Posted: 13 May 2012 18:31
An interpretation board that reconstructs part of the coastal defences of Sussex has been erected on the beach at Bexhill.
The board is one panel of three that stands at Glyne Gap railway arch (by the Ravenside Retail Park) and depicts the scene on Little Galley Hill as it might have looked during Operation Diver in 1944.
A new path has been laid across the hill as part of the Bulverhythe Coastal Link, a pedestrian/cycle route between Bexhill and Hastings, using funding from the lottery, cycle charity Sustrans and East Sussex County Council. It was the latter that invited me to have some input into a panel entitled 'Little Galley Hill in wartime' that features a fantastic artist's impression of the defences.
I already had a significant amount of information for this area from 1940-41, but involvement in this project prompted me to delve deeper into the post-invasion story.
A brief sortie into secondary sources proved disappointing; one recorded a troop of four Bofors guns at Glyne Gap during 'Diver', but this location turned out to have been incorrectly identified from an official wartime photograph. I turned to the documents instead.
I soon began striking lucky as I uncovered the history of the hill (which is only 500m wide and 70m deep), which included the emplacement of a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun on the hill in 1942.
Further research in a war diary revealed details of a tip-and-run raid in early 1943 that saw the gun firing five rounds at three Focke-Wulf 190s, without success. On another occasion, the emplacement was machine-gunned twice in fifteen minutes by Focke-Wulfs and Me109s; no damage was done.
I also uncovered a 'Diver' position of six Bofors on the hill itself, some of which are included in the artist's impression.
Unfortunately, there was far too much information to be included on the panel in the end and so only the key points made it to the final product. However, just observing the reactions of passers-by to this new addition to their environment was encouraging; it was stimulating interest! It's a great example of how wartime heritage can be included in a wider project that also interprets the local landcsape, and flora and fauna etc.
This, for me, is an excellent way to raise awareness of wartime activity amongst a wider audience that doesn't yet realise how interested it actually is in the subject. The relative anonymity of wartime defence works is such that, without interpretation, to most people, they have no significance.
That is why I regard this interpretation board as such a positive step - I'm currently involved in another panel elsewhere in East Sussex and I hope to see more in place in the coming years to stimulate greater interest in the subject.
I won't say anything more about the Bexhill panel for now as it would ruin your enjoyment if you were intending to visit.
However, if you are planning to find yourself in that neck of the woods at low tide, then look out for the assortment of dragon's teeth down amongst the rocks; these came from the line depicted on the panel.
If you're not able/wanting to visit, then you'll have to wait a bit longer before I spill some more beans!
Anti-tanks blocks, popularly known as dragon's teeth. Not to be confused with smaller blocks known as pimples, cubes can be upwards of 1m square. Many examples in Sussex have apexes or chamfered edges, leading to them being incorrectly recorded as coffins.
The plan to defend the UK against the German V1 Flying Bomb, which was codenamed Diver. Diver defences comprised barrage balloons and anti-aircraft guns, initially situated in the Kentish Gun Belt. The guns were later moved to the coast. Aircraft were coordinated with both phases of gun belt defence.
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 New interpretation board unveiled (2020) Available at: http://www.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216697/ Accessed: 13 July 2020
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