We are working hard towards the completion of our story covering the battle of the cross channel guns in September 1944. This must have been quite a spectacle to witness; with the German batteries at Noire Mottes, Haringzelles and Framezelle, 11 guns- firing shells onto Dover & Folkestone despite the advancing Canadian army moving up from Boulogne trying to capture them. Our four main heavy guns commanded by both the Royal Marine Siege Regiment and the 540th Coastal Artillery Regiment, did terrific work in sending shells back by return! This cross channel pounding covered some 24 miles in range with our 14 & 15 inch shells hitting the German casemates and putting out of action Turm Bruno at Lindemann and Turm 3 at Battery Todt. The Germans would lob 11 massive shells over at us in salvo and we would return the complement by lobbing back 4 of our own in salvo. We were outgunned but on the whole the more accurate in shooting. While the German Batteries largely remain albeit in various states of ruin there is virtually nothing left to show where once our great coastal guns roared. More coming shortly on completion of our research and a new page added to this website.
We have been side tracked slightly with new information concerning some of the research we conducted some time ago; in particular new information has come to light about the full extent of Fortress Tonbridge. A recently discovered pillbox has prompted much more research into the towns defences during WW2 and this has brought fascinating information about the Anti Tank Ditch that surrounded the west of the town plus further concrete structures since demolished. It also seems that had the German's landed and taken Tonbridge for occupation then both Tonbridge Castle and the School may well have been "Nazified" into important HQ centres. We will be updating our Fortress Tonbridge page shortly together with photographs of how the Nazi's may well have portrayed the aforementioned buildings.
Secondly, new information has been offered to us about the large HQ bunker under Reigate Hill and how it may have been connected to a large radio station that was built in the grounds of the old Victorian fort at the top of the hill. New plans have been unearthed of the underground bunker and some new information located in the National Archives. We hope to bring more to this story in the coming weeks as it seems that the bunker is definitely still there albeit fully sealed and in accessible today. Another field survey might be needed!
Lastly: work is progressing on our much delayed article on the British Coastal Guns around Dover. Much of the survey work is complete and we hope to be able to publish our new illustrated article very soon.
Good news though in the form of a large number of re enactment events happening this summer and these are always great entertainment and a source of valuable imagery.
Again thanks to our readers who offer material to us and please keep it coming we love to hear from you all..............Steve
Having completed the story of HMS Forward in Newhaven it felt right to publish a few words about other known underground bunkers in southern England. Our new page on such details what is known about the sites at Dover, Reigate, Sarre and the smaller deep shelters. A fascinating profile emerges about just what a digging frenzy it was at the outbreak of WW2 with various tunneling companies hastily hollowing out the earth seeking various modes of protection and today most of these sites are still there albeit long forgotten.
Thanks to one of our readers for feeding us new information on Fortress Tonbridge and in particular the location of the pillboxes that once formed the perimeter of the defensive stop line. This was largely brought about by the recent discovery of a pillbox unearthed in the grounds of Tonbridge School and its location can be plotted on the wartime map seen in our article. We will publish new photographs together with updated information when we have a full account of all the emerging facts.
We await the Spring and another trip to France is pending in March with the aim of surveying further battlefield sites from both wars. We expect to bring more new articles to this website as the year unfolds; thanks again to all our readers and please keep passing on your discoveries and questions to us. Steve and the Team
January is always a depressing month but has afforded us time to tie off some lose ends and revisit the archives for material that should have been used long ago; in this case it has all been about underground bunkers. Our new page on the story behind HMS Forward in South Heighton near Newhaven has just been published. HMS Forward has been known about for 25 years really, since its rediscovery by members of the Newhaven Historical Society back in 1992. It was about the time that we were researching the Tunbridge Wells bunker and immediately it became clear that the two were very similar in construction; in fact even built by the very same men, 172nd tunneling company in 1941. This coincidence lead us to ask the question, how many more are out there? We now know that five underground HQ bunkers were built in south eastern England; from the largest under Dover Castle then Reigate, Tunbridge Wells, South Heighton and finally the smallest at Sarre. Dover, Tunbridge Wells and South Heighton are now well documented but what of Reigate and Sarre?
Well that is where we are at right now. Our new page on these remaining underground HQ bunkers is in preparation and will be linked with the HMS Forward page very soon. In the mean time if any of our readers know of any large, long forgotten underground bunkers near them we would love to know more? Steve Sullivan
What a great year we have had at blighty-at-war and a special thank you to all of our readers round the world both in praise of support and the many comments and suggestions that have followed our articles after publication. Our main success this year has probably been the work undertaken on the Dieppe raid and the support we received from Prof. David O'Keefe in Canada. A special thank you to him for his unselfish offer of the material that now appears on our Dieppe Raid page.
The year has seen us tramping around gun battery sites in Dover, gun battery sites in France, scouting for lost V1 launching sites in France and meeting up with our French friends battling to restore Fort De La Creche. We have seen the centenary of Passchendaele from WW1 and for us marked exactly 100yrs since the loss of a family relative at Langemarck. While we note the passing of old soldiers and the anniversaries of conflicts past the world is still notably shackled by further wars and the deaths of young men and women fighting for something somewhere; perhaps Humans are just not capable of living together in peace even in the technological 21st Century.
New pages coming soon are the completion of HMS Forward at Newhaven and the story of the Crowborough V1 incident that killed nine Canadian soldiers in July 1944. We are also much over due for an upgrade to the site to allow additional media to be posted to strengthen our articles.
Next year see's the big event for WW1 with the commemorations for the wars end in November 2018; no doubt that will get lots of coverage in the press.
And finally, seasonal greetings and a prosperous New Year to you all from the team at blighty-at-war.net
Two projects are under way; Our recent trip to Dieppe and the photographing of various sites around the town pertinent to the 1942 raid has been very successful. We will be putting up a new page very soon with the results. But as always there is so much more and time did not allow us to revisit all the sites where wartime photographs exist. Another trip will be undertaken in the spring.
Nearer home we are working on Flying Bomb incidents again and one in particular has proved worthy of a story in itself The incident has been well publicised in the past and centres around the catastrophic deaths of nine Canadian soldiers on the most banal of places, a golf course in Crowborough, Sussex. A monument has stood there since 1948 and the town has always done much to keep the memory of the event alive for future generations. The point though is how good an illustration this is of the selectivity of death the V1 threat posed and it is this that created the real terror aspect of this weapon. The flying bomb was bound for London and may or may not have caused death upon it's arrival; instead it hit open countryside some 50 miles short of it's target and by a twist of fate, landed on a Canadian tented camp; Nine were killed and 16 wounded.
We will post the full article very soon.
It is becoming ever more noticeable that the French are waking up to the history remaining in their countryside. Though much still is lost and being constantly lost as the years go by little victories can be found in the oddest of places. On our recent trip we managed to survey and photograph newly discovered flying bomb launch sites, gun emplacement bunkers, anti aircraft batteries, secret weapon factories and strange chunks of concrete emerging from fields whose purpose has long since been erased. The victories come in the most unexpected areas; for instance we are use to locating the remains of flying bomb launch sites by accurate map reading, wartime photo recon. pictures and hearsay, so imagine the surprise when a sign by the road side points to "The V1 Flying Bomb Site".
This revelation came about in Normandy when searching for hidden sites in the Foret d' Ewy just south of Dieppe. The site turned out to be really well preserved and is called Val Ygot. There is even a plastic model of a flying bomb on a ramp poised for launch; we had the place to ourselves on our visit. The French are history minded when they want to be and this place is well worth the confusing drive round the small forest roads. We will post up some pictures on our Flying Bomb Page in due course.
One of our aims was to conduct a "Then & Now" photo-survey on the Dieppe Raid and in glorious warm weather we embarked upon a tour of the town searching for modern views of old wartime photographs taken after the tragic raid in August 1942. Surprisingly some turned out to be almost perfect matches but Dieppe has undergone massive change in the intervening 75 years making some comparisons meaningless. What must be said though and with much appreciation to the French for us British Subjects, are the fantastic monuments and information panels erected along both Red and White Beaches written in both French and English; for here in Dieppe the memory of all those young lost lives has not been forgotten and is kept forever alive. Thank you Dieppe.
Updated and new pages coming soon on blighty-at-war.net
Its been a particularly good summer for military re enactments and i recall that in just two weeks i traveled through some 200 years of military campaigning, from the 95th Rifles at Waterloo to the shanty back streets of Mogadishu with US mopping up Troops. My experience with the 95th Rifles was particularly memorable and as with all these events once the comedy of witnessing one of Wellington's men stuff a species of Samsung device into his tunic for safe keeping one can learn much from these dedicated fellows.
I much enjoyed a chat with a Captain of the 95th Rifles who gave me a guided tour of his accoutrements before ending with the handling of his Baker Rifle replica; at this point i blew my luck and mentioned the forbidden "S" word! The Captain would i am sure, have lashed me to the gun carriage had he been able too for saying the blasphemous word. It was of course "Sharpe" in reference to the fictitious character created by the writer Bernard Cornwell. Richard Sharpe played by the actor Sean Bean, was the hero of the Sharpe's Rifles TV series. Putting myself in the good Captains shoes i guess he gets the same response where ever he travels and was understandably quite sick of the tag allotted to him by over keen idiots like me. Laughing and walking briskly away i couldn't help letting lose a reprimand myself by way of whistling that little tune, "King George commands and we obey, over the hills and far away.......".
Keep your powder dry lads and thanks for the show...................Steve
I understand that the French will be doing us proud with a large remembrance parade in Dieppe on the 75th anniversary this coming Saturday. Would like to be there but not possible; however we will be visiting the town for an extensive photo "then and now" trip in September and a visit to the many important field and beach sites around the town. A poignant "must" is the beach at Puys, where so many young Canadian lives were snuffed out. Since completing our Dieppe Raid page more material has surfaced including a copy of the Battle Plan for the raid. Together with our anticipated visit photographs we will update the page with new material upon our return in October.
While on the subject of the Dieppe Raid we would like to expressly thank David O' Keefe for sending us documentation that he had discovered in the National Archives at Kew. David, a Canadian Military Historian and Film Maker published a book in 2013 "One Day In August" which sets out his well researched findings on the truth behind the raid. Sadly the book is not available in the UK; but it is available from the USA if one searches hard enough and our copy was bought in Oregon. The plug for Davids book is well deserved for anyone wishing to learn more about the secrets of the Dieppe Raid.
"One Day In August" David O'Keefe. Published By Alfred A. Knopf, Canada 2013.
We are currently gathering material to complete our page on the Naval underground bunker at Newhaven, East Sussex. The bunker has been very well researched in the past by members of the Newhaven Historical Society Museum and this has resulted in both a book and DVD Video about the history of the site. A few years ago we were privileged to make two authorised visits to the bunker and to extensively photograph the interior, this was at a time when hopes were high for the site to be opened to the public as a tourist attraction administered by Newhaven Museum; alas ownership and political problems intervened and this never happened nor will it now sadly, ever happen. We felt that the bunker's history should be included on our website and illustrated by the photographs that we took. So with the help and acknowledgement of the members of Newhaven Museum we will be completing and publishing the history of this important and fascinating underground complex very soon. More follows............Steve
Steve is a retired photography teacher and now works as a military historian while living in East Sussex, England.