Posted: 17 August 2009 20:41

A Canadian war diary jokingly refers to the locality around Langney Bridge as the "Maginot Line" and looking at both British and German documents, we can see why.

Roadblock recce

We first need some tactical perspective on the area. The two map squares show the area; that on the left is the standard Ordnance Survey grid square, and on the right we have the German Befestigungskarte ("fortification map") equivalent. (Reproduced from the 1940 Ordnance Survey map with the kind permission of the Ordnance Survey) (I'm not going to make a habit of using Befestigungskarte extracts, so make the most of this!)

On the left, I've coloured the stream spanned by the bridge in blue; this is important as it forms part of the anti-tank ditch I described back in 2007. (Out of interest, the concentric circles you see near the centre are the roads on St Anthony's Hill; the spot in the centre marks the site of Martello Tower 68).

The Germans record two roadblocks; one by the bridge and the other on the road to Pevensey. A line of Panzerverhindnis (anti-tank obstacle; i.e. cubes) is seen enclosing the locality.

The photo below shows the stream/anti-tank ditch looking west from the bridge.

Roadblock recce

Langney Bridge seen from the north:

Roadblock recce

There's no surviving evidence of the defences, but using Allied documents, we actually have a nice corroborated incident involving the cubes that enclosed the area as well as some information that the bridge was prepared for demolition.

Extract from a British infantry battalion's war diary:

October 3, 1940 - Bombs dropped at 066205. Uprooted five dragons teeth and buried another one.

Extracts from a Canadian Engineers war diary:

July 21, 1941 - Lt. ALLAN recced the "MAGINOT LINE" at 067205.

August 5, 1941 - No.3 Section completed work...on the demolition point at LANGNEY BRIDGE.

October 22, 1941 - A party worked on replacing dragons teeth at St ANTHONY'S HILL 066205

It would seem that Lieutenant Allan was sent to recce the area, presumably scheduling the bridge as a demolition and filling the gap in the dragons teeth. So one year and three weeks after German bombs blew a hole in the defences, the damage was finally repaired!

- Pete

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Anti-tank ditch

Ditch designed to hinder movement of tanks and AFVs. Ditches could be entirely artificial or existing ditches or natural features such as rivers, might be dredged, shaped and revetted to improve their effectiveness.


Befestigungskarte

Fortifications map compiled by German Intelligence from aerial photographs during 1940-41 in preparation for Operation Sealion. Defence works were plotted using a system of red symbols.


Cubes

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.


Demolition

Term applied to a structure scheduled for demolition or already demolished. Walls and small buildings might be taken down to clear fields of fire or impede enemy passage by destroying a bridge. Some demolitions were not intended to be carried out until after invasion had begun, for example, certain bridges or road craters (pipe mines).


Martello Tower

Napoleonic gun towers built along the vulnerable coasts of SE England 1805-1812. Most that still stood in 1940 were occupied for military defence, as artillery observation posts or by the Royal Observer Corps. Many towers had a concrete roof added for extra protection.


War diary

A record of events kept by all units from the point of mobilisation. A diary's contents vary enormously from unit to unit; some give detailed entries by the hour on a daily basis while others merely summarise events on a weekly/monthly basis.



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Hibbs, Peter Roadblock recce (27) - the 'Maginot Line' (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216635/ 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!