Coastal & anti invasion defences

The following items ,not all defences, although most are not actually in Holford, they would have played at part in Holfords defence and would certainly added to the overall influence the Second World War had on Holford in general. These items are either in Holford or are the closest examples to Holford, there are many more throughout West Somerset and beyond. Added to this section a couple are post war military sites.
 
Lilstock Beach Pillbox
Built in 1940. Understood to have also been used as a observation post for the bombing training range in the channel by the RAF
 

LHS 

Centre 

RHS 

 View from inside

Pillbox Entrance (inside)

Looking Right

Looking Centre 

Looking Left 

Pillbox Entrance (outside)

 
 
Anti Aircraft Guns
The gun park on the Doniford cliffs.    From 1925 to 1939, thousands of soldiers trained there for the defence of Britain.
Doniford Camp Doniford - Aerial photographs of c.1946 show clearly two hexagonal concrete emplacements for heavy anti-aircraft (HAA) guns. The number and location of these indicate that they were for training. The emplacements are shown on Ordnance Survey mapping of the 1960s but have been removed on more recent maps and aerial photographs.
 
Aircraft Obstruction
 
Blue Anchor Bay - Second World War aircraft obstructions are visible as linear alignments of posts on aerial photographs taken in 1942. The post alignments are located in Blue Anchor Bay and centred at ST 0103 4435. They cover an area that roughly measures 3100 by 420m and which is orientated northwest/southeast. The aircraft obstructions also continue northwest towards Minehead. The posts are constructed of wood and are placed about 8m apart in a network of parallel and perpendicular alignments. The obstructions were placed here to prevent enemy aircraft landing on this stretch of coast which is extremely tidal. The aircraft obstructions were not visible on aerial photographs taken in 1947.
Minehead - Second World War beach defence and aircraft obstructions, visible as rows of linear post alignments, were mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1942. Located along the beach and intertidal area between Minehead harbour and Dunster Beach, the feature consists of three rows of upright alignments of tall wooden posts running parallel with the beach, with further rows perpendicular to the seafront, creating a grid. These features were designed to fatally damage German gliders or boats in the event of an invasion, preventing aircraft from landing at low tide and trapping landing craft at high tide. Although aerial photographs show that the alignments were continuous, the coverage did not allow complete mapping of the features. The posts were no longer visible in 1947. A field visit in 1996 located no traces of the structures.
 
Anti Tank Obstacles
Minehead - Groynes and Second World War anti-tank obstacles, Minehead - Photographs in the National Monuments Record (dated 1946, copy in HER files) and on RAF vertical photographs of c1947 show two groynes with a series of tall concrete tetrahedra on the top, presumably part of the Second World War beach defences.  Now destroyed by new sea defences. Four Second World War anti-tank and beach obstacles, visible as structures, were mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1941. Located over 12.5 metres in a single line along the linear stone groyne opposite the Metropole Hotel on Minehead's Esplanade, the four obstacles were used to deny tanks an exit from the beach. Four Second World War anti-tank and beach obstacles, visible as structures, were mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1941. Located over 10 metres in two staggered rows along slipway opposite the Red Lion public house on Minehead's Quay Street, the four obstacles were used to deny tanks an exit from the beach. A groyne is visible on photographs in the National Monuments Record (dated 1946) and on RAF vertical photographs of c1947 with a series of tall concrete tetrahedra on the top, presumably part of the Second World War beach defences. Four Second World War anti-tank and beach obstacles, visible as structures, were mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1941. Located in a line over 12 metres along the curvilinear stone groyne opposite the Promenade Hotel on Minehead's Esplanade, the four obstacles were used to deny tanks an exit from the beach.  Constructed of concrete, they are pyramidal in shape with a base about 1.9 metres by 1.4 metres, their appearance lending them the nickname 'dragons' teeth' or 'pimples'. Extant in 1950, the structures were no longer visible in 1970.
 
Auxiliary Unit Patrols
Stowey & Spaxton Patrols are the nearest known Patrols, no information is known about either of these.
 
Auxciliary Unit Hides
Staple Plain & Steart - The remains of an elephant shelter survives in Staple plantation at about ST 114412. It comprises a pit 12 feet square containing corrugated iron and an old stove. It was used by forestry workers after the war. There is a rumour of a hide at Steart, this is unconfirmed.
 
Searchlight Site
West Quantoxhead - Searchlight site of 89th Searchlight Regiment based at St Audries camp in 1942. There were two Nissen huts to the E and slit trenches dug in the ridge above. Documents in the National Archives indicate that in 1943 searchlight site CLB2 (St Audries) of 493 SL Bty of 76 SL Regt was listed at ST 1047 4274. The site was associated with the RAF night fighter station at Colerne and was part of the 1943 'Fighter Box' deployment of searchlights. The HQ of 493 SL Bty was at Crowcombe Court. Searchlight site of 89th Searchlight Regiment based at St Audries camp in 1942. The crew were housed at Bidwell Farm.
Minehead - The records of the Minehead coast battery record the delivery of a searchlight and it is shown on the local defence plan as standing at the end of the stub of the partly demolished pier
 
Beach Defence
Blue Anchor Bay - An amendment to the Somerset Coast Defence Plan issued in December 1940 lists a 4-in naval gun in a beach defence role at Blue Anchor Bay at T478649 (Casini grid: calculates to NGR ST 0396 4347). The gun was part of 952 (Static) Battery of 11 Defence Regiment Royal Artillery and was the only beach defence gun listed in Somerset. The role of these guns was to engage enemy transports, landing craft or other targets on landing beaches. Naval guns in the beach defence role were returned to the Royal Navy in December 1941 and this gun position does not appear in later coast defence plans.
The battery war diary survives in the National Archives:
7/1/1941. One NCO plus 10 men move from Braunton to Blue Anchor Bay. One 4" QF naval gun taken over from AA Doniford practice camp (probably delivered there rather than one of their weapons) and mounted at the E end of Blue Anchor beach. Gun reported "in action" at 1600 hrs.
22/4/1941 Two rounds of case shot fired from the 4" gun at Blue Anchor in the presence of SOME [Senior Ordnance Mechanical Engineer] Southern Command for the purpose of investigating lead fouling of the bore caused by this ammunition.
2/1/1942. 4" gun at Blue Anchor dismounted and forwarded to GMO Coventry [Gun Mounting Officer, Royal Navy]
 
Bomb Craters
A landmine fell in the fields below Wibble Farm at ST098417, the blast removed tiles and brought down ceilings in Staple Farmhouse. A crater is visible on RAF aerial photos of c1946 at ST 0948 4163. It has been infilled on later photographs. A landmine fell, creating a crater 50ft wide and 20 ft deep. The possible crater is visible on RAF vertical aerial photographs of c1946 with a cleared area around it and a trackway cut to it through the trees from the NNW. A large circular depression lies on the western edge of the Greenway spur. It measures 5.3m in diameter and 1.3m deep, and has a slight rim of 'upcast' material around it. The feature is probably a crater resulting from the explosion of a bomb and may date from the Second World War.
 
Range Quadrant Hut (Royal Navy)
 
 
 
 
 
The site is not shown on the RAF vertical aerial photographs of c1946. The "hut" has the appearance of an aircraft control tower with a large glazed room on the top. It appears to be still in use.
 
Bombing Range Marker
Wall Common, Stogursey - Two large arrows cut into the surface of the ground at the E end of Wall Common. The smaller of the two lies to the W and has a triangular mark at its base as well as four small square marks. It is orientated to the N. The second larger arrow has two parallel strips at its base and two small square features, pointing slightly E of N. These features possibly represent the remains of a bombing range associated with the shipwreck on Stert Flats. A building shown on the 1962 Ordnance Survey map is possibly associated. It is not shown on the 1982 Ordnance Survey map. Similar arrows are located on Brean Down and to the W at Lilstock. In July 2000 only the base of the larger arrow was visible, the sea defences having been moved inland. Probing suggests that the head of the arrow survives beneath the track. The body of the arrow is 2.5m wide but only the central 1m is not covered by sand. There was no sign of the smaller arrow. The base of the building survives, raised on brick columns with a brick staircase leading to it.
 
Air raid Shelters
Minehead - Two Second World War air raid shelters, visible as structures were mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1941. Located along the centre of The Parade in Minehead, the two rectangular air raid shelters, sited 47 metres apart and aligned E-W, are 11.3 metres long and 3.7 metres wide and with entrances on the E end, each entranceway/exit protected by a blast wall 3.7 metres long and 0.6 metres thick. The two structures were no longer visible in 1946. A Second World War air raid shelter, visible as a structure, was mapped from aerial photographs taken in 1941. Located on The Avenue in Minehead, the rectangular air raid shelter is aligned E-W, 11 metres long and 3.6 metres wide with an entrance on the E end, the entranceway/exit protected by a blast wall 3.7 metres long and 0.6 metres thick. The structure was no longer visible in 1946.
 
Coast Artillary Battery
A harbour defence gun emplacement survives in poor condition at SS 9720 4712. The battery is recorded as being located at SS972470 in PRO source of 13 October 1941 which also records the armament as two 4 inch ex-naval guns. It is likely to have opened earlier as a source of 29 October 1940 records the troops as 400 CA battery. It does not appear in Dobinson's list of sites decommissioned in November 1943 which may suggest it went out of use earlier. 400 bty CA RA took over the battery from 51st Heavy Regt RA under the operational command of CFD Portland. The battery was part of 20 Coast Artillery Group which was established at Instow in Nov/Dec 1940 and renamed 558 Coast Regiment RA from 1/6/1941.In Nov 1941 a large party from Minehead is recorded as helping with potato crop on a government farm. Plan of local defences prepared in Sept 1941.
400 bty. War diary Dec 1940 - March 1941. 4/12/40: "The battery position consists of two guns and emplacements disguised as small houses, which also contain the two duty watch shelters, and a separate BOP on the quay at Minehead Harbour. Billets are in a loft over a large coal shed at the entrance to the quay and in the Pier Hotel about 40yds away."
March 1941. AA searchlight arrived. Shed requisitioned for engine room, construction work continues.
War diary 558 Coast Regt RA Jan-Oct 1942. At Instow.
1/2/42. "The two 4" BL Naval guns, mountings and ammunition at Minehead (400) Bty. were removed being urgently needed for return to the navy."
April. 400 bty transferred to 523 Regt and moving to Helford River.
Second World War structures built into the walk way of the parapet wall, which include two blocked embrasures and a concrete pad. The embrasures survive as low rectangular openings which are now blocked, with projecting concrete lintels. The easterly one is 1.35m wide by 0.76m high while the westerly one is 1.9m high by 0.68m wide. 2m to the east of the small embrasure there is the remains of a roughly shuttered concrete pad with a single course of bricks on its surface. The face of the existing walkway appears to form the rear of the feature with the pad extending 650mm in front of it to the south west. It currently forms a low platform 200m high by some 7m long.
 
Tank Firing Range
 
 Tank range by Kilton (RAF 106G/UK/738 3019). English Heritage (NMR) RAF Photography
Communication Building
 Communication Building
 Communication Building
 Bricked up window (1970's)
 Communication Building inside
Kilton - The triangular track of a tank range is visible on aerial photographs of c.1946. A firing range, probably for tanks or heavy artillery, is situated on the coast to the north west of Kilton village. The site has been recorded on aerial photographs but appears to have been completely dismantled. It was part of No.42 Bridgwater Bay (Lilstock) RAF Range, which was used for live bombing training controlled by RAF Weston Zoyland. It is depicted on a map of ranges held at the RAF Museum at Hendon. The remains of buildings and a track, in the form of an isosceles triangle, measuring 400m by 300m, with the apex pointing out to sea, are situated on the cliff edge. They are centred at ST 1553 4461. Two winch huts, still visible at the points at the base of the triangle, were used to propel a board around the triangle to provide oblique and direct, oncoming and going, targets. The range is almost certainly on the cliff so that, rather than close off a large chunk of land, boats could be used to warn off any sea traffic in the vicinity. A large disturbed area is situated to the south of the base of the triangular target area, perhaps associated with the tanks or heavy artillery at the site but probably to do with the dismantling of the site which appears to have begun in 1945. Parts of this area of the site are visible as cropmarks on later photography. The support camp, centred at ST 1620 4387, for the site is situated 885m to the south west on the outskirts of the village of Kilton. The camp and the range are linked by a track which is still in use and is centred at ST 1582 4416. An open area, since planted, in Kilton Park Wood, suggest it may have been used as cover for buildings or activities associated with the range. 
The site was surveyed using differential GPS at 1:1000 scale during the EH survey of the Quantock Hills AONB. The site comprises two elements: the remains of the accommodation buildings and the stance for the tanks, centred at ST 1620 4387, and the communications buildings on the site of the target railway, centred at ST 1545 4442. The remains of the accommodation buildings lie in the field immediately to the west of West Kilton Farm. They comprise rectangular concrete bases for buildings such as Nissen huts and other accommodation. Some of the bases are in rather poor condition and most are used for storing materials such as wood, hardcore and tyres. A long rectangular base, 30m by 5m, and a base 11m by 5m on the south of the complex were the main sleeping quarters for tank crews undergoing training. Nine bases to the west of this included the kitchen, mess room, wash room and the staff accommodation. A small base to the north was a coal store and the remains of a septic tank lie at the northwest edge of the site. The base of a further accommodation building, 6m square, lies at ST 1625 4399. At ST 1615 4388 is a small brick building, 3.8m by 3.6m standing 4m high with a cast concrete roof. The entrance is to the south and there are window openings on the west and east sides. Metal rungs fixed onto the east side give access to the roof. There are louvered openings just below roof level and a vent pipe in the northeast corner. This may have been a fuel store. A small brick tank lies to the west of this building. At ST 1621 4387 a large concrete base, 25m by 10m, now part of a silage clamp, was the base for a large workshop. Five to north a large irregular concrete stance, 40m by 30m, now covered with a dump of paper pulp, was the area where tanks fired from. A small brick building lies immediately to the north of this. It is 2.5m square, 2.5m high with a large window opening in the north wall which looks over the target railway. The entrance was on the south wall. This building was a communication post and was linked by phone with the buildings at the target railway. The tanks at West Kilton Farm fired at a target railway some 900m to the northwest. Its course can be clearly seen on 1947 RAF vertical air photographs. The targets ran around a triangular track which was protected by a massive bank of earth and stone. After the war the bank was bulldozed flat and the fields put back to agricultural use. Three of the four buildings associated with this remain. At ST 1545 4442 is a single storey brick building, 6m by 3m, with a cast concrete roof. There are window openings in the east wall and a large doorway in the west wall. Some 400m to the northeast, at ST 1547 4445, is a brick building, 2.5m square, with window openings in the north and south walls, a doorway in the north wall and a cast concrete roof. At ST 1571 4459 is a similar building. Nothing remains of the building which can be seen on air photographs at ST 1573 4461. The buildings were linked by telephone to the site at West Kilton Farm and functioned as observation and communication posts. A raised track linked the West Kilton Farm site with the target railway; sometimes tanks were taken into Kilton Park Wood and a raised track ran from just northwest of Park Barn to the north edge of the wood. These tracks remain and are used for access to the fields. The militiary remains lie within earthwork enclosures which are part of the shrunken medieval settlement of Kilton.
Three buildings survive from the ranges at Kilton. There are two to the W, a large and a small and a single small building to the E. The two smaller buildings appear to be at either end of one side of the triangular track suggesting that they were used for target moving. Each has a door to the N and a small window suggesting fire from the S. There is also a small window in the side wall of each that faces the other. The larger building has a door in its W end and two windows in the E wall.
Two brick built structures survive from the ranges at Kilton
 
Air Gunnery Training Site
Doniford - A gun emplacement exclusively for training survives in poor condition. Part of the Doniford ranges. Parts of the Doniford World War II training ranges have been recorded on aerial photographs taken in 1945. Few of the structures on the photographs are still extant. The main range of buildings, including what appears to be a number of gun emplacements, appears to be those situated on the cliff edge, just north of Doniford Farm. These are centred at ST 0848 4302. A number of other structures are visible to the west of this along the cliff edge and another concentration of buildings and emplacements is situated between the cliff and the Memorial Ground just east of Watchet. These are centred at ST 0774 4331. Within this complex are a circular cut feature adjacent to a bank defined structure situated on the cliff edge. It is likely these features relate to the army camp but they could be earlier structures. These are centred at ST 0780 4339 and ST 0779 4338. Two large (c.3m diameter x 1m) lumps of concrete lie on the beach at ST08444304 and ST08624305. They are presumably the remains of gun hold-fasts that have eroded from the cliff top. The western most has broken and the remains of an iron framework is visible within. See also The Military at Doniford
Anti-aircraft guns on the cliff top, Gun Park range at Doniford, c.1930.
 
Gun laying Radar
Doniford - A strange dome shaped building was erected tight under the railway bridge ramp. It was known as the OFC (Official Fire Control) at the time but was actually a radar, used for teaching as part of the artillery ranges. The dome remained for many years after the war. A circular concrete platform is visible on modern aerial photographs and Ordnance Survey maps.
 
Military Camp
Alfoxton Park Holford - RAF vertical aerial photographs of c1946 show several military-style buildings in the park. The remains of an army camp, understood to be US Army and Nurses and a searchlight position lie to the east of Alfoxton Manor at ST 1505 4154. The remains of the army camp comprise two groups of concrete bases and a large rubble platform, linked by a track. Most of the concrete bases are now used for the storage of manure and other agricultural materials; the track is used for agricultural purposes. To the west of the track are seven concrete pads. Five of these are 22m by 6m, the southernmost base is 9m by 6m; the seventh is fragmentary. On the east side of the track and opposite this group of concrete bases is a large rubble platform measuring 28m by 15m. This is probably the remains of demolition rubble. At the northern end of the track are nine concrete bases. Six are 9m by 4m; three are 15m by 6m. Two small concrete bases, 5m by 4m and 4m by 2m, lie some 150m to the southeast of these concrete bases, just to the north of the road to Alfoxton Manor. The remains of a searchlight position are represented by two ploughed over circular mounds to the southwest of the concrete bases. One is 16m in diameter and 1m high, the other is 10m in diameter and 0.8m high.
 
Range Observation Post
Kilve Pill -  The building was demolished in the early part of 1995 and the site covered and seeded.
A small brick-built structure with concrete roof on a small platform below the cliff top. There is a door to the rear (south) and large window to the other three sides. The RAF vertical aerial photographs of c1947 show the structure newly built and also show that the platform was a deliberate construction, perhaps to shield the structure from fire from the south. {2}   A World War II lookout post or pillbox is situated on the cliff to the east of Kilve Pill. It is one in a series of costal defensive structures around the natural harbours of Kilve and Lilstock. This structure is situated on an artificial ledge cut into the cliff and has a bank behind it. It has been recorded on aerial photographs. It was still in situ in 1974 but does not appear on the 2002 OS 1:10,000 scale map base.
 
Rifle Range
Lilstock - Targets and 1-600 yard markers shown on OS first edition. Not shown on 2nd editon.
 
Military Transport Site
St. Audries - There was a Vehicle Immobilisation Park in the forestry plantation just to the east of the Deer Park Bridge. The plantation appears to be solid trees on the RAF vertical photography of c1947 but there are possible vehicles (or small structures) in a fenced area to the N of the road.
 
Royal Observer Corps (ROC) Underground Observation Post
Holford - A ROC monitoring post appears to survive in good condition at the rear of a small parking area.The post (22/L.1 Holford) was opened in September 1938 and eqiuped with warning flares for high ground (codename 'Granite' a system of coloured flares and rockets deployed by the Royal Observer Corps to warn aircraft of high ground in fog and mist. In certain parts of the country the flares were used to steer fogbound aircraft to FIDO equipped airfields.) and radio direction for lost aircraft (codename 'Darky' RAF a backup system in case the other systems were broken or the operator of the other direction finding systems was dead. Using his radio, on 6.440 MHz the pilot could be talked back to his home base) in 1942. The post was renumbered 9/A.2 in November 1953 and the underground post constructed in June 1962. Still in use in 1975. The site, which was closed in September 1991, has been vandalised but is still accessible, although slightly flooded. There is a small metal frame within the compound which supports a revolving pole with a metal grid with muslin stretched over it. A similar feature, observed at Trawsfynedd in North Wales, was suggested as monitoring equipment for fall out from the nearby nuclear power station. A structure is visible on the RAF vertical aerial photographs on c1946. The remains of an ROC underground monitoring post for nuclear fallout can be seen at ST 1619 4285. They comprise the entry shaft, air shaft and post for the mounting of the ground zero indicator. The bunker was built in the 1950s and continued in use until the end of the Cold War. An ROC observation post, built in the Second World close to this locality, has been demolished and no remains could be observed.
 
Trenches
Beacon Hill West Quantoxhead - To the south of the barrow are about 6 square earth-banked enclosures thought to be trenches dug by the Home Guard.
 
Courtesy of Somerset Historic Environment Record - Somerset County Council
 
 
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