The reduction in Coast Artillery took part in three stages, known as “pre-EBB-TIDE”, “EBB-TIDE” and “EBB-TIDE No.2”. This was largely due to the urgent need to raise new mobile Medium and Heavy Regiments for deployment overseas, Coast Artillery providing a readily available pool of trained artillery personnel.
The first proposals to reduce the manpower limit of Coastal Artillery (to a ceiling of 35,000) were made in the summer of 1941. By October 1941, the Prime Minister had ruled no further personnel were to be allotted to Coast Artillery. This was taken to mean that the proposed ceiling of 35,000 was to remain. However, it was not until June 1942 that a scheme (“pre EBB-TIDE”) was introduced to reduce Coast Artillery personnel from 39,000 to 35,000. The scheme made the savings, in order of preference, as follows:
Reduce Examination batteries on continuous 24 hrs duty from four watches to three watches.
Reduce the personnel manning beach batteries to a basic establishment plus an allowance for courses, sickness, leave etc.
Reduce the personnel manning counter bombardment and close defence batteries in Minor Defended Ports to a basic establishment plus the allowance as above.
Reduce the personnel manning counter bombardment and close defence batteries in Major Defended Ports to a basic establishment plus the allowance as above.
Place selected guns on a “care and maintenance” basis.
Consideration was also to be given to employing the Home Guard to man Coast Artillery. In addition, the cancellation of the installation of modern equipments at Harwich and Newhaven would prevent an increase personnel required (although obviously not a reduction in personnel).The scheme was completed by about December 1942.
In July 1942, the Commander-in Chief was requested by the War Office to make a further reduction of 10,000 to a ceiling of 25,000. GHQ Home Forces undertook a study to assess the feasibility of this and concluded a further reduction of only 4,500 could be made.
The Home Forces Coast Defence Committee recommended making the savings in four phases as follows (“EBB-TIDE”):
Phase A: From miscellaneous units
Phase B: Emergency batteries with an anti-invasion role
Phase C: Batteries at Minor Ports
Phase D: Batteries at Major Ports
It was agreed that anti-motor torpedo boat batteries should not be reduced.
The reduction in personnel in Emergency beach batteries, with the agreement of the Admiralty, was implemented in December 1942. This was achieved by diluting the personnel with the Home Guard and placing some batteries into “care and maintenance”. The savings in personnel in Suffolk were made as follows:
Above: Reductions achieved in Suffolk's Coast Artillery by diluting personnel with Home Guard or placing batteries into "Care and maintenance"
These reductions resulted in cutting the strength of Coast Artillery to 28,300, leaving a shortfall of 3,300 to reach the ceiling demanded by the War Office of 25,000. Commands were asked to make further reductions but an additional saving of only 55 officers and 1,805 other ranks could be recommended. Eastern Command suggested a further 72 other ranks as part of this reduction (which in Suffolk included 24 from Pakefield battery).
Despite this, in January 1943 the War Office still insisted on the full reduction to 25,000. By February 1943, the final reductions of “EBB-TIDE” had reduced the strength of Coast artillery to 27,800. This figure now included some reductions in batteries at Major Defended Ports.
EBB-TIDE No. 2
Further consideration resulted in another reduction of 1,858 (“EBB-TIDE No. 2”), leaving a final deficit of 942. To obtain this final saving, it would undoubtedly mean further cuts from South Eastern Command. The GOC South Eastern Command protested at this reduction, stating that he had already contributed considerably to “EBB-TIDE” and pointing out that the stretch of coast he was responsible for was most likely to be threatened by invasion and raids. He considered he could only a further reduction providing there was no longer any requirement to repel an invasion and that all raids were no longer to be repelled, but only those that would do damage to vital installations. The Commander-in -Chief Home Forces agreed, and considered that the small gain of making the further saving of 942 would be outweighed by the loss in efficiency of South Eastern Command’s Coast Artillery. If pressed by the War Office, he would suggest that the savings should be made from super heavy railway guns instead.
By 1944, most of Suffolk’s remaining Emergency batteries had been handed over to the Home Guard or placed into “care and maintenance”. At the end of the war, all were closed and dismantled* except the Landguard batteries which continued to be part of the Coastal defences until 1956 when Coast Artillery was finally abolished.
* Bawdsey is the only Emergency battery in Suffolk that survived being demolished and today it is still more or less intact although the CASL’s and some pillboxes have recently succumbed to coastal erosion.
Reductions in Coast Artillery, TNA