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Thread: Whitford Anti Tank Island – Devon – Dec 2011

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    Arrow Whitford Anti Tank Island – Devon – Dec 2011


    For a general history and purpose of the AT Islands and Stoplines, see these threads;

    https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?t=20427

    https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?t=19380

    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.

    Whitford ATI is very small, occupying an area of only 600 x 300 yards, and is located to the east of both the village and the River Axe. As was the norm, it utilized part of the Taunton Stopline in its western flank. The immediately obvious oddity is the small number of PBs and the lack of any AT gun emplacements but this can be explained when you study the area and the planned defensive strategy.

    All that was being defended here was the crossing of the River Axe by German armour via Whitford bridge. Once denied the crossing the Germans would have been faced with a lengthy detour around as an assault on prepared defences by infantry alone would have been a waste of time and resources. The tanks would have pulled back expecting artillery fire and our two pounders would have been brought up from reserve at Musbury to annoy them.

    The area almost defends itself once Whitford bridge is blown. Okay I’m simplifying that a bit but the end result would most likely have been a German detour.

    There were 6 pillboxes 2 road blocks plus troop deployments and the usual ditches, scarping, wire etc. but no 6 pounder gun emplacements.

    AT cubes are shown on the original plans running along the east bank of the river for a short stretch south from Whitford bridge but are not apparent on the ground now. I also couldn’t find any on the west bank even though the DOB gives a record of one, S0001410. There is something at the location given though. It’s a 3 foot square cube of concrete, half buried with a 8 inch diameter hole in the top and water occupying whatever space there is inside. A metal rectangular cover is lying nearby and this object would probably be more correctly related to the Water authority.

    There were also no dedicated Vickers boxes indicated either. This little ATI just got interesting, better go have a look.

    Whitford ATI 1940/1



    Plotted GE mapshot, not all sites are extant.



    GE map shots legend

    Orange – AT ditches
    Yellow – Scarping
    White – AT posts
    Blue – Barbed wire
    Black – Railway
    Light blue – Canal
    Brown – AT Cubes

    S RD 65 – Road block, probably horizontal rail type - 50°45'11.80"N, 3° 2'49.91"W

    There is no evidence of the road block which would almost certainly have been a horizontal rail type. The current Whitford bridge looks like a modern replacement so I wasn’t really expecting any finds.

    The original bridge designated as Brigade Section ‘F’, bridge serial no. 38, was scheduled for deferred demolition thus - ‘Mines abutment, 3 cutting charges. 252 lbs ammonal, 256 lbs G.C. The timeframe for rigging was 14 hours and would be carried out by 2 NCO’s. There was a strict procedure and codeword system in place to authorize the demolition of any bridge, which I’ll go into another time.

    S 66 – Type 22 PB modified – S0001408 - 50°45'8.33"N, 3° 2'48.91"W

    A possible correction for the Capn as this is given as a Type 24 on the DOB overlay.

    The annexe was added to this Stopline pillbox as part of the ATI “all round defence’ strategy. Inside, the original box was cramped due to the size of the anti ricochet wall, and the 1’6” thick walls make this a somewhat less than shell proof hideout. Still, any port in a storm.












    For reference, S 67 – Type 24 - S0001409 – removed - 50°45'2.88"N, 3° 2'47.80"W

    T RD B 50 – Road block, Salisbury type – 50°45'7.22"N, 3° 2'33.25"W

    There are two cubes, one S0001411, where the DOB says it is and another buried in the hedge at 50°45'07.0"N, 3°02'33.13"W. The road block itself would have been a hairpin/vertical rail/AT mines array and was located on the eastern flank of the ATI.



    The new one is difficult to see in this pic but it’s there alright.



    S 65 – Type 24 – S0001407 - 50°45'9.16"N, 3° 2'38.86"W

    In the grounds of a private allotment and converted to a storage shed. No point in venturing in on this occasion.



    S 64 – Type 24 modified – S0001280 - 50°45'13.42"N, 3° 2'47.10"W

    Note how the large embrasure in the annexe is missing its hinged metal shutter. It’s also been flooded at some point judging from the floor and it’s right on the river bank

















    Annexe entrance



    T 140 - Type 24, modified – EDOBID: 24314 - 50°45'13.40"N, 3° 2'39.60"W

    Built for the ATI as indicated by the ‘T’ prefix, this PB has the large embrasure as part of the design rather than included in an ‘added’ annexe to an existing TSL pillbox. It was obviously desirable to allow for both LMG and MMG fire from any one box and this armament strategy is common to other ATI’s on the line.





    Bad decorators have been at work which is surprising given how well hidden the box is.







    There’s been a fair bit of debate down here about exactly what weapon this type of embrasure was intended for. Personally, I think Vickers but I’ve struggled up to now to find a suitable mounting to allow it to be in a correct firing position in the space available. The standard tripod wouldn’t fit in my opinion and the pivot for the gun is too far back to prevent over-traversing the embrasure.

    The purpose built mounting in this pic from the Imperial War Museum collection demonstrates how at least the 'fit' issue was overcome, although the traverse would need to be restricted on the mount plate. The later Turnbull mounts better achieved this of course but were not in service when the ATI was built.



    For comparison;



    If this mounting was available when the ATI was built then it could also have been a reason to not build separate MMG pillboxes. Cement was in short supply at the time and the policy was to avoid unnecessary construction.

    T 141 – Type 24 – planned location 50°45'8.47"N, 3° 2'44.11"W - removed or never built and I would be interested to see if the Capn can find it on one of his older maps just so we know.

    Enough from me for now, thanks for looking in. :)
    .................................................. ............................................
    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: highcannons, jonney, karltrowitz, krela, Malcog, night crawler, oldscrote, RichCooper, Skoyen89, Tarron, TeeJF, Winch It In
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    You came to Whitford? Oi! Get orf my laaand!!!

    Hee. Joking aside, great report Munchh. Did you take half a field home on your boots? I know I did. ;):)
    "...If we lose our spiritual bond with the land they'll be nothing left of us as a nation..." Phil Rickman.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Foxylady View Post
    You came to Whitford? Oi! Get orf my laaand!!!

    Hee. Joking aside, great report Munchh. Did you take half a field home on your boots? I know I did. ;):)
    Yes I had a work related task near Musbury and had scoped out Whitford earlier in the year and I couldn't help myself. Was that you then, trying to run me down in the tractor? hehe

    I got plastered mate! And Devon mud clings like sh*t to a blanket.

    Seaton to Colyford, how ready are you? looks like a gentle stroll along the river

    By the by Foxy, nothing much going on at Rodney Rendells at the moment I note.
    .................................................. ............................................
    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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    Ah thank you Munchh,just as Sunday was getting a bit boring along you come with a nice bit of concrete porn.Good to see some original iron work left as well.
    To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain always a child....Cicero

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    Quote Originally Posted by oldscrote View Post
    Ah thank you Munchh,just as Sunday was getting a bit boring along you come with a nice bit of concrete porn.Good to see some original iron work left as well.
    Cheers oldscrote but you know you're not supposed to unwrap your present until Sunday morning. Go to the naughty step immediately
    .................................................. ............................................
    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

  10. Thanks given by: oldscrote
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    Nice report thanks mate.Makes an interesting read

  12. Thanks given by: Munchh
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    Superb report as ever full of information which puts me to shame. :)
    May the shadow of Murphy never darken your door."
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  14. Thanks given by: Munchh
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    Quote Originally Posted by night crawler View Post
    Superb report as ever full of information which puts me to shame. :)
    Thanks NC, your back catalogue speaks for itself so no shame. We all concentrate on the aspects that most interest us, one of mine is discovering as much about what I'm looking at as I can. I'm also happy to pass this on as accurately as possible whenever I can, I think that's the whole point. :)
    .................................................. ............................................
    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

  16. Thanks given by: night crawler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Munchh View Post
    Seaton to Colyford, how ready are you? looks like a gentle stroll along the river
    Pfft! Piece of cake! ;) That's if you like swimming in muck & cow dung, sinking into a bog which looks like grass but isn't, crawling under barbed wire and getting your hair caught and yanked out by the barbs, literally walking through a hedge, braving a road which drivers think is a race track and jumping into the brambles and getting scratched to buggery. Climbing over gates and walking 7 miles several times was the easy part!

    How about Colyford to Axminster? I haven't done that bit, apart from a couple the other side of Axe Bridge, Whitford and the 6 pounder at Axminster. It'll probably have it's own set of horrors, but at least it'll be a change of scenery with different horrors! I think I might manage Seaton to Colyford again, but I might moan a bit. ;)

    Ah, I wondered about Rodney Rendells. It might be worth a revisit, as it's good for a leisurely meander. :)
    "...If we lose our spiritual bond with the land they'll be nothing left of us as a nation..." Phil Rickman.

    I can't read and I can't write, but that don't really matter,
    I come from the west country and I can drive a tractor.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Foxylady View Post
    How about Colyford to Axminster? I haven't done that bit, apart from a couple the other side of Axe Bridge, Whitford and the 6 pounder at Axminster. It'll probably have it's own set of horrors, but at least it'll be a change of scenery with different horrors!)
    If anything its worse!

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