Posted: 10 March 2010 10:17

It's now been four years since I began my research into the anti-invasion defences and the last year has seen some big changes.

So what has happened in the year since I last took stock?

Documentary Research

I've now completed 40 visits to The National Archives in the four years, 16 of them in the past 12 months. I've drawn a total of 498 files and will break the 500 barrier tomorrow on my next visit.

I've had some interesting finds this year, with a small Holy Grail in the form of a defence scheme that listed large tracts of the various stop lines.

There's also been some mission creep in that a quick recce into the latter years of the war has shown that the documents can provide useful information about the build-up to Overlord and so I'm starting to get seriously entangled in the post-1942 period.

Fieldwork

As a result of the documents continually turfing up new sites and features, fieldwork has been going very well.

Roadblocks

Roadblocks

When I started out on the Roadblock project in 2008 I was anticipating completing 473 site visits by the end of 2009, but this was assuming that I would be doing little else. However, I found it necessary to mix in other fieldwork from time to time, as repeated visits to road junctions with no remaining evidence could get a little frustrating, even though in most cases I was always expecting to find very little. At the moment I have only notched up just over half, with 250 visited and 223 left to get to.

I still have a couple of trips from 2009 to record in my blog, but I've only really done about 10-12 site visits in all since this time last year as other work has been dominating my time of late.

Once the weather gets better and the vegetation starts to obscure the landscape I'm currently working on, the roadblock visits will probably get back on track.

Platoon locality with buried HQ

Downsforce

The Downsforce project has been going on apace with the discovery of some bullet holes back in March 2009, followed by my finding several major new defended localities with buried structures (right) in May, along with a treasure map from the archives that helped me locate some 2-pdr anti-tank gun positions.

A map reading error accidentally led me into another locality last September, although my first impression that it was a Home Guard position proved to be wrong.

The defence work count on the Downs is now approaching 350, with each visit yielding something new. There are several areas yet to visit, but sadly, these will probably not be recorded in my blog, as a return trip to one area has shown that somebody has been digging around in some of the trenches I've mentioned previously. Even though I don't reveal precise locations in most cases, there are other clues that people are using information from the blog to follow in my footsteps, despite the copyright reminder at the bottom of each page!

Keyhole surgery at Cuckmere Haven

Other fieldwork

I've been out and about in many other locations, but one notable success was my Keyhole surgery at Cuckmere Haven in January, whereby imaginative use of some unorthodox methods resulted in my photographing the interior of a buried pillbox through the embrasure (right).

However, the one blog post that has sparked the most interest of late was my recent investigation of an Anti-tank ditch at Crowborough.

Anti-tank ditch at Crowborough

This one piece was about a month in the writing and was frustrated by the hostile weather of December 2009-January 2010, but was worth it on account of a few kind comments I received from the archaeological community. This culminated in my visiting Old Lodge Warren again last week with an archaeologist to see what was afoot in the landscape; an interesting trip!

2010 Concrete Evidence screengrab

Information Technology

To me, the most important advance of the past year has been the development of the technological side of things culminating in January in the Concrete Evidence database relaunch.

This upgrade has been long overdue, but the database is now better indicative of how technology is central to what I'm doing in terms of relating information about defence works, despite the large amount of data still being witheld for copyright reasons.

The revamped database makes the data entry process smoother and I'm now continuing to progress through some of the heavier defence schemes that were previously taking up a disproportionate amount of time.

The database currently contains 2574 sites with 2997 functions with a total of 3249 features.

Methodology

In four years the methodology hasn't changed, and the blog and database bear this out. Just take a look at the key headings on this page:

- Documentary Research

- Fieldwork

- Information Technology

These have been the constants of the Defence of East Sussex Project from day 1 and I have always maintained that what I'm doing here is nothing more than common sense; the methodology ain't broke and so I have no plans to fix it.

I know from all the wonderful comments I get via email (and I'm sorry if you're still waiting for a response) that you're not sick and tired of me continually banging the methodology drum. Yet.

I've also received a few enquiries asking when I'm going to publish a book and I can confirm that this will eventually happen, although I'm not sure you'll be reading anything written by me on paper by this time next year unless you're a milkman.

Anyhow, keep watching this space and we'll see what happens in the coming year!

- 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.


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.


Embrasure

A loophole or slit that permits observation and/or weapons to be fired through a wall or similar solid construction.


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.


Platoon locality

A defended locality intended to be held by a platoon.


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.



This site is copyright © Peter Hibbs 2006 - 2017. All rights reserved.

Hibbs, Peter Four years on (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216655/ Accessed: 23 September 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!