Material for camp structures was at first in very short supply. Due to the rapid nature of the deployment, many units did not bring their camp structures from the old Diver Gun Belt. At first accommodation was largely in tents. Units could apply for timber and corrugated iron but would have to assemble any huts under their own arrangements. Tents were also available for storage purposes and drying rooms.
One Nissan hut (36 ft x 16 ft) was issued per HAA and Intermediate site for a ommand post. In addition portable Armstrong huts were available for the command post of LAA and Welter sites. Concrete slabs were issued to set the Nissan command huts on, as well as huts for the generators and Nissan type cook houses. The erection of the Nissan huts proved difficult in many cases as they were “second hand”, i.e. dismantled from other locations and often delivered with parts missing.
Eastern Command also arranged for trench shelters to be delivered to a central dump in Ipswich, for use as follows:
Duty crew shelters - 1 shelter, (7 bays) per HAA Regt and 1 shelter (7 bays) per command post
Generator Huts – 1 shelter (5 bays) per generator
Small trench shelters - 4 shelters (3 bays each) per HAA Regt were also issued for ammunition storage.
Units were advised to contact the local ARP to see if they could make use of any ARP shower facilities for bathing. If mobile bath units (equipped with portable Shower baths heated by Hydra Burners) were required, they had to apply HQ 1 AA Group. Demands for water tanks also had to be made to 1 AA Group, at the rate of 1,000 gallons storage capacity per HAA / Intermediate site.
In case of casualties as a result of flying bombs, units were again advised to contact the ARP in some cases as military ambulances could be many miles distant. Slit trenches were to be dug for passive air defence.
The emplacement of Pile mattresses was carried out by mattress parties, formed from personnel from search light batteries scheduled for disbandment under AA Command Ceiling Reductions. REME engineers supervised the actual emplacement and leveling of guns. Hard core was provided for the gun positions, initially budgeted at 50 tons per HAA battery and 25 tons per Welter site but in many cases considerably more had to be delivered due to the boggy nature of the ground. The hard core was delivered by civilian lorries, guided to the sites by dispatch riders if necessary.
Many sites were located a considerable distance from metalled roads, and tracks leading to the gun sites deteriorated at an alarming rate, many sites becoming almost inaccessible. A CRE Roads had to be formed and many men were detailed to work on the tracks. The War Office made available a large supply of Sommerfield track to Eastern Command for use in the Gun Strip. Sommerfield track consisted of 2 inch or 3 inch mesh netting reinforced with ¾ inch mild steel rods at 8 inch centres. The track is joined longitudinally by buckles and transversely by linking bars held down by special angle iron pickets. It was supplied in rolls 25 yards long by 10ft 7ins wide. Originally designed for use on temporary aerodrome runways, they were not ideal for constant heavy traffic and required frequent maintenance to keep them effective. The distinctive angle iron pickets can still be frequently found at Diver sites in Suffolk today.
Clutter screens were supported with tubular scaffolding which was obtained from a variety of sources including the dismantling of anti-tank / boat scaffolding. Chicken wire was supplied centrally but was in short supply at first. Clutter Screens were put in place to try and eliminate the ground and wave (especially during heavy seas) “clutter” that was a problem for radar given the low heights it had to work at in searching for the flying bombs. These screens consisted of ½” wire mesh netting at some 50 yards radius form the radar and suitably tilted. They extended 10 ˚ outside each end of the engagement arc. They were mounted on tubular scaffolding with a height selected to eliminate as far as possible all clutter.
The conditions of many sites during October and November were simply terrible – a “sea of mud”. One entry in a Regt War Diary records the following for Nov 17th:
“Rained incessantly all day very heavily with a high wind. Tents and marquees blown down. Floor boards in tents flooded out and water everywhere.”
On other sites, such as those in the GDA of Yarmouth-Lowestoft, the personnel were more fortunate in that they could be accommodated in requisitioned buildings or existing hutted sites that were not operational.
The “Winterisation” programme , i.e. to provide all sites with hutted camps, was put in motion during October but it would take a while to be completed.