Posted: 22 July 2008 22:44
I started my visits of roadblock locations today, taking a trip out to Pevensey and Westham via Rickney and Wartling on my mountain bike.
I deliberately started this fieldwork side of my roadblocks project at Rickney as this was one of my earliest trips out way back in March 2006.
(Just note the totally different style I had back then - far more chatty - I was desperate for material to write about and so went into lengthy descriptions. Nowadays I'm comparitively terse because I have far too much to write about and don't have time to waffle much.)
Although several sites I'll be visiting are ones I've already been to, and I'm quite sure that the overwhelming majority of sites will have no remaining evidence, there will always be something to be learned.
Take Rickney; I raced through here in a hurry, knowing what was already here. However, armed with the roadblock report, a couple of potential hypotheses arose.
The report records that this roadblock had 6 sockets in the road and 3 straight and 3 bent rails to put in them and recommends they be bolstered by an extra 11 sockets and bent RSJs, 4 more bent rails (presumably to replace the 4 straight ones already in situ) and 30 cylinders.
As previously mentioned, the plan was to remove materials from redundant roadblocks and reuse them at blocks still being maintained, as those at Rickney were. The evidence at Rickney suggests that this did not happen perhaps on quite the scale as was intended, as the three buoys and four concical pimples are not recorded by the report.
The only explanation I can come up with is that upgrading every active roadblock was too much of a task in terms of manpower and materials, and that instead of receiving its extra rails, it instead had some buoys donated from a redundant block elsewhere in the area (the nearest with buoys was at Westham, about 3 road miles away) and had the pimples cast in situ to improve the block even though it wasn't up to the full standard.
Rushing through the roadblocks at Rickney, I made my way north to Wartling to locate a block site near the church, that was described in 1941 as being a "poor site". I knew that some cylinders had been recorded in the village (again, cylinders are not recorded at Wartling's only block in the report), but I forgot to make a note of the exact location, and so I was unable to find them.
I retraced my steps and headed south down to Pevensey, where 3 blocks are listed east of the famous castle.
Nothing remains of these blocks except for this solitary buoy situated outside the Pevensey Memorial Hall, probably one of the 9 at the block to the west of Pevensey Bridge.
I had time to cycle through Pevensey, past the castle and into Westham (pronounced "West Ham" not "Westam"), where another 3 sites awaited inspection. Again, no evidence to be found, but being on the ground you get a much better appreciation of the tactical situation than you can get by looking at a map alone.
Out of the 473 listed roadblock sites in the East Sussex Divisional area, I covered 11 today - not a bad start.
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.
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.
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.
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 (1) - Rickney/Pevensey (2019) Available at: http://wwww.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216556/ Accessed: 20 November 2019
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