Here’s a fishy tale! So yesterday, we arrived at the next stop on #CampTramps2016, a small village called Barmston, a few hundred metres from the E. Yorks coastline, south of Bridlington. The site, Rectory Farm is fine, adult only (couldn’t eat another kid) and comes complete with showers…so Yippeee….sorted. The areas very flat, but with a warm easterly breeze it’s very pleasant, and an ideal base for some local exploring.
Yesterday after parking up the Chucklebus, we wandered off for a walk towards the beach. En-route we noticed an info board, that mentioned World War 2 Pillboxes (Fortified bunkers, providing coastal defence). As the font of all knowledge and keen to claim bragging rights in our little group, I mentioned to the other half, that my old battalion had been based near Bridlington in WW2, having suffered a severe mauling during the Dunkirk Withdrawal in May 1940. “Oh yes pet, what would you like for tea tonight?”
So, once we got back to the van, I fired up the laptop and well, you could’ve knocked me down with a feather! It only transpires, that my old rifle company…A Coy 1RWF had been based in Barmston during that period of 1940. How amazing is that! Who knew? Well, that put a different perspective on this part of our travels, such is the adaptable nature of the Brit ex-squaddie, that I quickly re-roled this stopover into a full-blown battlefield tour. The Other Half’s face was a picture of absolute joy!
Today, I was up like a firecraker, with possible pillbox locations marked into the phones mapping, we set off to explore, trooping through the centre of Barmston, Me, the Other Half and Mutt the Dog.
1RWF had a tough 2nd World War. It started at Dunkirk, with almost 65% of its strength killed, wounded or captured during those bloody two weeks of May 1940. Figures indicate some 260 + men made it back to the UK.
Initially they were sent by train to Huddersfield, to recover, regroup and get back up to manned strength. This was in the crucial period when it really was expected that the enemy would invade, the Battle of Britain was raging and we needed to defend our shores.
By the middle of June, the battalion was sent to provide coastal defence along the East Yorkshire Coast concentrated in the Beeford and Barmston areas. My old rifle company Alpha Company, came here to Barmston, Later Delta Company also operated from this location. The soldiers lived amongst the Barmston population in pubs, digs, anywhere they could, they even occupied the now empty caravan sites in the Barmston and Lissett area. They were tasked to man the pillboxes hastily constructed along this part of the coast, camouflaged from the air and supported by beach wire entanglements, anti-tank blocks and various other methods to slow down an invasion or seaborne/para assault.
For the men, this was a relentless, serious task, the country faced a very real threat. During their period at Barmston they were subjected to numerous air raids, and were required to provide anti-aircraft fire against enemy fighters and bombers, sometimes on a daily basis. In one occasion in Aug 1940 they even assisted in shooting down a bomber. During those summer months they often witnessed dogfights between Spitfires and German fighters overhead. Heady times.
This was ideal training for the men in operating their rifles and Brens, especially as most of them who had joined the battalion Post-Dunkirk had never experienced actual combat. But because of the nature of the task, it restricted the more detailed training the new men required, so by the October of that year, they were relieved and moved on to the next stage of their war.
This would involve sailing to the far-east in 1942, fighting the Japanese at Donbaik in 1943, again suffering heavy casualties, then, less than 12 months later in Apr/May 1944, the hell that was called “Kohima”, where again they endured heavy casualties and terrible hardship. I’m sure that some of them in 1944, crouching down in their trenches on Summerhouse Hill, Kohima, looked back to those days amongst the folk of East Yorks with great fondness and appreciation.
If anyone fancies a look around the area, this stretch of coastline is rich with the remnants of its WW2 past. To assist I’ve plotted the seven pillboxes I visited north of Barmston.
Tomorrow we head onto the N. Yorkshire Moors, no more battlefield tours for this callsign on this trip!
That is all.