By Jonathan Aird
I do like to be beside the sea side – but in all honesty I’m not all that bothered about strolling on the prom-prom-prom, even the additional attraction of a big brass band doesn’t really swing it for me. Now, the coastal footpaths, that’s a different matter. On a recent visit to Suffolk, I came across a number of things that I thought could potentially form one of the infrequent “holiday objects of wargaming interest” that crop up from time to time on the Lone Warrior blog. Framingham Castle, for example, is a fine and interesting building of great historic interest – well worth a visit for the rampart walk alone. However, once more, it is the more ephemeral WWII fortifications that really caught my interest. Just north of Thorpe Ness, along the footpath hugging the dune tops, several tank trap blocks came into view – some of these had seemingly tumbled down from a higher position.
Glancing around at this point I noticed that there was a high wall along the path edge which had several rifle loops in it.
Then, a little further along, there was a most peculiar pillbox. This is brick built with a concrete roof and again features only loopholes for rifles. Most peculiar. Nestling in the bushes on the other side of the path, facing the beach, there were a number of concrete posts – possibly these once carried barbed wire.
About half a mile south of this spot, another pillbox came into view – although closer inspection suggested that this was actually a gun emplacement. This is all on the East coast of England – and in WWII far too close to occupied France – but the actual arrangement of defences seemed rather unusual.
I don’t know if this is the actual case but a possible explanation is as follows. The gun emplacement was most likely manned by the regular army whilst the brick pillbox was a home guard strong point or command point from which patrols were sent out North and South behind the barbed wire and tank trap protected dune tops. This would explain the lack of provision for heavy weapons at the oddly flimsy pill box. It’s in a fairly isolated spot – but there is the large Thorpe Ness Hall just a little way inland – and one can imagine that the skeleton staff running this, as well as, perhaps, elder family members — would have provided sufficient manpower for a Home Guard platoon. This is all complete conjecture, of course, and may be completely wrong – if anyone knows better I’d love to know the truth of it.
As it is, this arrangement of defences could offer an intriguing and unusual table top game for a “what-if” German pre-invasion probing raid – hitting the shingle and sand beach with the dunes a formidable stop line ahead of them.