7th Royal Sussex, 37th Independent Infantry Brigade, 15th Scottish Division
The battalion area extended from the River Blyth in the south to Easton Broad in the north. Battalion intention was to deny this area of coastal belt to the enemy. The battalion had three companies in the front line, “A” in Southwold area, “B” in the Easton Bavents area and “D” in reserve in the Reydon area. “C” company formed part of the 15th Division reserve, located at Beccles.
37th Brigade notes that Southwold was effectively an island (formed by River Blyth and Buss Creek). One road leads inland, but there is a good road network inland heading off this road. Cliffs at Southwold from Gunhill to the pier and the marine parados formed good anti-tank obstacles as did the 15ft cliffs further north in the Easton Bavents area. 15th Division notes the lack of any anti-tank obstacle to the west of the battalion (and in fact of the whole 37th brigade area) and as a result battalions would be vulnerable to an air-borne tank attack from the rear. A ditch as well as further defence works in the rear area were later constructed (see below).
General policy was to cover the main routes heading inland and to cover the beaches at the head of these routes. The intervening beaches were to be covered by flanking machine gun fire, artillery fire and obstacles. Obstacles included dragon’s teeth, minefields, tank cubes and Z1 scaffolding. Work was ongoing to wire in company and platoon areas as well as each individual post.
On “stand to” all forward posts were to be manned by 100% of troops. Road blocks were to be closed and then reopened for single file traffic. They were only to be fully closed on battalion orders or the approach of the enemy. Firing of road craters was the responsibility of the company commander. Bridge demolitions were prepared at Southwold Bridge, Wolsey Bridge and Potter’s Bridge and was to be carried out by Royal Engineer firing parties who would proceed to the bridges on “stand to”. Firing of Flame Fougasses was the company commanders responsibility but could be delegated to platoon or section commanders.
Artillery support was provided by 56 Medium Regt, 907 Defence Battery and 129 Field Regt. Anti-tank guns included mobile two pounders and a 75mm manned by 254 Anti-tank battery. Coastal Defence battery 327 also had a secondary anti-tank role on the beaches.
Arrangements were made for flooding Salt Creek, Southwold. The flood gates were reversed so that water could flow into the creek at high tide and was restricted from flowing out as the tide receded. Buss Creek also formed a natural anti-tank obstacle (although it can be crossed by foot at low tide) and both the River Blyth on the battalion right flank and Easton Broad on the left flank also formed natural anti-tank barriers.
In order to provide a greater degree of security in the event of an air-borne landing in the rear of the coast defences, additional posts to fill the gaps between posts of the rear companies were constructed. These were to take two men with a lmg and in the case of an air-borne landing were to be manned by carrier personnel until they could be relieved. An anti-tank ditch was planned to the west of the rear defended posts, which according to 37th Brigade Defence Scheme was completed. Some anti-tank guns were also to move to alternative positions in order to fight a ‘western battle’ in the case of air-borne troops landing in the rear.
The Home Guard unit in the area was “B” Company, 4th Suffolk Home Guard Battalion. The Home Guard role (15th Div Defence Scheme) included holding the back areas of forward localities. Hence most posts in the 7th Royal Sussex area were around the Reydon area and the company also had three Northover projectors in this area. The Home Guard may well have also had Harvey flame throwers – these are mentioned in 37th Defence Scheme although unfortunately the Scheme also notes the locations as not yet issued.
At some point the battalion moved south (presumably as part of the relief of 15th Div by 54th Div) as Operational Order 20 (Oct 1941) notes it was occupy and deny to the enemy the high ground to the east of Martlesham Aerodrome in the event of either a land or air–borne attack.
7th Royal Sussex - Defence of Southwold 7th Royal sussex - Defence of Reydon / Easton Bavents
7th Royal Sussex - Artillery Fire Plan
7th Royal Sussex papers, TNA
37th Brigade papers, TNA
15th Division papers, TNA