Record Details

NHER Number:42103
Type of record:Monument
Name:World War Two coastal defences and military activity


A World War Two military site, comprising coastal defences such as lines of barbed wire and anti-tank scaffolding on the beach, a minefield, a probable rifle range, defensive structures such as pillboxes and clusters of ancillary huts and tents, is visible as a group of buildings, structures and earthworks on aerial photographs dating from 1940 onwards. The site stretched across a large expanse of Horsey dunes, encompassing an area stretching from the inter-tidal zone to the drained grassland 500m inland. Most of the structures associated with the site lay along its southeast side, protecting Horsey Gap and the track leading inland from it. Warren Farm, now part of Waxham Sands Holiday Park at the north corner of the site, may have been a secondary focus of military activity. It should be noted that the line of defences continued along the coast to the northwest (e.g. NHER 42101) and southeast (NHER 42104) and that consequently the division of these defences into discrete sites is somewhat arbitrary. None of the site is visible on more recent aerial photographs and it is likely that most elements were removed and/or levelled soon after the end of the war.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 4624 2427
Map Sheet:TG42SE

Full description

October 2005. Norfolk NMP.
A World War Two military site comprising coastal defences and ancillary structures such as huts and tents is visible as a group of buildings, structures and earthworks on 1940s and later aerial photographs (S1), (S2), (S3), (S4), (S5), (S6) and (S7), centred at TG 4622 2430. It formed part of a continuous line of defences stretching along the coastline, for example NHER 42104 recorded immediately to the southeast. The division of these defences into discrete archaeological sites is consequently somewhat arbitrary; the site described here comprises those defences and ancillary installations visible between Warren Farm (now part of Waxham Sands Holiday Park) and Horsey Gap. The vulnerability of the latter in the event of an invasion is reflected in the clustering of military structures around the gap itself and the track leading to it, although, more prosaically, this is likely to also reflect its comparative accessibility to vehicles.

Aerial photographs taken in 1940, (S1), (S2), (S3) and (S4), indicate that most elements of the site had been put in place during the early years of the war. Barriers of barbed wire or anti-tank scaffolding were erected on the beach in front of Horsey Gap (at TG 4652 2429) and to its northwest (at TG 4632 2452). (The location of these barriers is approximate as they could not be mapped from rectified parts of the relevant aerial photographs, (S3)). These are not visible on aerial photographs taken in August 1940 (S1) and were perhaps constructed during the following month (they are first visible in September of that year, (S3)). By 1946 (S5) they had been replaced by a more continuous line of scaffolding which extended for some distance in either direction along the beach (this is recorded as NHER 42105). Two small structures visible on the beach (at TG 4637 2443) on the 1940 aerial photographs may have been tents or could have been more permanent, as something may also be visible here in 1946 (S5). On the dunes immediately behind the beach a minefield is visible on the 1940 aerial photographs as multiple lines of disturbed ground lying parallel to the coast (its approximate area has been mapped). Parallel banks to the northwest (NHER 42102) may be a continuation of this defence. A possible structure, such as a pillbox, lay within the minefield (at TG 4609 2462). To the southeast of Horsey Gap were a group of probable gun emplacements (at TG 4647 2419) and a group of three structures and earthworks (centred at TG 4656 2419) including a square building, perhaps another pillbox, and what was probably an earth-covered structure, perhaps an air raid shelter.

Behind Horsey Gap, in the area now occupied by a car park, were a group of huts, tents and other structures, also visible in 1940, which probably served ancillary functions, e.g. providing accommodation for the military personnel manning the site. A polygonal structure at TG 4637 2410 may have been another pillbox. To the southwest, at what was presumably the entrance to the site (at TG 4618 2389) was a second cluster of structures, some of which probably controlled access to the site. They included a possible row of anti-tank blocks or tents at TG 4619 2390, and what may have been a small aerial tower or mast at TG 4622 2392, perhaps used for radio communication. Marks in the vegetation, centred at TG 4624 2395, may have been created by the former presence of tents or other temporary structures, or by scrub clearance.

Across the rough grassland to the northwest of the track, evidence of relatively lightly scattered military activity is visible on the 1940 and later aerial photographs, in the form of pits, possible craters, minor trackways, etc. These have not been mapped individually. Some of these features may have resulted from military training activity. Various structures or buildings are also visible across the centre of this area (e.g. at TG 4613 2428) but their function is not known. Two probable pillboxes are evident at TG 4619 2445 and TG 4627 2436, and a probable slit trench at TG 4628 2432. Two parallel banks, each flanked by a ditch, visible at TG 4600 2415 and TG 4598 2412 by 1946 (S5) may have been a rifle range. They lay 40 yards (approximately 36.5m) apart, a standard distance for rifle shooting. Although they could pre-date World War Two (the 1940 aerial photographs are rather unclear for this area) they appear to have been fairly fresh earthworks in 1946 suggesting that they were constructed during the war. At the northern corner of the site, disturbed ground suggesting military activity is visible around Warren Farm on the 1940 aerial photographs, the approximate extent of which has been mapped (centred at TG 4600 2457). This may indicate that the farm was at least partially requisitioned. A possible military structure is visible within this area, at TG 4592 2458.

Few of the structures and installations visible on the 1940 aerial photographs are visible on those taken in 1946 and later, suggesting that most were demolished, removed or levelled before or soon after the end of the war. While there is little evidence on modern aerial photographs that any part of the site remains visible on the ground, however, encroachment by sand dunes and/or scrub may have concealed surviving elements.
S. Tremlett (NMP), 25 October 2005.

Monument Types

  • ACCOMMODATION HUT? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • AIR RAID SHELTER? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • ANTI TANK BLOCK? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BARBED WIRE OBSTRUCTION (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BEACH DEFENCE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BEACH SCAFFOLDING (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • GUN EMPLACEMENT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • HUT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY BUILDING (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY TRAINING SITE? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MINEFIELD (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • RIFLE BUTTS (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SLIT TRENCH (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • TANK TRAP? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • TRANSMITTER SITE? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

<S1>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. RAF 2A/BR190 (V) 71-4 18-AUG-1940 (NMR).
<S2>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. NMR TG 4623/3 (MSO 31022 26/BR14/15 4827) 19-SEP-1940.
<S3>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. NMR TG 4624/1-2 (MSO 31022 26/BR14/15 4828-9) 19-SEP-1940.
<S4>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1940. NMR TG 4524/1 (MSO 31022 26/BR14/15 4830) 19-SEP-1940.
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 2107-8 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S6>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1947. RAF CPE/UK/2170 5139-40 26-JUN-1947 (NMR).
<S7>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1952. RAF 540/690 5371-2 11-MAR-1952 (NMR).

Related records - none

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