As well as the use of pillboxes and shell slits for shelter from small arms fire and shell splinters, light shelters were often prepared in Field defences. Protection was given by 12 in to 2 ft 6in of earth. A “bursting course” of a layer of approx 9” of hard non-rigid material (e.g. broken bricks, stones etc) could be added to cause a shell to explode before it could penetrate the earth cover. If a bursting course was added the whole roof cover should still not exceed 2 ft 6 inches.
Such shelters could be constructed by supporting the earth cover on corrugated sheets over a revetted section of trench (not in fire trenches as the collapse of the shelter would block the trench) or by dug-outs.
Dug-outs were generally made on the “cut and cover” principle – an excavation was made in which the shelter is built then covered up. The roof was supported on a box structure braced in every direction as it had to withstand the concussion of shells exploding a short distance away. The roof could be made water proof by incorporating a layer of corrugated iron.
As well as providing shelter from shells etc, dug-outs may also have been infantry and artillery command posts.
Two examples of shelters, both "cut and cover" types. The sketch on the right shows a suggested
desgin for a field battery command post.
The War Diary of 127 Brigade, 42nd Div mentions the trench type shelter: “The best defence against bombs and M.G fire is a well constructed trench. Cover from weather may be provided by a corrugated iron covering securely erected and kept down by sandbags filled with shingle, which also gives protection from splinters without making the roof too heavy”.
What is probably the remains of a simple trench type shelter can be found in Minsmere dunes while the remains of “cut and cover” type shelters can be seen at North Warren.
Right: the remians of a trench shelter, Minsmere Dunes.
The corrugated iron would no doubt have been capped
with sandbags filled with shingle.
127 Brigade papers, TNA
Manual of Field Engineering Vol I, Amdt 2, Mar 1937, WO 1933/ 1937
Field Engineering (All Arms), MTP No 30, Part V Protective Works, HSMO, 1941