North Norfolk WW2

North Norfolk’s Defence of the UK

 

He who would all England win should at Weybourne Hope begin.

 

For centuries, Weybourne, on the North Norfolk coast, has been recognised as England’s Achilles heel when it comes to invasion from abroad. The steep rake of the beach creates a deep basin of water close to the shore, allowing vessels to come in close. During WWII, Weybourne beach was intensively protected by scaffolding barriers, barbed wire, and landmines.

 

Weybourne Camp, located just a little inland, at the foot of Muckleburgh Hill, was a busy anti-aircraft artillery base, surrounded by an anti-tank ditch. On the site today is The Muckleburgh Collection – a museum of military artefacts, located chiefly in the original NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) building. The NAAFI was established in 1921 by the British government for the provision of recreational services to servicemen and their families.

 

The Muckleburgh Collection, open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between March 25th and October 30th, offers an exciting and educational day out for the whole family. Admission prices are: adults £11.00 and children £7.00; there is no charge for children under four or for carers (on presentation of a Local Authority or CRESS Carer’s Card). Although dogs are not permitted in the museum, there are kennels available, with dog beds and water, where visitors can leave their dogs.

 

Weybourne is on the Poppy Line, a steam railway route that runs between Sheringham and Holt, and the Muckleburgh Collection is just a short walk from Weybourne Station. The Coasthopper bus, which runs between King’s Lynn and Cromer, stops at Weybourne hourly (every two hours on Sundays), and for those using Satnav, the postcode is NR25 7EH.

 

Muckleburgh, the largest privately owned military museum in the UK, was established in 1988 by Squadron Leader Berry Savory and his son, Sir Michael Savory, who served as Lord Mayor of London in 2004 and 2005. Exhibits include uniforms, medals, documents, weapons, photographs, and many examples of military vehicle. For just £3 per person, you can enjoy a ride around the old Royal Artillery Camp in a military lorry or a tank – and with advance booking, you can even drive one! (http://www.muckleburgh.co.uk/drive-a-tank)

 

During the summer, there’ll be entertainment for the whole family. On Tuesday May 30th and on Friday August 25th, you can enjoy a Children’s Magic Show, and on July 26th, there’ll be a lot of fun and learning for children with Mad Science in the Café. If you happen to be visiting Muckleburgh on August 13th, you can enjoy live music from a Brass Band by the Café. At the museum, there is a full-service café, designated picnic areas, and disabled toilets.

 

Another interesting landmark in Weybourne is the tower mill, now privately owned and in residential use. Many painters and photographers have immortalised this lovely building in their artwork, and on a trek along the clifftop from Sheringham, the windmill is in sight for a good deal of the way, looming larger as walkers approach. But during WWII, Weybourne Mill was home to a pair of spies!

 

In 1942 (or maybe ’43), a local man called Billy Read witnessed, on more than one occasion, a flashing light at the top of Weybourne Mill, facing out to sea. The tenants were a Mr and Mrs Dodds, and everyone in the village could not help but notice Mrs Dodds’ accent, described as German or Austrian, and the lady’s obvious interest in the Weybourne Camp. Mrs Dodds was always to be seen on her bicycle, and everywhere she went, she carried with her a large carpet bag that she was careful to keep close by her. One day, Mrs Dodds left her bicycle – and, unusually, her bag – unattended at the tennis court, where she gave tennis lessons to the local children. Billy Read took this opportunity to peep inside the bag, and he discovered a radio transmitter. A couple of days later, Mr and Mrs Dodds were taken away by the authorities.

 

Approximately four miles to the East of Weybourne is Beeston Bump, one of the five Norfolk Y-stations that were set up to intercept enemy radio signals for decoding at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. These signals were taken down by hand onto paper and were driven by motorbike dispatch riders to Bletchley. Before the end of the war, the information was being conveyed by teleprinter. The other Y-stations in Norfolk were in Cromer, South Walsham, North Walsham, and Gorleston.

 

At the top of Beeston Bump, there is the octagonal concrete base of a WWII pillbox. In Norfolk, these little concrete observation points are plentiful. The producers of WWII pillboxes were given pretty stringent design guidelines, but, given the variation in local materials, and the personal preferences of those who built these mini fortresses, WWII pillboxes are far from uniform.

 

WWI pillboxes were mainly hexagonal or circular in shape. Several slots (called loopholes), through which soldiers could shoot, sloped inward, thereby creating more scope for aiming a gun outward, but less opportunity of firing into the loophole. The concrete walls were up to a metre thick.

 

In recognition of WWI’s centenary (2014-2018), North Norfolk District Council has concocted a bit of challenging fun for locals and visitors. It’s the North Norfolk WWI Pillbox Trail Challenge. For more information, have a look at the leaflet – it might be fun! (https://www2.north-norfolk.gov.uk/files/NNDC_PillBox_Trail_Leaflet.pdf)

 

 

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