Posted: 24 July 2008 21:05
Today saw me drive out to Rye; I set out with grand ideas of covering about 20 roadblocks in Winchelsea, Rye and Camber.
In the event, I covered far fewer and didn't find the time to stop in Winchelsea.
I've recently found that if I remove the front wheel and saddle from my bike, it will fit in my car boot with the back seats folded down; I parked up at Rye Harbour with the intention of riding to multiple locations in Rye and Camber.
This proved to be the correct strategy, as I had forgotten a few key points, namely that it was the school holidays, it was very hot and sunny and that Camber Sands is well-known for its very sandy beaches and dunes - the roads were absolutely choked with cars.
Cycling through Rye to the road bridge over the River Rother, I found a solitary cylinder and then got slightly side-tracked by the promise of this Type 22 pillbox on the river bank between the road bridge and the railway bridge seen in the background.
The path along this bank was shut when I passed this way on my cycle ride along the Royal Military Canal, and so I made a mental note to return. The entrance was too overgrown for somebody wearing shorts to enter, so I walked a bit further to the pedestrian crossing over the railway line at the western end of the bridge; this was the site of a rail block, although no trace was to be found.
Heading back to the road bridge and crossing it, I found a convenient path that lead out to Camber, cutting a few corners. It seemed to follow the route of an old light railway that was removed sometime after the war.
Another interesting distraction was this pillbox, which is of a design common about Rye and slightly less suicidal than the Vickers Guns pillboxes down at the harbour entrance. The interior was full of rubbish, dead rabbits and showed signs of a fire having been set at some point in the past.
Making haste along the route through Camber, I wanted to get out as far as a roadblock location at Jury's Gap, but I pulled up about 1km short, realising that I wasn't going to have the time/energy to get back and cover more of the Rye blocks.
I stopped opposite Broomhill Farm, where a pair of brick/concrete tanks for the sea flame barrages lie behind the bank upon which the road runs.
This stretch also has about 50-60 buoys along it; unfortunately, the roadblock report doesn't list a block near this point, so either these buoys came from a redundant block to here to help protect the barrages or else the block had already been abandoned and forgotten about when the survey was done.
I turned back towards Camber to visit a site listed in the Defence of Britain database.
At the entrance to the central car park is this magnificent array of blocks, including a pair of buttresses, which are the blocks that hold horizontal rails by means of the slots and sockets.
Just a short distance away at the beachhead is this enormous cube, a lone survivor in the gap between two buildings.
Unfortunately these two sites are not listed in the report, probably because they are blocking beach exits which was a mandatory policy.
I headed back to Rye to tick a few more sites off my list; I know I missed out a few as I planned today's itinerary in a hurry and a bit more mapwork would have helped.
My final site was the series of pimples at Playden:
This is still the most impressive outcrop of pimples I've seen; although they're not seemingly part of a roadblock per se, I couldn't resist stopping off on my way back from a roadblock site further up the road.
I also took a quick trip to the nearby cemetery where I found three graves of men from the regiment defending the Rye sector in 1940. A quick scan of my records shows that I don't have the war diary for their battalion that includes their dates of death, which means it was either missing in the archives or else I didn't finish browsing the file - I'll have to check up on this next time I'm at Kew.
I'm not sure of today's total of roadblock sites - it may have only been five, but I also visited several sites that were not listed in the report and in terrain that was mostly unfamiliar to me.
I'll need to undertake another visit to mop up the missing sites, but today gained me important knowledge of the landscape which will be of much use in future.
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.
Generic term for a hardened field defensive structure usually constructed from concrete and/or masonry. Pillboxes were built in numerous types and variants depending on location and role.
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.
Incendiary coastal defence work wherbey oil is pumped from tanks along a pipe network, released onto the surface of the sea and set aflame.
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.
A small hexagonal pillbox for six men not commonly seen in East Sussex, though a few still survive along the Royal Military Canal stop line.
A record of events kept by all units from the point of mobilisation. A diary's contents vary enormously from unit to unit; some give detailed entries by the hour on a daily basis while others merely summarise events on a weekly/monthly basis.
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Hibbs, Peter Roadblock recce (3) - Rye/Camber (2019) Available at: http://wwww.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216558/ Accessed: 20 November 2019
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