meet the emergency and this design appears nowhere else; if they were peacetime car park bollards you'd expect to see more of them locally. Another slight variation is the domed top and absence of a central shaft.

Roadblock recce

So where did these buoys came from? The roadblock beside the Snowdrop Inn (shown below) had 16 buoys, but whether all of these are now part of the line of 18 is anybody's guess - there were a total of 81 buoys in Lewes.

Roadblock recce

Completing my rounds of Lewes (also having to miss out on checking 8 barrel flame trap locations), I made it back to the car before my time ran out, but 10 minutes spent in a local antique shop landed me a haul of manuals that belonged to a Royal Engineers officer and are proving very useful.

I stopped to check out the roadblocks in the Earwig Corner area (no, I don't know the origin of the name!) before driving out to Barcombe Mills to see if low vegetation had revealed any evidence of the flame trap there. Finding nothing, I then drove out to Hamsey, just north of Lewes, to check some more roadblock locations.

Arriving in the Hamsey area, I encountered some old friends in the form of Type 24 pillboxes on the GHQ Line that I visited back in October 2006.

Roadblock recce

The pillbox seen above actually covered a roadblock; whether the rail being used as a gatepost formed part of the block is not known; the 1941 Roadblock Report does not list the individual components, but the close proximity to two branches of disused railway line probably make this length a railway leftover.

Studying the ground in this area also made me realise that there may be more to the positioning of some stop line pillboxes than some might think; I'll post some thoughts at a later date.

- Pete

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Barrel flame trap

Incendiary booby-trap comprising a battery of oil drums dug in and concealed, usually in a roadside bank and detonated remotely as an enemy vehicle passes it. Also known as a flame fougasse.


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.


GHQ Line

A series of arterial stop lines designed to prevent German forces advancing on London and the industrial Midlands.


Pillbox

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.


Stop line

A physical continuous anti-tank barrier, normally a river and/or railway line, often defended by pillboxes. Stop line crossings (roads, railways and bridges) were to be made impassable.


Type 24 pillbox

A six-sided (but not a regular hexagon) pillbox. The Type 24 is the most frequently seen pillbox in East Sussex, mostly along stop lines. It can be found in thin wall (30cm) or thick wall (1m) variants.



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Hibbs, Peter Roadblock recce (21) - Lewes (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216612/ 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!