Weapon Pits and Communication Trenches
Brigadier Wales notes that his Hedgehog contained weapon-pits and communication trenches. There are numerous remains of pits and trenches on the site but many are perhaps post the official Kruschen Exercise. It is easy to be certain of a handful of the trenches and pits that were dug for Kruschen; these are around 2 ft deep and 4 to 6 ft long, at the end of a shallow trench (crawl trench dimensions), and associated with the pillboxes and concrete shelters. Some have surviving evidence of angle iron revetment. It was German tactics to hide in the concrete shelters during a bombardment then after the bombardment, to man the weapon slits and resume fighting. A number of semi-circular pits may represent light machine gun positions; such pits for light-machine guns were apparently recorded by Allied Intelligence but these also had a parapet to protect the gun, lacking on the possible Kruschen examples. As for the rest of the slits, it is just impossible to say; there can be little doubt that the site was used for further training after the exercise officially ended.
It is interesting to note that the trenches on the Kruschen site all resemble those that would be dug for hasty defence and not those of likely to be found in defence works where there was time to prepare strong positions. The trenches in actual German Hedgehogs were often deep, revetted with concrete, masonry or timber and often roofed over with wooden planks.
Above: Left - GPS plot of Kruschen trenches. Every GPS Waypoint is a slit trench or pit of some description. Right - typical German trench on the Atlantic Wall.
The trenches on Dunwich Heath are intriguing – were these part of Kruschen? Only one pillbox survives on Dunwich Heath; the Heath was mostly cleared in the 1960’s of WW2 features – did more pillboxes exist? The trenches, now in filled in places, are virtually all sited on forward slopes of a high ridge, typical of the inland strongpoints on the Atlantic Wall. Again the weapon pits are up to 2 ft deep and the trenches of crawl trench dimensions. It is possible they may have been used to practice minor drill while the full scale Hedgehog was used for large scale trials and demonstrations.
Above: Plot of main trenches on Dunwich Heath as they exist today (some have been part infilled)
Equally intriguing are some of the trenches on the Westleton site, which are outside the Hedgehog, as they are some of the best preserved and impressive trenches on the site. One has been dug to a depth of 5 to 6 ft. It could be possible that this example was used for the protection of Officers attending the various demonstrations, perhaps during artillery fire or the actual blowing of the “Snakes”. Brigadier Wales certainly notes that such trenches were dug. A well developed crawl trench system which surrounds a destroyed (brick?) building is a complete mystery.
Brigadier Wales makes specific reference to “a certain number of gun pits included inside the hedgehog”. It is not hard to guess which of the surviving earthworks these are. There are four large shallow pits, approximately 18 to 20 ft in diameter. These were probably to represent weapon pits for anti-tank guns (Nest fur leichte, mittlere u.schwere pak. Mit Panzerdeckungslochern u. Munitionslocherr) – a shallow pit due to the low profile of anti-tank guns and to enable the weapon to bring fire to bear all round.
Allied Intelligence described open gun pits as follows: “Field gun emplacements for field guns and gun-howitzers of 4” calibers are genially circular and about 25-30 ft interior diameter. They take the form of circular pits about 3 ft deep, the spoil being used to form an earthern parapet which maybe as much as 12 ft thick. There is an opening in the parapet in the rear of the gun”.
Gun pits for light 2cm AA guns could be similar although they were normally square in shape (with 10-15 ft sides) or even six sided.
Right - plan of German gun pit
and image of one of the pits dug
to represent a German gun pit
for Exercise Kruschen