8th Kings

The 8th Kings were responsible for the area north of the Hundred River to south Lowestoft. The area between the Hundred River and Kessingland consisted of sand dunes and the whole beach area was favorable for enemy landings by all arms including tanks. North of Kessingland to the south of Lowestoft sand cliffs from 20ft to 30ft provided at least some sort of tank obstacle although the whole beach area was suitable for infantry landings. Lowestoft sea front consisted of a sea wall and cliffs which formed effective anti-tank obstacles. The whole of the battalion area outside the built up area was suitable for airborne landings.

Towards the end of 1941 a clear shift in Defence Policy towards Lowestoft took place as shown in a memo from Brigadier A.C.T Evanson, 198 Brigade dated 30th Dec 1941 to 54th Divisional Commander. This memo discusses details of an 11Corps Study Week and a visit by 11 Corps Commander to Lowestoft. It was now considered that a full scale frontal attack on Lowestoft was unlikely. However the naval base was considered of great importance due to its role in protection of the vital East Coast convoy route.

Defence policy in 1940-41 had been to develop a defence in depth in the whole of the Lowestoft area with the object of denying the whole area to the enemy – any penetrations were to be destroyed by immediate counter-attack. Brigadier A.C.T Evanson considered that the defence scheme of the previous brigade was tactically unsound – no company had a reserve platoon and company localities were in some cases 1000 yards apart. Infiltration was likely and even the possibility of airborne landings that could not be covered by fire. This was not a criticism of the previous brigade as he considered the scheme was drawn up with the aim of a delaying action until intervention of 11 Corps reserves. However, despite the re-equipping of the Field Forces following Dunkirk, 11 Corps admitted that intervention by reserves in this sub-sector was still highly improbable. In conclusion Brigadier Evanson considered holding a large defensive perimeter, with insufficient reserves was useless against a determined enemy.

The new policy was to use Field Forces to protect the vital naval base (as well as Pakefield CHL and Emergency Battery) with the Home Guard taking over the beach defences elsewhere on ‘Action Stations’.

The Defence scheme, dated 15th May 1942 illustrates this new policy. Likely enemy action in the battalion area was considered to be:

1) Landing in strength by all arms including airborne landing
2) Raids on either Lowestoft harbor or Pakefield CHL station and Emergency Battery.
The key role of 8th Kings (along with the 7th Borders, the left hand forward battalion of 198 Brigade)was the defence of the Lowestoft Naval base. It was also to take offensive action against the enemy in any of the battalion area as long as the objective of defending the naval base was not prejudiced.

This role was to be carried out by holding a defensive perimeter around the naval base (to the last round and man – there was to be no withdrawal from this perimeter). On ‘Action Stations’ Patrols were to be carried out in a ‘Recce Area’ by cyclist rifle platoons and carriers with the objective of reporting, destroying and delaying the enemy. Infiltration into the perimeter was expected by the enemy and an ‘anti-infiltration line’ was established to mop up the enemy before they became established. This was manned by one platoon (based in Lord Nelson Hotel), with naval personnel and 1st battalion Suffolk Home Guard holding the rest of the infiltration line.

  Left: 8th Kings - South Lowestoft. Right: 8th Kings - Pakefield. Click on map to view full size.

In normal conditions, nightly patrols were sent out by each company at a time when weather and tides were most suitable for landings. If the weather and tide conditions were s uitable for both sea and air landings, double patrols were to be sent out, one before midnight and one after.
On ‘Stand To’, companies were to move to battle positions with E Company, 1st Battalion Suffolk Home Guard relieving the left company of 8th Kings which moved into reserve. Naval personnel from the Naval Base with 700 rifles would man posts around the docks and on the infiltration line. HAA batteries in the area would also be organized into strong points if enemy ground activity prevented them from carrying on with AA duties. Mobile 3.7” HAA guns could be used in an anti-tank role.

Road blocks (which were either for rows of bent rails, five rows of straight rails or concrete cylinders set in groups of three) were in principal not to be fully closed (traffic gaps of 20 ft on the main reinforcement Beccles – Lowestoft road and gaps of 13 ft on all other roads) unless there was imminent danger of use of the road by the enemy. Exceptions to this were blocks within the naval base perimeter which would not hamper military traffic, which were to be closed on ‘Action stations’.

At some point the 8th Kings moved south and formed a mobile reserve for the defence of Felixstowe and Landguard. Felixstowe itself was not regarded as a likely target for enemy raids but the capture of this town and Landguard was considered as essential for an enemy raid on Harwich. The 8th Kings role was:

1) To deny the high ground west of Felixstowe and south of Trimley to the enemy
2) To form a counter attack reserve and destroy any enemy formations in the area Ipswich-Woodbridge-Felixstowe (i.e any enemy forces that penetrated Felixstowe beach defences or airborne forces dropped in the rear).

On ‘Stand To’ or ‘Action Stations’ 8th Kings were to move into prepared positions on the high ground to the west of Felixstowe. The role of B,C and D Companies was to deal with any enemy in their immediate area while A Company formed the mobile reserve, ready to move independently in any direction on orders from battalion HQ. It would form the vanguard if the whole battalion was to move in a counter attack role.
The carrier platoon was to carry out patrols in the area Newbourn- Brightwell-Bucklesham-Nacton at dusk and first light with the role of destroying any isolated enemy parties or reporting on and watching movements of larger enemy formations.

For anti-tank protection, ‘A’ Troop, Q Battery , 92nd Anti-tank Regt was to come under 8th Kings command on ‘Stand To.

  Above: 8th Kings, Felixstowe. Click on map to view full size

References:

8th Kings papers, TNA
54th Div papers, TNA
198 Brigade papers, TNA

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