Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Let Them Speak For Themselves - A Survey of 20th Century Military Structures

(All images were taken by me, if you are using them a bit of credit would be greatly appreciated)

With the end of the A Town Unearthed project our thoughts have turned to our latest community venture which is completely different from what has gone on before! The project is called Let Them Speak For Themselves and is an element of the Up On The Downs project set to run until 2017. Up On The Downs is a partnership project hosted by Dover District Council. Although it has a focus on environmental conservation there are heritage elements built into it, mostly to do with recording and conserving monuments which have been neglected over the years.

The Let Them Speak For Themselves element focuses on the 20th century military structures in the area. Of which there are a lot! Most of these are incorrectly located on maps (or not located at all), they haven't been visited in years and are deteriorating or have been demolished altogether. We intend to gather a group of volunteers, train them up and send them out there looking for these monuments so we can not only accurately map them, but also survey their condition. Litter, vegetation, and graffiti are causing problems to the longevity of these places and we would like to know how bad it's getting. We'd also like to know if these structures are being used by bats or other wildlife. There are plans to do some remedial work on clearing up and repairing the monuments so future generations can enjoy them too.

Our plan is to train up the volunteers through a training day on Little Farthingloe Farm in Dover which boasts a large number of the structures we're after (and conveniently belongs to our Outreach and Archive Manager, Andrew Richardson). So last weekend we went on a walk around the farm to plan our day and to have a look at what's going on.

This is our first monument. It's a Dover Quad style pillbox which was never finished. The Dover Quad style is unique to Dover with 22 surviving examples, 2 of which were never finished and both of them are on Andrew's farm. Complete examples are shown further below. You can see what I mean about vegetation problems!

Here is the second of the unfinished Quad's. A little less overgrown but that tree growing in the doorway will need attention before it tears the brickwork apart!

On to the next and it's a Type 24. Interestingly none of the pillboxes we saw on our walk had an anti-ricochet wall on the inside. Adaptations in the field were not uncommon, but I know if I had to defend one I'd be more comfortable knowing that the bullets weren't going to be whizzing around on the inside!


Here you can see the ivy growing up the outside of the building.

On our travels we stopped by this First World War gun emplacement. There was a debout on this hill somewhere but it has since been demolished and records on it's exact location are a bit scant.

The next Dover Quad style in immaculate condition.

I know the light on this photo is terrible but you may just be able to make out the white 'A' painted on the left hand side of the doorway. The overhang on the roof would have provided fantastic cover from aerial surveillance, and you might notice that many of these photos have vegetation growing on the top. Perfect! Unfortunately the overhang and wide embrasures acted as a death trap for anyone inside being attacked from the sides as bullets could be ricocheted into the pillbox off the concrete. As already mentioned this style was not long lived!

Here's another Type 24. They are very similar to Type 22's from the front but Type 24's have a flatter back allowing for 2 flanking windows covering the doorway (as you can see from the picture of the previous one above). I've added some images from the inside looking out up the valley towards Folkestone and across the chalk downland.

The view over Dover as we descended off the hill. You can just see the Castle in the background. To the left of the castle are the Swingate Towers built as part of the radar network in the Second World War. Without them the Battle of Britain might have been lost. The hill to the right is Western Heights, the largest 19th century fort in the world with some fantastic Napoleonic features. It was heavily adapted in both World Wars and is well worth a look if you are ever passing.

Our next Dover Quad was somewhat buried beneath the blackthorn!

The big concrete slab is the roof and you can see from the other photo that this is a popular spot for a party! Some of this litter has been here for months and we hope to come and clear all this up in the future.

Another Dover Quad. Andrew says he found someone living in this one a while back. It happens, which is why we want to see if damage is being caused by this sort of interaction.

This time we are on the other side of the valley heading up to the anti-aircraft battery on the western edge of the Western Heights.

And we make it to the battery! This is the ammunition store.

Heavily graffiti-ed inside and out. I did take some images of the inside for my records but the language is not really suitable for public consumption. There are 4 circular gun emplacements up there and you can still see the sockets where the guns were bolted to the floor.

Every 2 guns would have 1 ammunition storage facility. These are quite run down with litter and more obscene graffiti, but if you look closely enough you can see traces of the original graffiti drawn all those years ago!

In the centre there is a command centre which still has the original paintwork on the inside and metal blast doors. Again the condition is appalling and doesn't smell to sweet either!

So there you have the plan for our new project. If you want to sign up for a training day and come on the walk yourself then e-mail me annie.partridge@canterburytrust.co.uk the days are on Saturday April 20th and Thursday April 25th. Places are limited so get in quick!

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