Posted: 19 August 2013 10:47

A visit to a few roadblock locations in the Rotherfield area looking for a handful of cylinders and buoys lead to my uncovering far more than I was expecting.

The area in question was Rotherfield itself, plus a couple of isolated locations within a few miles.

Having been elsewhere earlier in the day, I approached from the east and stopped off at Town Row to view the site of the first block under scrutiny.

The arrow in the photo below indicates the site of a 40-cylinder block on a small river bridge; the 1941 Roadblock Report suggests that the block be relocated underneath the railway bridge in the foreground and bolstered with sockets, hairpin rails and pimples.

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

Similarly, nothing remained of the 26 cylinders at the second block by the King's Arms pub at Rotherfield itself as seen below.

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

It was at the third location that I struck gold; peering over the parapet of a nearby bridge, I was confronted by the scene below:

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

Seeing these buoys having been dumped into the stream was exciting; there were 29 of these obstacles in total at the roadblocks sited within the nearby defended locality.

I scrambled down the riverbank to get an accurate count of the buoys - would there be 29 here?

No, there were not; my estimate is a staggering 120, making this the largest roadblock 'graveyard' I know of to date. These buoys are strewn out about 30m downstream and several deep in places, making it hard to count them. Note how the bridge has been widened at some point.

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

The scatter starts by a small waterfall at the bridge and it seems that they were randomly bulldozed into the stream as they're at all sorts of odd angles - many are completely inverted.

The photo at right shows a pair of buoys on the river bank; the tree has grown around the upturned base of the buoy on the left.

Note the 'barrel stave' casting marks on the buoy in the stream to the right in the background; this manufacturing method is evident on several examples at this site.

There's a few large broken pieces (halves and quarters) around the site, but the overwhelming majority of buoys are intact.

There are two variants present, shown in the photo below; the two buoys at centre left (separated by the mass of white foam) are of different sizes. The smaller is the 'normal' variant, while the larger seems to be peculiar to the northern sector of East Sussex.

The mix of concrete is very rough, with a high amount of aggregate material visible. This maybe indicates hasty local manufacture, as most buoys I've seen the length and breadth of Sussex have a smooth, clean surface.

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

The overhead vegetation makes it very dark, so all these photos were taken on a tripod with long exposure, which is why the water flow is blurry. Using a flash is pointless and it doesn't pick up the ghostly shapes below the water that I found intriguing.

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

The question is, why were so many buoys dumped here? It may be that they were intended to shore up the river banks or somehow control the flow of water, but the way that the buoys have been left would indicate that no particular attention was paid to arranging them to best effect.

Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area

In some ways, it's annoying that so many buoys have been dumped here, as we'll never know from where they all came. Had there just been a handful, it would have been safe to assume they are not far from where they were sited and it's always nice to be able to tie individual obstacles to their original roadblock.

The site has therefore been 'contaminated' and, although it doesn't answer my questions about the local roadblocks, it does answer other questions regarding the disposal of redundant obstacles after the war.

But given a choice, I'd rather see too much evidence surviving than none at all!

- Pete

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Buoys

Small concrete roadblock obstacle comprising a truncated cone with domed base. A hollow shaft down the centre allowed the buoy to be manhandled using a crowbar. Buoys were deemed of little value by 1941 and cylinders seen as a better solution.


Cylinders

Reinforced concrete cylindrical obstacles with a shaft down the centre in which could be inserted a crowbar for manhandling, or a picket for barbed wire. Cylinders were 90cm high and 60cm wide and deployed in groups of three as a more effective alternative for buoys.


Defended locality

An area defended by a force (e.g. a platoon) occupying a series of defence works, normally within a barbed wire perimeter. Localities were designed for all-round defence and usually fitted in with a coordinated scheme of neighbouring localities.


Pimples

Small anti-tank block in the form of a truncated pyramid. Pimples were used to extend anti-tank obstacles and roadblocks and were intended for use on soft ground.


Sockets

Concrete-lined shafts dug into road surfaces into which rails or RSJs (hairpin or straight) could be inserted to form a roadblock. When not in use, a wooden cover was placed over each socket.



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Hibbs, Peter Roadblock Recce (37) Rotherfield area (2017) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216731/ Accessed: 22 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!