Beaches, Fields, Streets, and Hills: The Anti-Invasion Landscapes of England, 1940 (CBA Research Reports) Paperback – 16 May 2006
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This book presents the results of a two-year project to examine the 1940/41 anti-invasion landscapes of England. Combining extensive documentary research with fieldwork, sixty-seven defence areas were examined in detail, establishing the strategy and coherence of the original defence and analysing this in relation to the surviving structures. A particular emphasis has been placed on the differing landscapes in which the defence works were built, showing how in many cases the topography assisted the defence and how natural features were used to give strength and concealment to defence positions. Three major strategies are represented - those of coastal defence, inland stop line defence, and area defence. The introduction provides an overview of the whole subject, and sets out the differing types of defence works, the various strategies of defence, and the resources available for study. Attention has been given to dispelling various misconceptions that are still prevalent concerning the nature of these defences and their purpose.The defence works are presented within their historic background, explaining, for example, why some defence works have survived while the great majority have been destroyed. The book identifies the need today not only for the preservation of individual examples but of complete landscapes of defence where different types of structures have survived in good condition and are publicly accessible. An important component of the book are the maps which have been created to show the defence works for each of the 67 areas, using a system of symbols that was specially developed for the project.
Top customer reviews
Illustrated with reproduced clear Ordnance Survey maps, but dotted with a mixture of confusing symbols [at certain locations placed inaccurate, whilst others say pillboxes "exsist" where they do not!]
This book is written in a clear and precise manner, which makes both of its follow ups a shock,a great shame that the author changes his style of writing.
Book could have done with colour photos and certainly better binding as i my copy appears to be starting to come apart,if anything else it will at least make a good doorstop!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The invasion of the UK never took place. Instead, the invasion of France occurred in 1944. By then, most of the fixed defenses that had been built in the UK were, for the most part abandoned and forgotten. In a few cases, some of the structures were utilized for more peaceful purposes, ranging from farm storage to public shelters.
In the early 1980s, an enterprising amateur historian named Henry Will brought to the attention of the general public the historical significance and the place in history of these structures. After all, it is not facetious to say that their importance and need for notation can rival that of Dover Castle or the Tower of London. Both of these fortifications were also built to protect the UK, but were never actually tested. In 1985, he published a small volume entitled Pillboxes - A Study of UK Defenses, 1940, which provided an historical context for the defensive structures as well as a rudimentary attempt to catalog the extant remains. Mr. Wills' efforts stimulated interest in the subject and additional privates and government sponsored surveys were undertaken.
This culminated with the English Heritage funded Defence of Britain Project which between 1995 and 2002 attempted to record all known military defense sites. From this and other surveys, it is estimated that some 28,000 pillboxes and other hardened field fortifications were constructed in the United Kingdom of which about 6,500 still exist.
Beaches, Fields, Streets, And Hills...: The Anti-invasion Landscapes of England, 1940 published by English Heritage provides an overview of a number of sites and scores of remains in southern and eastern England. After providing a context for the construction programs and a brief overview of the types of structures built, this 658 page volumes becomes a site gazetteer, showing then and now photos of the structures themselves, directions and how to find the items and comment as to their status. Local maps are included with the various defensive works marked and annotated with grid coordinates.
It is in this aspect that the one fault in the book exists. While there are two or three maps at the beginning that show the locations of the surviving works on a national map, this is not done for the more detailed itemization by location. Instead, one is presented with local maps of areas of a few square miles or less.
This is a significant failing. I have to believe that few Britons would be able to recognize where a majority of these sites are based on the descriptions given. Someone coming to try and find these sites from another country would have to be prepared to ask directions repeatedly.
But, for those students of fortifications and of the summer of 1940, this is the premier source of information.
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