Diver: Winterisation

The Winterisation programme referred to the provision of hutted accommodation for Diver sites. When it became apparent that the war would last into 1945 it was obvious the Diver sites would need more substantial accommodation than the current tented sites. The decision to provide hutted accommodation for all Diver sites was taken on October 14th. The speed of hut construction was carried out “at an astonishing rate”. It is worth quoting General Pile’s account in detail:

“Sixty miles of roads had to be built, 3,500 huts erected, 20,000 panes of glass fitted, 373,000 concrete slabs and half a million concrete blocks provided. During the next three weeks 35 special trains and 26 heavily laden special convoys moved up from the South Coast, bringing stores, equipment, and troops into the area. We had no civilian labour to help us. From our own diminishing resources we had to find 1,500 skilled and 5,000 unskilled labourers, all of whom had to be accommodated – in tents – near their work. Special parties were employed at the fourteen railheads we established for the receipt of hutting, gravel and R.E. stores: these railheads cleared 300 railway trucks a day, and an average of 900 lorries took away the supplies they disgorged. Hard core, which was used for emplacing the portable gun platforms as well as foundations of huts, was brought from the shattered houses of London, 150,000 tons of it. All of this, to say little of 7,500 tons of paving stones for pathways, had to be off-loaded into lorries, which made 50,000 double journeys between sites and railheads on this part of the job alone. In two weeks – between October 26 and November 10 – our lorries covered 730,000 miles, of which, in itself, created petrol-supply problems.

Of the 3,500 huts, about 500 were immediately forthcoming from the War Office: the rest of them had to be collected from disused sites all over the country. More than 200 came from the West of Scotland. Dismantled huts were collected from remote hilltops that were often inaccessible to motor transport owing to ice-bound roads or quagmires of mud from which the heavily loaded lorries had to be dragged by tractors…. The completed programme provided, at a cost of £2 million, accommodation (including living-huts, canteens, theatres, mess-rooms and the like) sufficient for a town the size of Windsor. The building trade had told us that it would take at least six months to complete. The men and women of A.A. Command finished the job in ten weeks.”

To make this possible, A.A. Command made available a labour force of approx. 7,000 men, including six Construction Btys. The Diver Strip and Box were divided into seven areas, each with a separate rail head. The work was controlled by existing CRE’s with the newly formed CRE Roads handling all road work. CRE Eastern Command was responsible for organizing for the provision of stores to the railheads. In total the hutting of 87 HAA sites and 211 search light sites (later reduced to 197 sites) was required. Typically a work force required to construct each site was 20 tradesmen from AA Command Construction Btys and 80 unskilled men from LAA / Searchlight Regts.

The programme was to be completed in two Phases. Phase I target was the housing of all personnel in huts (not necessarily floored). Two types of hut were to be used: Nissan huts and Curved asbestos huts. The target date for completion of Phase I was Dec 16th and this target was met. Phase II was the provision of ablutions, stores and other ancillary buildings and the provision of mains water and domestic electric lighting which was to be powered either from the mains or 30 KVA generators. Phase II was to commence after Phase I had been completed and the target date for completion was Jan 15th 1945. The provision of water from the mains on the remoter sites was not possible and the arrangements of bringing water to site daily by carts had to continue. Many HAA units carried out the laying of floors in the huts themselves, keen to get the work finished.

The road programme was in three Phases:

  • Phase I – Approach roads to the sites
  • Phase II – on site roads leading to the camp structures and through the camp layout
  • Phase III – Other on-site roads leading to the guns, command post etc.
    • Today, the concrete foundations on which the huts stood and the remains of the sullage system are the most substantial remains of Diver sites in Suffolk.

      Above: Left - plan of he remains of Diver site S5. Right - 1945 aerial of S5.

      Above: Left - plan of the remains of Diver Site T13. Right - 1945 aerial of T13.

      References:
      CE Eastern Command papers, TNA
      HQ, East Anglian District papers, TNA
      5 AA Brigade papers, TNA

NWN Diver Bty
NWN diver bty aerial
WalbDiverCamp
walbeswdiverbty

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