Posts Tagged ‘Picket Hamilton Forts’

When Horncurch became the Sector airfield covering London and the south east of England for RAF Fighter Command’s 11 Group during the Second World War, it became policy for Hornchurch-based fighter squadrons to use the advance attack outpost RAF Rochford as a satellite airfield. 54 (Spitfire) Squadron, under Squadron Leader ‘Toby’ Pearson, moved in to Rochford on 11 August 1939, already prepared for combat as the Nazis threatened Europe.

Given its importance as a defence position, a Battle Headquarters and Control Room were erected between two aircraft pens on the eastern side of the all-grass airfield, backing onto Eastwoodbury Lane. Close to these were two large Bellman Hangars, a Gas Defence Centre, fire crew huts, oil and petrol stores, water tanks and barracks. Spread among all these were eleven Stanton shelters which provided bolt-holes during air raids, and ground defences comprising three pillboxes (sited at the boundaries and close to the LNER railway line), four Hispano 20mm machine gun posts and an anti-aircraft emplacement.

rafsndmapOn the southern side were two aircraft pens, blister hangars, flight offices, barracks, latrines and drying rooms, two pillboxes, a 12,000-gallon aviation petrol store, an anti-aircraft gun emplacement, and shelters.


A retrieved turret of a Pickett-Hamilton Fort

Three Pickett Hamilton forts were also constructed in the north-east, northwest, and south-west of the landing ground. Unlike pillboxes, which would have presented a constant danger to aircraft on the landing areas, especially at night time, these were pre-cast concrete sleeves inside which a turret could be raised or lowered when required by means of a hydraulic pump, and the gun crew inside would be in action within a few minutes. It was manned by two or three men, and was not the best environment in which to spend any length of time as they frequently filled with rain water. In the event that the aerodrome was in imminent danger of capture, it could be destroyed. Pipes filled with blasting gelignite were laid under the surface of the flying field, and four igniting points were set – one in each corner of the airfield.

There were also vulnerable targets in the vicinity of Rochford – in particular the EKCO works close to the Southend Victoria to London railway line, and the Chain Home Radar Station at Canewdon. Fifty pillboxes and machine-gun emplacements were constructed to defend the area against an airborne assault, and troops under the command of the Reserve Battalion Area Command consisting of No. 1 Infantry Battalion, a Battery of the Royal Artillery, and Rayleigh Coy, 1st Essex Battalion (HG), were on site at “Stand-To”. No.9 Platoon ‘B’ of Southend Coy (HG) Essex Regiment were posted to defend the east and south-east approaches to the aerodrome, as well as ‘Cuckoo’ Corner, Temple Farm and the Rectory, with standing patrols along Sutton Road.

From: RAF Southend 1940-1944

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