I’m continuing to make my way through the backlog of photos which have been sent to me over the last year or so and have uploaded some new additions to the 1970s Gallery on the main Broadland Memories website.
I’ve now turned my attention to a few small batches of photographs of the Norfolk Broads taken during the 1980s by various contributors. These are all prepared and ready to go, I just need to set aside some time to sit down and get the captions written, but hopefully they will appear on the website next week. There are, as usual, some interesting images amongst the new additions, but the photograph on the right caught my eye as it clearly shows some of the many relics from the Second World War which are to be found throughout Broadland. Showing the moorings upstream of Ludham Bridge and taken in 1981 by Bill Cooper, on the left you can see the remains of a spigot mortar emplacement which was part of a range of defences built to protect the bridge in the event of an enemy invasion. (The boat alongside was Silver Light 4 from Herbert Woods by the way). An identical spigot mortar emplacement stood on the opposite bank beside the old drainage mill seen above.
In 1940, the threat of a German invasion of Great Britain was believed to be a very real possibility and the country needed the means to defend itself … cue images of bumbling old men being equipped with broom handles and pitch forks à la Dad’s Army! Although there was initially a distinct lack of weaponry, much of which was apparently outdated anyway, some serious defences seem to have been built around the UK in quite a short space of time. The rivers of the Norfolk Broads were a natural stop line which enemy tanks would be unable to cross. Consequently, all of the bridges were heavily defended to the point that chambers were fitted to them to hold explosives which could be used to destroy the bridge should the other defences fail. The chambers on Ludham Bridge were still visible up until it was demolished in the early 1960s.
There are a number of pillboxes still to be found near Broadland bridges and, indeed, the old drainage mill seen in Bill’s photograph at Ludham bridge was itself strengthened and converted into a two storey pillbox, the lower storey windows still showing how they were adapted as gun ports. Beside the entrance to the mill is a blast wall and alongside that is the second spigot mortar base. The photograph on the left is from the Imperial War Museum collection and illustrates what the two at Ludham would probably have looked like. This was a Blacker Bombard, 29mm spigot mortar which was intended for short range use and was developed as an anti-tank weapon. Other defences at Ludham Bridge included “flame fougasses”, devices which could be remotely detonated and would project burning liquid (petrol) at a target, and the field opposite Ludham Bridge boatyard is rumoured to have been the site of an Allen Williams turet ( a rotating, metal pillbox built over a pit).
It’s fascinating that these relics of WW2 remain if you know where to look for them and I really must stop by and have a poke around with my camera when I next visit Ludham. The spigot mortar base seen on the left hand bank in Bill’s photo was left in situ when the moorings were upgraded, although it is now buried deeper with a little fenced surround to stop people tripping over it! There is an interesting page on further evidence of WW2 around the village on the Ludham Community Archive website including the bridge defences and the old airbase: http://www.ludhamarchive.org.uk/ww2.htm
Update 03/03/2016 – If you wait long enough, a jigsaw piece often comes along which slots nicely into place within a topic I’ve written about on here or on the main website. I recently purchased an album of photographs of holidays taken on the Norfolk Broads in the late 1940s and early 1950s for Broadland Memories. Amongst them was the image below which shows Ludham Bridge North Mill in all its wartime glory, having been converted for use as a pillbox and lookout post. I particularly like the wooden hut on top, presumably designed to protect more against the elements than the enemy!