Posted: 23 December 2010 12:19

Wherever the Army went in East Sussex during World War Two, they would be followed by an outcrop of slit trenches. As we will see, the trenches in one training area were dug for different purposes.

Although I find heavy rain annoying, it does have its uses; the photograph below shows an array of backfilled slit trenches. Little more than shallow depressions, when they flood, their size, shape and layout suddenly appears in the landscape.

Viking School

The arrangement of these trenches instantly reveals their purpose; Passive Air Defence (PAD). PAD schemes required slits to be dug to accommodate troops in the event of air attack and on training areas such as this on open pasture land, troops could be left exposed. Because these trenches appear randomly dug with no consideration of all-round defence, they were not dug as battle positions.

The outcrop of trenches at this location number about 20; this was a generic training area, but another cluster of trenches can be found at a location I'm confident was first established by the "Viking" Commandos and was an area known to them as "Death Gulch". 13 PAD trenches can be seen below, but others undoubtedly lie hidden in undergrowth.

Viking School

The documents indicate the nature of the training the men were undergoing here:

The CO gave his first lecture on Combined Operations in Death Gulch. Talking about the subject generally, the CO spoke about the parts played by the Navy and Air Force, the choice of objectives, the object, examination of information, the training of the troops, fitness, weapons and clothing and for some time, security.

The training syllabus lists all manner of hell-raising activities such as unarmed combat, ambushes, patrols, fighting in woods. Minor exercises including stalking enemy positions, and the tenches below might have borne witness to such training. This pair of earthworks are arranged in a more tactical way than the PAD examples shown above. They are not within any known anti-invasion battle position and their isolation and lack of supporting defence works perhaps indicates more of a training use.

Viking School

More about the training activities and artefacts found will follow in part 3 in this series.

- 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.

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Hibbs, Peter Viking School (2) - Trenches (2018) Available at: Accessed: 18 June 2018

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