The Bodmin Stop Line - Cornwall

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Skoyen89, Jul 3, 2011.

  1. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Late in 1940 a stop-line was constructed running Fowey-Lostwithiel - Bodmin - Wadebridge. I am researching it and looking for any sources of detailed information on it or any of the elements of it. Any details however small appreciated.

    Thanks
     
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  3. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Thanks CL1. This one seems to have next to nothing written about it altho a few pillboxes still exist. It wasn't a continuous line like Stop Lines Red, Blue and Green up country but more a series of Defended Localities.
     
  4. leccy

    leccy Senior Member

  5. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    Skoyen, have you been to the small museum at Davidstow Moor?
     
  6. CornwallPhil

    CornwallPhil Senior Member

    Hi. The Bodmin Stop Line ran from Padstow on the north coast to Fowey on the south. It wasn't a physical continuous line as it made use of the natural geography - ie the Rivers Camel and Fowey. When Brooke replaced Ironside in July 1940 the idea of defended localities was incorporated into the Bodmin Stop Line. Thus Wadebridge, Bodmin and Lostwithiel became anti-tank islands. There are some remains of coastal batteries at Padstow and Fowey, some pillboxes near Bodmin (which was the Command HQ for Cornwall and the home of the DCLI - Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry), and an ammunition store in woods between Bodmin and Wadebridge. Much of the wartime defences were removed but there is photographic evidence for roadblocks either side of Bodmin on the A30 (wartime version not new dual carriageway!) and in Lostwithiel on the A390. There are also some pillboxes near Fowey (which was later used as the main ammunition loading port for the US 29th Division for D Day.) There were also several Auxiliary Unit Operational Bases on either side of the line.
    I hope that helps!
     
  7. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Caravans on the A30, that's what was required in 1940 to slow up a Panzer Division.
    I know, it still works to this day!

    (Sorry, couldn't resist that!)

    Very interesting topic.
     
  8. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Hi CornwallPhil

    Thanks for your response. As you say the line went from Wadebridge through Bodmin and Lostwithiel to Fowey and as it was built in the winter of 1940 and 1941 there is a likelihood that it was based on defended areas rather than a continuous line as in those planned and built in July and August of 1940. The documents I found at Kew suggest those defended areas were the main towns and spell out the Forward Defence Line. As you say one seems to have been around the barracks in Bodmin. However it is very likely that there were some pillboxes (at least six from my notes) and defended crossings on the line and rivers.

    There was a programme of building going on during the winter (and one War Diary has it as substantial) but it seems like the Regular Army units in the area were not involved (at least no notes of being involved in the work of building the line). Hence it is likely that it was done by civilian contractors under Army direction. Any idea who?

    It also seems clear that some of the remaining artifacts eg Padstow Gun Battery, pillbox at Boidmin Parkway (?) were of the same time but not really part of the line. Others (Lostwithiel roadblock etc) probably were part of the Line. I'd be interested in the photographic evidence of a roadblock on the old A30?

    Have you been into the Cornwall Records Office at all?

    All the best
    Skoyen89
     
  9. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    There was a programme of building going on during the winter (and one War Diary has it as substantial) but it seems like the Regular Army units in the area were not involved (at least no notes of being involved in the work of building the line). Hence it is likely that it was done by civilian contractors under Army direction. Any idea who?

    Brian Lavery notes in his We Shall Fight On The Beaches that there isn't actually a cohesive record of all the contractors and what they each built, such was the panic of the 8 weeks following the 20th of May 1940; the best he could come across was the records of monies paid to contractors buried in the Ministry of Works/MoS files at Kew. In the summer of '40, 150,000 civilian workers laboured at the defences, a not inconsiderable number!

    But once this "emergency period" was over it's not impossible that work through the winter and into 1941 was carried out by the Royal Engineers instead, or at least under their supervision - so might be worth tracking down if any detachments spent time in the area. Also, look for any detachment of the Pioneer Corps ;) It was quite uncommon for the regular army units in an area to be involved in the acual construction of defences such as pillboxes, they were more usually involved in building the scaffolding tank obstacles, laying wire and mines etc.; in fact there are far more anecdotes surviving of the parlous state of these "built" fortifications when Army units moved into them....pillboxes that could only fire on their supporting trench lines, collapsing trenches, pillboxes readily flooded by rain - even ones where the dimensions and oposition of the "shelf" below the firing slit mean that Brens etc. couldn't fire out of the hole!
     
  10. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Hi PhyloKing

    I have tried the War Diaries of the two Brigades which were in this area at the time and the RE units of both but they do not seem to be involved in the building of it and I have not seen mention of a Pioneer unit in the area. Oversight was provided by officers of two of the RE field Coys in the area and the Corwall Area which was based in Bodmin but again no mention of who did the work or of the elements of the line.

    Sooooo frustrating!!! :confused:

    Skoyen89
     
  11. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Brian Lavery notes in his We Shall Fight On The Beaches that there isn't actually a cohesive record of all the contractors and what they each built, such was the panic of the 8 weeks following the 20th of May 1940; the best he could come across was the records of monies paid to contractors buried in the Ministry of Works/MoS files at Kew.


    I have come across the contractors involved in other lines in archive files of correspondence but who would have been involved here? And does anyone know the refernces of the MOW/MoS files at Kew mentioned?
     
  12. CornwallPhil

    CornwallPhil Senior Member

    Hi Skoyen89,
    Cornwall RO have told me they don't have anything on the Bodmin Stop Line.

    I'm aware of 8 pillboxes along the line, though several have been demolished. The Home Guard defended Brownqueen Tunnel, just south of Bodmin Road (now Parkway) and I believe the pillbox just to the north of the station was part of the line's defences. There is another one at Maudlin on the Bodmin to Lostwithiel road.

    In Bodmin itself there was a chicane and checkpoint at Five Ways (the junction now famous for its mini roundabouts) which would have been the junction of the A30 and the Wadebridge road. I have eyewitness testimony. There were also cylindrical concrete Dragon's Teeth at Racecourse Downs which is the hill on the eastern approach to Bodmin. I have a photograph of how they were left in 1945.

    I am not sure who the civilian contractors were. I do know that builders/contractor's etc were kept busy in Cornwall because of the amount of defences being hastily put up because of the 320 miles of coastline in the county with emphasis put on strategic locations like Falmouth Docks, Fowey and Par Docks, Porthcurno and Sennen (where the international telegraph cables came ashore), Hayle (with Cornwall's only power station and factory making ingredients for aviation fuel) and the beaches that were considered most likely as landing sites (St Ives Bay, Mounts Bay, St Austell Bay and numerous individual beaches and harbours). I am certain some of the constructors came from outside the county, especially where installations were considered secret. This was the case with some of the Decoy sites, for example, electricians came from Bristol.
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Lavery only footnotes where specific facts and quotes have come from, but even then doesn't mention what the actual files are about. Looking through his footnotes, WO 199/1695 might be worth a look for general information...while WO 199/48 also might be worth loking at.
     
  14. CornwallPhil

    CornwallPhil Senior Member

    I understand WO199/48 is a map of the Southern Command Home Defence Programme 1940.
     
  15. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Must be a big map - the reference is for "page 35" of the file!
     
  16. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    As I live in Oxfordshire Kew is reasonable accessible - Cornwall less so! I looked in WO199/48 a couple of years ago and it had a map as CornwallPhil says which is referred to/shown in the Defended Area Studies by Foot on the internet but it also has some records of the allocation of concrete between the Commands.

    WO199/1695 looks interesting and I will try those and others when I next go.

    I have seen reference to 14 pillboxes and 36 roadblocks having been built by August 1940 which was the first phase of building on the Line - and plans for many more. However it may be that the building planned for the winter was curtailed and limited to the defended areas.

    If you would like to discuss further by phone PM me a phone number or an email address and I can send you a copy of the map for Cornwall on .jpeg.

    Skoyen89
     
  17. CornwallPhil

    CornwallPhil Senior Member

    Peter Hancock's book "Cornwall at War" refers to the 75th Independent Infantry Brigade and Cornwall Coastal Area, which included the Sixth Battalion of the DCLI as constructing beach obstacles on the south coast.

    And Viv Acton and Derek Carter's book "Operation Cornwall 1940-1944" quotes Seymour Cooke of the DCLI as constructing beach defences on the Lizard, and running barbed wire from Newlyn to Marazion.

    No reference to Bodmin Stop Line though.
     
  18. CornwallPhil

    CornwallPhil Senior Member

    In his autobiography "Tempting the Fates" Major General Dare Wilson tells how he was a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and given the job of planning and overseeing the construction of the land based defences for Padstow harbour and the Camel estuary. He talks of being under the command of the Resident Naval Officer Gordon Campbell and meeting with a small group of Army officers, accompanied by a contractor, to discuss the requirement for pillboxes. He requested six, all of which were approved. Unfortunately, he does not name the contractor.

    Most of his pillboxes still survive, including the one on the end of the harbour wall which is used as a store.
     
  19. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    We can only hope the Germans would have found them as hard to eradicate!

    However it may be that the building planned for the winter was curtailed and limited to the defended areas.



    Brookie curtailed the "spasm" of stopline and fixed defence building in mid-July when he took over from Ironside, but I have always assumed that given the haphazard way a HUGE amount of pillboxes etc. were built in eight weeks, there was still work on hands for some time filling gaps. Lavery is good for the top-down view and analysis he has in his book, something that can be lost when you look at the websites etc. dealing with fixed defences.

    Through the winter there does seem to have been a more defined process of finishing off some lines, and generally improving harbour and port defences. I wonder though if in this period it slipped back solely under the responsibility of the RE?
     
  20. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Brookie curtailed the "spasm" of stopline and fixed defence building in mid-July when he took over from Ironside, but I have always assumed that given the haphazard way a HUGE amount of pillboxes etc. were built in eight weeks, there was still work on hands for some time filling gaps. Lavery is good for the top-down view and analysis he has in his book, something that can be lost when you look at the websites etc. dealing with fixed defences.

    Through the winter there does seem to have been a more defined process of finishing off some lines, and generally improving harbour and port defences. I wonder though if in this period it slipped back solely under the responsibility of the RE?

    I too have read that the strategy was changed when Ironside departed and Brooke took over but going through the archives, although many of the stop lines were completed by the end of August, it is clear that building went on along them well beyond that and in to 1941.

    However the second phase of building on the Bodmin Stop Line does not appear to have started until probably October of 1940 and whilst the RE units of 48 Division provided the Field Engineer for the line and 224th Field Coy RE and others had a major say in the positioning there is nothing that suggests that they were actually involved in the building of the line. I have been through the War Diaries for the 224, 225, 226 and 9th Field Coys and the 227th Field Park Coys. At the end of January it was remarked that it was 'a major project'.

    Any idea who the Pioneers in the South-West were at this time?
     

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