Posted: 18 September 2006 23:52
I finally found time to award myself a day away from everything else and to catch up on some documents on anti-invasion measures I'd photographed at the archives some weeks ago.
One sentence in particular evoked memories of climbing apple trees in short trousers. (By which I mean it was me wearing the short trousers, not the tree). I'll come back to this seemingly unrelated memory later...
I found myself immersed in the Defence Scheme of 55 Division, who were in my part of East Sussex in 1941. Amongst the pages I found a list of rail block locations, including two in my home town. (A rail block is the railway equivalent of a road block; as yet, I'm unsure as to how the lines were blocked, but will endeavour to find this out.)
Converting the old military grid reference to the modern National Grid, I found that one was situated under a road bridge less than 100 metres from where I'm writing this blog.
The other was situated at the local railway station, which was closed during Dr. Beeching's infamous cull of railway lines of the 1960's.
The list gives the block's location as the "22½ mile post"; this was situated just out of the photo at right (taken by my mother in September 1968), between the signal box and road bridge from where the photograph was taken.
The rail block would seem to have run across both lines roughly in line with where the siding terminates on the left.
The photograph at left shows the same scene today; the area is now a car park, the railway land behind the trees having been built on in the 1980's.
The red car would be roughly in front of the signal box; the bridge was replaced with a wider structure in the 1990's which is why my comparative photo is not taken from the railings, but from where the original photograph was taken.
The photo below is from 1972, and shows the station buildings being demolished. Ringed in red is the mile post, uprooted and lying on its back; the signal box pit in the platform has already started to become overgrown.
So why the obscure reference to climbing apple trees?
Well, it lies in the phrase "22½ mile post"; I know the "22½ mile post" very well. In 1972, my father acquired some bits and pieces from the workmen who were demolishing the station buildings, including a concrete mile post!
The post was subsequently planted underneath an apple tree in the garden of the house we then lived at, as seen at right. (No, that is not me standing in the hole; I wasn't born until the following year!)
The 22½ miles are clearly displayed; the two 'l's beneath the '22' each denote a quarter-mile.
The seat at right was actually made from a section of railway sleeper; at about the age of 6-7, I learned to climb the apple tree by standing on the seat and clambering onto the milepost before swinging up into the fork of the tree.
So where is the mile post today?
Well, we moved house in 1983, but it came with us (despite needing several people to lift it), and it still sits at the bottom of our garden.
Upon reading the defence scheme, I actually went down the garden to check that ours really was the 22½ mile post!
It was a pleasant surprise to find an object that's been in the family for 35 years mentioned in an official military document.
I can almost see a Royal Engineers officer deciding where to place the rail block, looking up to identify a suitable landmark to reference and seeing the mile post.
I've identified a couple of archive documents that may explain exactly how railway lines were supposed to be blocked.
Of course, if the mile post could talk, I wouldn't need to read them...
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 A curious research milestone... (2020) Available at: http://wwww.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216502/ Accessed: 10 July 2020
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