Local Rotherfield wartime History #2 “Codeword Cromwell” – Roadblock buoys and the Cuckoo Line

Posted: October 15, 2014 in local history

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Roadblock buoys taken from small road bridge above.

I first heard about these odd conical shaped things when I discovered the rather excellent if equally nerdy website http://www.pillbox.org.uk/index.asp. A military enthusiasts delight that even has a fetching photo of my motor in one of the pictures although that isn’t the subject matter course. I was determined to locate these strange objects which after a good chat with some friends came up trumps about a mile or so from where I live.

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Close up shot of roadblock buoys

Each buoy has a hole drilled out of the centre to allow a crowbar to be inserted to help the Home Guard etc carry them to their destination. The purpose obviously to block a road and disrupt enemy vehicular and tank movement. They tended to be placed at key strategic points which I imagine would also have been defended, thus allowing the defenders the chance to bring to a halt an advance or at least slow down the arrival of fast moving armour etc. The really interesting part is that a roadblock at that time should Codeword Cromwell (German Invasion of the British Isles) occur would comprise some 20-40 buoys (or the latter type cylinders) blocking the route.  This stream is home to over 125 of various sizes of the blighters. Now they could have all been rounded up and dumped at the end of the war or when the threat of invasion had subsided if no one wanted them or had any use for them but I think there might be more to it than that. It just so happens that these abandoned buoys are very near the line of the old railway now long gone (thanks to evil Doctor Beeching) between Eridge and Rotherfield. Just a couple of hundred yards away is the spot where the line crossed the road where I guess a level crossing would have been in place. Perfect for blocking both railway line and road if you ask me.

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The train line bank running along the tree line, just to the left out of shot the road crosses the old line, just to the right also out of shot is the stream where the buoys are located.

The railway line was colloquially known at the time as The Cuckoo Line thanks to a tradition at the annual fair at Heathfield station where a cuckoo was released to herald the ‘first cuckoo of spring’. Beginning at Polegate outside Eastbourne on the coast and running up to Tunbridge Wells where a change would take you all the way to London the strategic importance of the line is clear.  The British must also have thought so as the veritable plethora of pillboxes along most Sussex train lines defunct and still in use bear witness.

If anyone else has any views I’d like to hear them.

 

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