Posted: 12 February 2010 13:12

My second trip of 2010 to the National Archives has thrown up some new aspects of defence and my most unusual find amongst the documents for several years.

I'm still 'mopping up' missed files, but took a quick jump out of the East Sussex Divisional Area and into West Sussex to have a look at the division sitting in reserve; part of its role was to move into East Sussex if the need arose. The result of this hunch was a defence scheme that listed over 40 defended villages in East Sussex, which are new to me. I did know that some areas were designated as defended villages, but did not know which ones, so this was a useful find.

Another discovery was a series of minefield clearances. This set of documents has proved interesting as they give the minefield serial numbers and crucially for me, some of the grid references which are missing from my minefields project. It's also revealed a couple of new minefields with a different numbering system, so more work for me in this regard. One file provided a nice minefield plan; about 40 mines in the field were detonated sympathetically after a V1 flying bomb came down and exploded in the middle of the danger area. Unfortunately, there's no grid reference given for this, and the number of mines on the plan doesn't match the data I have from other sources, so I need to try and find details on local flying bombs and perhaps get the location from this.

However, the unusual find of the day was a report on some damage caused to army vehicles by German bombs. 40 army lorries had been parked up under trees with camouflage nets overhead, but whether the two bombs that fell were aimed or just a random attack is not stated. One truck took a direct hit and 8 were destroyed by the resultant fire, with 15 more slightly damaged. Fortunately, there were no military or civilian casualties.

The second bomb had no effect save the destruction of a garden wall and shrapnel damage to nearby houses. A wonderfully detailed plan of the action showing the layout of the lorries accompanied the report, but the real oddity was the inclusion of an envelope containing some actual fragments of shrapnel from the bomb and even a piece of one of the army lorries!

One small piece of shrapnel had been removed from a lorry tyre while some smaller slithers and a substantial 5cm length had been dug out of some of the trees. The 5cm piece of lorry had also been removed from a tree and looked to be from the chassis; it was too thick to have been from the bodywork.

Although some years ago I found a folded gas mask facepiece in a file, you don't generally expect to find artefacts in amongst paper documents. The discovery of pieces of bomb and British Army lorry from a documented incident in a file is quite a curious find!

- Pete



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Defence scheme

A military plan of defence for a specified area. Defence Schemes were issued at numerous levels. Defence Schemes were later known as Plans to Defeat Invasion on the orders of General Montgomery.

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Hibbs, Peter More interesting finds at TNA (2024) Available at: Accessed: 17 July 2024

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