England: Coastal areas prepares for invasion

The government wanted to avoid a mass movement of refugees if invasion came. A leaflet issued to every household in the potential invasion areas of southern England in August 1940.

The government wanted to avoid a mass movement of refugees if invasion came. A leaflet issued to every household in the potential invasion areas of southern England in August 1940.

Bren gun carriers of 53rd Striking Force, Royal Armoured Corps, passing through a town in southern England, 9 August 1940.

Bren gun carriers of 53rd Striking Force, Royal Armoured Corps, passing through a town in southern England, 9 August 1940.

The ‘invasion scare’ in England was now at its height. The prospect of a German invasion was taken very seriously by everyone. Military fortifications were being built all along the south coast as well as many other coastal locations around Britain. Although there was some confidence that the Germans would have to win air superiority first, the possibility of a surprise attack could not be discounted.

After the refugee crisis in France, which had blocked many roads and impeded military movements, the government wanted to avoid the same situation arising if the invasion came.

In Lindfield, a village in Sussex in southern England, sixty-six year old Miss Helena Hall was noting almost everything in her diary:

August 5th Monday

The leaflet Stay where you are was in the letter box this morning. Copies are being delivered by the postmen to every house in the country. At 7.30 a company of Scots were being drilled on the Common opposite my house. I took a snapshot from the front door and did not care to go closer for I think it is not allowable to take snapshots of the military, harmless though the scene is …

Concrete emplacements are being built in many places now, chiefly at crossroads to make motor or other traffic difficult. There is quite a collection of them at Sussex Square where the road crosses the Scaynes Hill, Ditchling, Lindfield and Haywards Heath roads. I should think the barriers would also impede our own motor units, like many ideas it will hit both ways.

August 6th Tuesday

The US have declined to send food to the hungry peoples of Europe which would only undo our blockade, much as we dislike helping to starve those we regard as friends and hope still to benefit. No doubt Americans will find it just as hard as we do….

The red Cross of Lorraine, the emblem carried by Joan of Arc, has been adopted by General de Gaulle for his forces in addition to the national flag. Warships will fly the Tricolour at the stern and the Cross of Lorraine at the bows.

Before going to see Jock in the Eye Hospital this afternoon I went down to Brighton sea front to see if the rumour current here that the piers or one of them had been blown up for our own defence was true or not. Both the piers are standing but in the middle of each a space has been made by blowing up. Palace Pier was blown last night, West Pier early this morning. It is a clever piece of work, for any one going on to the pier, or landing at the sea end, could not possibly see the vacant place.

If therefore the Germans did try the landing stages they would not get far without disaster. One can hardly recognize Brighton beach, at this time of year usually crowded with holiday folk all gay and happy.

And now there is first, nearest the sea a line of barbed wire festooned entanglements supported at intervals on posts. Next on the flat beach there are mines, all fairly close to one another, circular with white tops, then another line of barbed wire similar to the other.

The place was alive with soldiers, some laying the mines. In one place were a number of blocks, wood I should think, painted white and in red letters ‘danger, laid mines’. Along the sea front in several places are erections with holes on all sides, obviously for men to shoot from.

Shops are holding their sales just the same, but one misses the usual crowds.

See A Woman Living in the Shadow of the Second World War: Helena Hall’s Journal from the Home Front

See also 12 July 1940 for another Helena Hunt Diary entry.

UK-FLAG
US FLAG
The second side of a leaflet issued to every household in the potential invasion areas of southern England in August 1940.

The second side of a leaflet issued to every household in the potential invasion areas of southern England in August 1940.

Pillbox camouflaged as a car in Felixstowe, 24 August 1940.

Pillbox camouflaged as a car in Felixstowe, 24 August 1940.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steve Barrett July 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm

The photo of the Bren gun carriers passing the milkbar is taken in Amesbury, Wiltshire. The Milkbar building is still there (although with a different use today), as is The George Hotel.

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: