Above: Aerial photo of Gunhill battery (WO192/79 - TNA).
Southwold Battery was initially sited on The Denes, just north of the harbour. During September 1941 the battery moved into the grounds of White Lodge on Gunhill Cliff. The move started on 17th Sept and the battery operational in its new location on 27th. The move was presumably due to the threat of erosion on the low lying beach or to move the battery to a less exposed position. Dummy guns were installed in the old battery position and if no other units were using the old accommodation, battery personnel were to carry out occasional outdoor training to give the appearance of the battery being still occupied. The battery personnel occupied the following buildings: Southwold House, Sole Bay House, 28 and 30 South Green, Windy Peak and Gun Hill Cottage. Water supply was from the mains, with no reserve tanks. On ‘Action Stations’, orders were to fill all baths etc!
The battery closed in May 1944, with a small maintenance party remaining to Jan 1945. Only two men remained to Nov 1945 when the guns were removed and taken to Landguard Fort for scrap.
The primary role of Southwold battery was ant-shipping on a close defence role, with a normal opening range of 6,000 yards or less. If no shipping targets were available the battery had a secondary role of providing defensive fire (e.g. on beaches). If the battery could no longer fore fill its coast defence role, its personnel were to act as infantry in conjunction with the local infantry battalion.
Method of engaging targets was to be by the zone system. The area of water covered by the battery was divided by an ‘imaginary’ line at 110˚. Number 1 gun would engage targets on the right (south) and number 2 those on the left (north). Guns were to engage targets outwards from the imaginary line. For Targets moving in line abreast, the leading target was to be engaged first and those approaching in line the front target first, working back. By knocking out the leading target, the movement of the following vessels would be hampered. Fire was not to be continued on stricken vessels. Close inshore small craft were to be engaged by gun control. During the night, each gun had a fighting light (i.e. CASL) and each gun was to only engage targets in its own beam. Beam control was to be by Battery Observation Post at all times.
Above left: The Zone System. Right - the battery guns
arc of fire.
During daytime, the battery would be informed by Fire Control 544 Coast Regt of any enemy action and was not to open fire until such orders received. During the night, the battery commander could engage targets on his own initiative. However the battery could challenge a ship during the day by exposing a searchlight beam trained on the ship. Friendly ships would respond by hoisting the display signal. A “bring to” round could also be fired on any vessel behaving suspiciously and failure to halt would bring the battery into action.
Top: Cross section of casemate. Bottom left - cross section of CASL No 2. Bottom right - BOP, added to roof of
nearby house. Based on plans in Fort Record Book, TNA.
The battery did not have any Examination Role. Detailed instructions were in place for local fishing vessels. These could only launch or land from designated “fishermen’s gaps” - otherwise they were at risk from beach mines or being fired upon. For any vessel planning to operate at night its skipper was to provide the names of the members of the crew.
For local defence, the new battery location had four Bren guns, two U.P 2” rocket projectors and an 18 pounder (rechambered to 75mm) anti-tank gun. Slit trenches were dug in the inner perimeter of the battery and two spigot mortars covered the approaches. Support was to be provided by the local infantry battalion and the Home Guard. Battle casualties were initially to be treated at the battery aid post. If necessary they would be evacuated to Southwold Civic Hospital by civil ambulance, stretcher or military vehicle. Southwold itself was protected with mines, scaffolding and tank blocks.
Plan of Gunhill battery position - based on plan in Fort Record Book, TNA
Left: Battery Observation Post and one of the
gun emplacements. Note the camouflage
Today nothing remains of the original location on ‘The Denes’ and only the base of CASL No 2 from the Gunhill position.
Guns: Two 6” naval guns Mk XI on PV mountings; both guns manufactured in 1906.
Searchlights: one Mk V and one Mk VI . Max beam range 3,500 yards.
Range Finder: One 9 ft Barr & Stroud Type F.Q .2 naval pattern
Engines: Two Lister 22 kw Generating Engines.
References: Southwold Fort Record, TNA
Map showing location of 327 Coast Battery 1940/41 and new position 1941/45