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Thread: Taunton Stopline/AxminsterAT Island – Devon - August 2011, pic heavy

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    Arrow Taunton Stopline/AxminsterAT Island – Devon - August 2011, pic heavy


    Taunton Stopline – Weycroft – Apr/Aug 2011

    Axminster ATI cont. – Devon - August 2011



    History

    “A World War 2 anti-invasion stop line, facing west, built between July and November 1940.
    The stop line runs for approximately 50 miles from the mouth of River Brue to the mouth of the River Axe in Devon (with some infrastructure in Dorset). Some rear positions were prepared to the E of line. It connected to the ‘GHQ Line Green’ running East along River Brue.

    The line followed the River Parrett to Bridgwater where it joined the Bridgwater to Taunton Canal. From Creech St Michael it followed the old Chard Canal until SW of Ilton where it joined the Great Western Railway. The line left the GWR to the north of Chard Junction from where it followed the Southern Railway and River Axe running south into Devon.

    The planned infrastructure (most of which was built) included 233 pillboxes, 61 medium machine gun emplacements, 21 anti-tank gun emplacements, 83 road blocks, 22 railway blocks and 46 demolitions.

    The anti-tank obstacle consisted of about 24 miles of waterways, 7 miles of improved water obstacles, 11 miles of anti-tank ditches and 8 miles of artificial obstacles (eg cubes).

    From autumn 1940, twelve locations were prepared for all-round defence as ‘anti-tank islands’ of which 9 were in Somerset - Bridgwater, Durston, Creech St Michael, Wrantage and Crimson Hill, Ilton, Ilminster, Chard, Forton and Perry Street.”

    The defences in this report are from the north west corner of the Axminster ATI in Devon and also the TSL north of Axminster at Weycroft Mill. The headings contain the original 1940 serial numbers for each PB along with its type and GPS fixed location. DOB numbers are also given for reference where available.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    My thanks and acknowledgment once again to Krela for providing the photos of the original construction plans and other 1940/1941 documentation included in this report.

    The perimeter of the ATI forms a complete enclosure and incorporates the Taunton stopline on its western side. This meant construction of additional pillboxes, roadblocks etc was required to the east. This work was subsequently completed during 1941 although work could have started as early as Dec 1940.



    These are the defences I’ve plotted so far from the original engineers plans. There may be others to be included later and obviously not all sites are extant.

    On the map below, the existing TSL defences are shown in green with the additions for the ATI in red. The pillboxes shown coloured in are the ones built at the time of marking up the maps. There are other pillboxes shown on the full map as ‘projected but not built’ and these show the triangle marker as an outline only. The date on this particular section of map is 10th Jan 1941.

    Still, you can’t judge the defensive strategy for any area just from 2D maps. You have to get out in the field and look at the geography etc in the flesh.

    I’ve been to this area several times since April and the photos are from two of these visits.

    Axminster ATI NW corner Jan 1941



    Axminster ATI NW corner Aug 2011



    GE map shots legend

    Orange – AT ditches
    Yellow – Scarping
    White – AT posts
    Blue – Barbed wire
    Brown – AT Cubes
    Magenta – possible firing lines




    On the opposite side of the railway to the position given for S 40 is something interesting which I actually took to be S 40 until I got close up. Whatever it is, it’s heavily overgrown and needs a winter revisit. These are my notes for this structure – ‘Type 26?? - maybe. Prefab construction of similar size to a type 26 but brief external inspection inconclusive. Also a smaller prefab to the right of it. These look more railway related. The build plans show the box on the other side of the line.’







    The DOB database has S 40 listed as removed which is probably correct. S 39 is also removed.

    S 38 – Pillbox, type 26 – S0001304 - 50°47'20.49"N, 2°59'42.51"W





    T 120 – Pillbox, type 24, elevated – S0001232 - 50°47'20.14"N, 2°59'41.94"W







    T RL B 24 – Railway Gates and AT cubes - not recorded on DOB - 50°47'20.73"N, 2°59'42.61"W





    Sometime between Sept 1940 and Jan 1941, a new design of roadblock was established. The TSL Road and Rail blocks (actually referred to as Railway Gates) were of the horizontal RSJ type easily identified by the large slotted concrete blocks at either side. There is a theory that railway gates on dual track lines had a third central block, which makes sense, but I don’t know for sure. Maybe someone else does?

    The new block is referred to as the ‘Salisbury’ type. Given that the ATI roadblocks I’ve visited around Axminster are ‘Hairpin’ or vertical rail arrays, It’s a fair assumption that ‘Salisbury’ type was either the original or official name for this type of block. There may also have been several configurations of hairpins, vertical rails, mines etc specific to location. I’ve certainly seen more than one type of array.



    One of the reasons why finding this type of block is rare now is that they’re often buried below successive layers of new road surface.

    T RD B 28 – Road block – S0001346 - 50°47'20.32"N, 2°59'40.90"W

    From the DOB - Description: 05/08/1996 20 concrete anti-tank obstacle insertion sockets in road surface - area 8ft wide by 31ft in length.

    Today, only one is visible although it does have it’s cover.






    S RD 57 - Road block - and Bridge serial no. E 34, prepared for demolition - .;




    .................................................. .................................................. ...........................

    Weycroft

    Situated just north of Axminster is the Village of Weycroft. The Mill is listed as a defended building on the DOB database. The TSL is in evidence to the west and east of it.

    Nov 1940



    Aug 2011



    Starting from the west;

    S 34 – Pillbox, type 24 – S0001220 - 50°47'40.22"N, 2°59'16.39"W almost directly below the bridge demolition on the bank of the river







    S 35 – Pillbox, type 22 – S0016298 - 50°47'37.77"N, 2°59'15.65"W



    S 37 – Pillbox, type 26 - S0001349 - 50°47'32.84"N, 2°59'28.02"W







    S RL 27a – Railway Gates/ block – S0016430 - 50°47'33.62"N, 2°59'27.62"W







    S RL 27 - Railway Gates/block – S0016271 - 50°47'40.43"N, 2°59'17.13"W – and Bridge serial no. E 33 – S0016398 – Prepared for demolition



    Large gathering of AT cubes opposite the mill viewed from near to S 34



    And to the east;

    S 33 – Pillbox, type 22 – S0016346 - 50°47'40.70"N, 2°59'1.00"W

    The anti-ricochet wall was a tight fit to the entrance and generally looked too big for the box. It also knows what it’s number is.











    S 30 – Pillbox, type 24 – S0001227 - 50°47'46.90"N, 2°58'53.40"W







    S 29 – Pillbox, type 24 – S0001228 - 50°47'47.82"N, 2°58'44.74"W





    SV 6 – Vickers MMG – S0016302 - 50°47'47.50"N, 2°58'40.40"W

    The approach to the Vickers boxes is formidable





    View from the main embrasure





    destroyed gun table



    SV 5 - Vickers MMG – S0001234 - 50°47'48.24"N, 2°58'38.67"W







    S RD 56- Road block - S0016348 - and Bridge serial no. E 32 – S0016393,
    Prepared for demolition.




    Throughout the TSL key rail and road bridges were marked and prepared for demolition. These were either final or deferred demolitions depending on the status of any invasion. Alert response time was anywhere between 1 and 4 hours, the latter where members of the Home Guard were involved. All of the logistics planning is also committed to paper in the files Krela provided. There’s a staggering amount of information in this data set, far too much to post here in one chunk. So I hope you don’t mind the piecemeal snippets.

    Thanks for reading this, hope you enjoyed. :):)
    .................................................. ............................................
    A diplomat is someone who can tell you to 'sod off' in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.
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    Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen

  2. Thanks given by: Andymacg, chizyramone, devonian42, Lolpeacock, oldscrote, RichCooper, sYnc_below, TeeJF, tigger2, Walrus75, Winch It In
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    Brilliant report as usual Munchh well reserched and as yiiu say worth a revisit in the winter.:)
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    Cracking stuff as usual there mate, mighty fine report and some great pillboxes

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    Thats one hell of a report Munnchy !! Thanx for all the research !!:)

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    First class report Munchh, Excellent set of pics aswell.

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    Top class report and some great photos.

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    Excellent work, Munchh. That must have taken a lot of graft covering it in detail like that. :)

    Oddly enough, I'm going over that way to explore something else plus take pics of the mill whilst there...preferably today, if I can get my act together. I didn't realise the mill was defended. Those AT Cubes are amazing...must see those.

    The possible, rail-related prefab might be a Plate Layer's Hut, btw.
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    Thanks for your comments guys. :)






    Quote Originally Posted by Foxylady View Post
    Excellent work, Munchh. That must have taken a lot of graft covering it in detail like that. :)

    Oddly enough, I'm going over that way to explore something else plus take pics of the mill whilst there...preferably today, if I can get my act together. I didn't realise the mill was defended. Those AT Cubes are amazing...must see those.

    The possible, rail-related prefab might be a Plate Layer's Hut, btw.
    Ah Foxy you know exactly how much graft it takes. :)

    You might ask the Mill owners for history. I'm taking the DOB's word that it was defended as I haven't looked into it in detail.

    There are public footpaths to both sides of the A358 at the Mill which give access to most remains. Watch the road there though. The lights on the bridge make it a starting grid. Hope you can get close up pics of the cubes.

    The prefabs do look like huts to me so I think you're probably right. Thanks :)
    .................................................. ............................................
    A diplomat is someone who can tell you to 'sod off' in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.
    .................................................. ............................................
    Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen

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    Another fine job Munchh, I'm looking forward to more. Whilst perusing the DoB overlay making corrections where needed I noticed that three lots of anti tank posts had been incorrectly typed as anti landing poles so I corrected those too.
    It was me I ate all the pies.

    My Defence of Britain overlay for Google Earth - Download it here.

  13. Thanks given by: Munchh
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