WWII concrete blocks at Hemsby are being used to stop coastal erosion

WWII concrete blocks at Hemsby are being used to stop coastal erosion

Photo story (Clockwise from top left): (1) WWII concrete blocks and new concrete blocks at Hemsby are being used to stop coastal erosion (2) WWII concrete blocks moved into position to help prevent severe coastal erosion (3) WWII lookout points were used for the British defense against a possible enemy invasion; built in 1940 & into 1941 (4) One of the surviving WWII pillboxes on Hemsby beach.

In response to the invasion threats by German forces in 1940 & 1941, an extensive field defenses and fortifications were constructed all over UK, especially in southern region. These defense facilities were mainly focused on the coastline. Beaches were barricaded with barbed wire entanglements, wide ranging minefields, thousands of 5 feet to a side anti tank concrete cubes, different types of road blocking concrete blocks, trenches, various types of guard posts and pillboxes were constructed. The hardened fortification & works FW3 program was set up under the direction of Major General G B O Taylor in 1940. The massive program was carried out within a very short period of time. The fortifications were a great moral boost after the British Expeditionary Forces were driven back by the invading Germans from North Western France and Belgium in May 1940.

Few remains of pillboxes and concrete structures are the reminiscences of Britain’s WWII anti invasion defense lines. Around 28,000 field fortifications and pillboxes were constructed in UK. About 6,500 of those still survive. Modern constructions and erosion destroyed many of the WWII concrete blocks and pillboxes. Many fortifications at the coast have sunk into the sandy beaches where they were built or tumbled into the sea. One of the most unusual features of Hemsby beach in Norfolk is the scattered anti tank concrete blocks. Coastal erosion is a major problem for Hemsby beaches. Its sand dunes have been heavily eroded for the past two years. North Norfolk had a headland in 1610 called Winterton Ness which has almost entirely disappeared now through the coastal erosion. Online edition of renowned British regional daily newspaper, Eastern Daily Press reported that the surviving WWII concrete blocks had been moved into position on Hemsby beach to help prevent the coastal erosion.

Last month’s storms caused devastating impact to the Hemsby beachfront and one man was even compelled to be evacuated from his home, a wooden chalet, on 4th October 2013. Campaigners have called for installing concrete blocks along the sand dunes. They said that they had paid privately for beach defenses and were already having an impact. The campaigners said instead of being corroded away with each tide or the wind, sand is being held behind the concrete blocks.

The evacuated man remains in temporary bed & breakfast arrangements in Great Yarmouth. But it had been written to Hemsby residents by the Great Yarmouth Borough Council that the remaining homes were safe for now. Borough Councilor, Shirley Weymouth said that despite the considerable beach losses, no other properties on the Marrams were in imminent risk or required urgent evacuation. He further said that whilst the council was not able to provide compensation for lost belongings or properties, it could offer help and support.

Geoffrey Watling Trust, which owns Hemsby beach, funded construction of concrete blocks to save the coastline. Campaigner for Save Hemsby Costline group, Lorna Bevan Thompson said that the concrete blocks were ‘working well already’. WWII concrete blocks were also positioned once again as part of a defense line, this time against the fury of nature.

Funds have been increased for saving Hemsby, from £18,000 to over £21,000. Leader of borough council, Councilor Trevor Wainwright said that the 20 erosion threatened coastal properties on the Marrams were not at imminent risk ‘providing current erosion rate doesn’t increase’. Residents anxious about their residence on the seafront are recommended to call environmental health helpline of borough council on 01493 846478, or to call emergency police on 101.

Video story: Relics and ruins of the WWII concrete blocks and ground fortifications at Norfolk, UK as part of the anti invasion defenses.

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE