Posted: 21 September 2009 20:07

I spent a pleasant afternoon up on the Downs following the discovery of a Home Guard slit trench on some high ground overlooking a road.

A Downland Home Guard locality

I actually stumbled across this trench some weeks ago in an area I wasn't expecting to find anything in. I drew the conclusion that, as the general area was used as a training area, it must have been dug as part of this.

As with any WW2 earthwork on the Downs, association with training is the standard conclusion in the absence of any other information, but a couple of entries in a war diary came to the rescue. Over at least two days, Canadian engineers were busy working on barbed wire at this location, which was reconnoitered on 5th August 1941 by Lt. Allan (whom we briefly met concerning the Maginot Line at Langney); work seems to have begun three days later.

Without documentary evidence, this trench is relatively uninteresting but we now know from the diary it was a battle position manned by the local Home Guard - there's a small hamlet 300m away down a rough track that joins the main road at what was probably the centre of the locality.

The trench is chevron-shaped; it would probably accommodate four men, although I don't know if it was a two-man position with the right-hand end (photo below) covered over as a shelter.

A Downland Home Guard locality

I get ever more confident of the potential to actually identify a majority of defence works and locations from the documents and I hope this isn't being over-optimistic. While most of what I find is identifiable, this is probably due to the documents leading me to locations from the outset. However, this locality (as well as another Downs area) were found before the documents indicated precisely what they were.

A quick recce over the open ground revealed no further evidence, but much of the area is covered with dense and prickly vegetation that's probably concealing further positions - a visit over the winter months may reveal further trenches.

- Pete



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Slit trench

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.

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 A Downland Home Guard locality (2024) Available at: Accessed: 17 July 2024

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