Kruschen Hedgehog

Exercise Kruschen was not an exercise as normally understood by the term ‘exercise’; rather it was a series of trials in order to establish a drill for attack on a Strongly Defended Locality. In order to carry out these trials, a full scale representation of a German strongpoint, or Hedgehog, was constructed at Westleton Walks. A series of Demonstrations were also held; Churchill was supposed to attend the final Demonstration on May 8th but was called away at the last moment.

As the trials were to consist of live firing, 54th Division requested all troops be removed from the area, which included 232 (Minsmere) Coast Battery. As a result this battery was placed under “Care and Maintenance” earlier than originally scheduled although concern was raised over the 280 rounds of 6” shells stored at the battery!

The construction of the full scale representation of a German Hedgehog was based on aerial photos and intelligence provided by GHQ Home Forces. When Kruschen was ordered, during December 1942, the Germans had only begun to fortify in strength the areas which they considered most likely that the Allied Armies would attempt to make landings. It is worth noting that the actual landing area selected for D Day, the Vire-Orne sector of the coast was only lightly defended at the end of 1942. Hence the intelligence would have been based upon the strongest defended Hedgehogs of the Atlantic Wall, for example those to be found in the rear of the ports of Bologne and Le Havre. These typically would contain pillboxes (perhaps two for light machine guns, two for anti-tank guns and three for medium machine guns) and concrete shelters. The pillboxes would be close enough to support each other with small arms fire.

Above: The port of Boulogne, defended by a ring of strongpoints, or Hedgehogs

Brigadier Wales, who was given charge of the exercise, first selected a piece of ground on which to construct his Hedgehog. The ground selected was on a hill, with the ground falling away steeply on the north-west side – this was typical of many of the German Hedgehogs, sited on ridges and hills at the rear of the Channel Ports. Wales then set about constructing a full scale German Hedgehog. He considered the position purely from a defensive perspective, giving no thought to attacking it, so that all the weapon positions were situated were a Defending Commander would want them.

The Hedgehog included concrete pillboxes, deep concrete shelters, weapon-pits and communication trenches as well as a number of gun pits included inside the hedgehog. The whole position was enclosed by an obstacle consisting of wire, minefields, an anti-tank ditch and perpendicular escarpments, cut into the sides of the hills. Fortunately, substantial evidence of the Hedgehog still remains today, allowing an accurate representation of it to be mapped.

Top: A typical Hedgehog likely to be encountered on the Atlantic Wall (from the GHQ pamphlet "A Drill for the Assault on a Highly Developed Defended
Locaility")
. Bottom: The Kruschen Hedgehog, constructed at Westleton Walks, Suffolk

It was necessary to carry out some of the Kruschen trials away from the main site. In order to investigate the use of anti-tank guns in direct fire against concrete shelters and pillboxes, a full scale German reinforced concrete shelter and pillbox were constructed for use as targets on an anti-tank gun range at Scott’s Hall. It is also known that some of the trials were carried out in the Orford area.

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