Immobilizations

A policy was in place (by demolition and / or immobilization) to deny to the enemy the use of:

Motor vehicles, farm tractors, petroleum supplies
Road and rail networks (see Demolition Belts page)
Ports, docks and factories
Aerodromes
Communications

Such a policy is usually referred to as "Scorching the earth" - literally the destruction or removal of everything of use to the enemy. However the demolition of public utility services (water, electricity and gas) was not to be undertaken as the nuisance value to the enemy of destroying these would be minimal compared to the hardships imposed on the local population. But local demolition schemes, for example to put electrically operated cranes out of action, were to be prepared. Other examples of restrictions in place designed to deny resources to the enemy included a ban on bulk storage of food-stuffs in vulnerable coastal areas. Many of the restrictions outlined below were not removed until 1944.

A balance always had to be found between denying resources to the enemy and prematurely immobilizing / destroying assets that would be needed for Home Forces and the civilian population. Orders for immobilization usually came from higher commands (e.g. Division or Corps) unless capture by the enemy was imminent when the local commander could take the decision.

Immobilization of motor vehicles and petrol:

Immobilization of civilian vehicles in an emergency was the responsibility of the owner, enforced by the civil police with help from the Home Guard and Army Traffic Control personnel. The Motor Transport Officer was to advise troops on immobilizing military vehicles to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Any vehicles found on the road after ‘Action Stations’ which were not displaying a label issued by the Ministry of Transport or Ministry of Home Security , bearing the letters E.L, were to be turned off the road into a field and immobilized by whoever found them. Method of immobilization was to remove the distributor head and leads and carburetor or for diesel engines remove the injector pump and connection.

The entire county of Suffolk was within a designated area where the number of petrol pumps was controlled and bulk stocks kept at low levels. Responsibility for immobilizing pumps was down to either the civil service if the pump was their property (e.g. police, G.P.O) or the military (for pumps for the use of the military or designated pumps for supply to the civilian population). This was usually delegated to the local Home Guard unit as units of the Field Forces were regularly changing. One method of immobilization of pumps was to cap them with concrete. As a matter of routine, owners of pumps would immobilize them on a day to day basis by removing key components. Royal Engineers made preparations for the destruction of distribution depots (Tayfen Lane, Bury and Haverhill), which would be carried out by troops posted there on ‘Action Stations’, again Home Guard. Any supplies in rail tanks were to be either withdrawn or if that was not possible to be unloaded into tank Lorries and taken to a place were immobilization arrangements were in place. If they were in imminent danger of being seized by the enemy, the drain valve was to be opened and the contents emptied (or the tank overturned and emptied from the filling hatch for tanks with no drain valve).

  One method of immobilizing petrol tanks. Dealers were
  supplied with four lengths of metal piping each 18" long
  which they had to fill with concrete. When instrucuted to,
  one length was dropped down both the fill pipe and suction
  pipe, tamped down with lead wool and then repeated.

Immobilization of Railways, rail stock and road demolition:

The order to immobilize railways was the responsibility of 11 Corps. However it was up to the Rail Authorities to best decide on whether to evacuate or immobilize rolling stock. Rail demolition locations were subject to 11 Corps approval and were to be carried out by the local Field Forces if required after ‘Action Stations’.

Key exit road routes from the beaches were to be denied to the enemy by cratering with depth charge or camouflets etc. Also all crossings on the Corps Line (Eastern Command Line) were prepared for demolition, along with all crossings over the River Waveney. Responsibility for this was with the Field Forces or Home Guard commander for coastal roads and the Sub-Area commander for the Corps and Waveney Demolition Zone. All road signs were removed in order to help confuse any invasion force.

  Left: Removal of road signs - photograph
  obviously not taken in Suffolk!

Immobilization of Ports and vessels:

There were four ports in Suffolk: Lowestoft, Southwold, Ipswich and Felixstowe. Responsibility for immobilization for Lowestoft, Ipswich and Felixstowe was with the Royal Navy while for Southwold it was the commander of Southwold Coast Battery and the local infantry commander for Walberswick.

No vessel was to be left unattended unless immobilized by the removal of essential parts (Immobilization of vessels (Inland Waters) – Ministry of Home security 1940). This was to be enforced by police and local Field Forces and Home Guard. Also no vessel was to be kept (either moored, anchored or drawn up on land) within half a mile of specified water bodies – Direction No.45, 14 Aug 1941, Regional Commissioner (Eastern England). For example, on the Alde and Ore no vessel was to be left unattended at any point below Iken Cliffs or the southern end of the Butley Creek.

Immobilization of Industrial plant:

Arrangements had been made by Ministry of Supply, Admiralty, Ministry of Aircraft production and civil authorities for denying to the enemy the use of industrial plant. The intention was to prevent the use of factories and plants for a temporary occupation by the enemy for about 7 days, not to permanently destroy the plant. Factory managers were responsible for carrying out the immobilization of plant following the authorization from the Army and Home Guard Commanders. The local commander could order the immobilization without authority from Higher Command if capture by the enemy was imminent. The War Diary of 198 Brigade lists plant in its area with the time required for immobilization (e.g. Richard Iron Works Ltd, Lowestoft would take 15 minutes to immobilize).

Communications:

If a G.P.O. exchange was likely to fall into enemy hands, it was to be put temporally out of action but not destroyed. Responsibility for this rested entirely with G.P.O. personnel.

References
11 Corps papers, TNA
54 Div papers, TNA
Suffolk Sub-district papers, TNA
198 Brigade papers, TNA

petroltank
road signs

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