Aldeburgh

By 1942, Aldeburgh was classified as a Coastal Defended Place and had a garrison of 80 Home Guard from 8 Battalion Suffolk Home Guard. The combined Military and Civil Defence Scheme, drawn up in November 1942, survives for Aldeburgh.

Military Scheme

The enemy could be expected to attack by sea, land or air. A seaborne attack would almost certainly be accompanied by a paratroop attack to the rear. Dive bombing could be expected in all types of attack.

Aldeburgh was defended by Field Forces in platoon localities, Coast Artillery Troops and the Home Guard. As usual the intention was to hold to the last man and last round.

The Home Guard and Coast Artillery troops would be responsible for their own local defence while Field Forces would be deployed in platoon localities.

Home Guard
On “Stand To”, an initial list of 28 men would report immediately with the following roles:

  • As gun numbers for the Coastal Battery
  • Digging and maintaining positions
  • Runners and messengers for calling up the rest
    • The rest of the Home Guard were to report within 48 hours but would not be retained.

      On “Action Stations” the remainder of the Home Guard would report for duty immediately. Some of the Home Guard (a total of 17 men) were fishermen and enrolled as a Naval section under the Royal Naval Officer Aldeburgh, tasked with deploying mines for the Navy. They would then join up with the rest of Home Guard on completion of this task.

      Some detachments of the Home Guard had special tasks:

      • Defence of Aldeburgh Railway Station (including responsibility for two rail blocks)
      • Defence of Aldeburgh Electricity Station
      • Defence of Aldeburgh Post Office
        • Feeding Arrangements for the Home Guard:

          On mustering, the Home Guard was to report with haversack rations for 24 hours and ration cards. The Home Guard platoon commander would present these ration cards to one of the three Food Emergency stores (see Civil Defence scheme) and collect one week’s rations per man mustered which were to be stored at the Coastal Battery. Arrangements had also been made with the Brudenell Hotel to act as a catering establishment for the Home Guard. In addition the Home Guard platoon commander held 450 points which could be exchanged at shops for food until stocks ran out. An emergency store of 14 tins of Reserve Rations was held at the Coast Battery, to be consumed only when all other food sources had failed. Eight members of the WVS were registered as cooks for the Home Guard.

          Denial of Petroleum Stores:

          The following petroleum stores were to be immobilized/denied:

          • Constance’s Garage – three petrol pumps to be immobilized/denied by Home Guard
          • Carter’s Garage – petrol pump to be immobilized/denied by Home Guard
          • Ward’s Garage – petrol pump to be immobilized/denied by Field Forces
          • Aldeburgh Lifeboat – petrol stored in tins to be immobilized/denied by Field Forces
            • Communications with Field Forces:

              The Home Guard was to maintain communications with Field Forces by bicycle orderly and telephone line from the Report Center.

              Priority Roads:

              The following roads were to be kept open as priority routes by the police and Fire services before all other tasks:

              • Victoria Road – High Street – Park Road South – Park Road North
              • The Terrace – Park Lane
                • Civil Scheme

                  Around the time the scheme was drawn up, the population of Aldeburgh was 1,500 exclusive of troops (the normal population was around 2,500 people). Of these, 1,130 were adults, 250 were aged between 6 to 18 and 120 were under 6 years of age. About 130, included in the total, were aged or infirm persons. In the event of hostilities, and the population staying put and not evacuated, the military considered that the population outside the anti-tank ditch would have to be brought within the perimeter and arrangements had been made for billeting these people (who numbered about 500).

                  The Civil Defence services available were as follows:

                  Police:

                  The station was manned by six full time officers and 16 Special Constables (but only six if evacuation took place). The police had 10 vehicles available, one with loud speaker equipment attached.

                  Air Raid Precautions:

                  The ARP service HQ was the Moot House, with an alternative HQ at Barham, Alde Lane. The strength of the ARP service was:

                  • Report post – 11
                  • Wardens – 26
                  • Rescue Party – 9
                  • Road Repairs – 7
                  • Messengers – 8 and A.T.C 20.
                  • First Aid Party – 8
                  • Ambulance Party – 10 and 2 ambulances
                    • The First Aid Post and Decontamination Post were located at Aldeburgh Cottage (War Emergency) Hospital. There were no public shelters but some private shelters for 443 people. Blast walls (presumably sandbags) had been provided for most small houses and 60 Morrison shelters had been received.

                      Fire Services:

                      The strength of the Fire Service was 19 men, with one fire engine and two tractor pumps. Stirrup pumps had been supplied to 70 houses (out of a total of about 600 occupied houses). Water for fire fighting was available from the mains but other supplies could be drawn from the old reservoir near the water tower (which filled daily from springs), from the anti-tank ditch surrounding the town and from a pond on the Saxmundham Road. In addition a 10,000 gallon emergency tank was erected near the Town Steps and a 12,000 gallon tank was planned to be erected near the War Memorial.

                      Food:

                      One weeks ration was held for 1,500 people at three distribution centers:

                      • “Longcroft”, Prior’s Hill Road
                      • “Aldehurst”, Victoria Road
                      • “Shelley”, Crespigny Road
                        • In the shops at any one time, it was estimated that there would be another week’s supply of flour and groceries. For the Rest Center, supplies were held for 40 people. In the event of evacuation, there would be ample supplies for the 270 essential workers left behind. On “Action Stations”, the Food Expectative Officer would requisition all stocks in shops and give instructions as to the distribution of rations. Dairy supplies could be provided by two dairy herds, as long as grazing land and fodder inside the perimeter of the anti-tank ditch lasted. Meat supplies were more difficult – it was distributed from Leiston and if cut off, then some of the least productive dairy cows could be slaughtered.

                          Water was available from the mains but in case of emergency it could be drawn from the Reservoir, the Town Well and private Wells. This would provide sufficient to give each person five gallons per day with extra supplies for the Hospital, bakehouses etc. All water would have to be chlorinated before drinking. In the event of emergency, the public would be informed by loud speaker and ARP Wardens. “Water Police” would be posted to the distribution points.

                          Rest Center and Communal Kitchen:

                          This was situated in the High Street and run by the WVS. It could feed up to 300 people a day in two sittings. The Rest Center could accommodate 40 people.

                          Medical Services:

                          The Medical Officer was Dr Nora Acheson who would also presumably be supported by the Military Doctor at the Regimental First Aid Post at Gower House.
                          The War Emergency Hospital, High Street, had 24 beds and was staffed by a Matron, two Sisters, one probationary Sister and four Nursing Reserves. The services of a District Nurse were also available. Alternative or additional accommodation for medical use was at:

                          • “Osborne”, Crabbe Street (the Nurses sleeping quarters)
                          • The Jubilee Hall, Crabbe Street – room for 40 beds but no equipment. However it adjoined the War Hospital.
                          • Regimental FAP, Gower House – 24 beds in conjunction with the military
                          • “Alde House” – room for 24 beds but no equipment
                          • “Longcroft” – the Mayor and Mayoress residence, in which they could accommodate 12 beds.
                            • The Fist Aid Post was also located at the War Emergency Hospital and staffed by Dr Acheson and 18 members of St John Ambulance Association. The members of the Association also served in the First Aid Party and Ambulance. The Cleansing Station adjoined the FAP.

                              Road Clearing:

                              Labour available to draw upon for road clearing totaled about 130 men and 300 women. However, if evacuation occurred, it would have to be undertaken by the ARP Rescue and Demolition parties alone.

                              Burials:

                              Sufficient space was available in the churchyard.

                              Homeless:

                              Due to its relatively isolated position, Aldeburgh did not expect to have to deal with homeless refugees. For people made homeless in the town due to enemy action it was considered that the Rest Centre and Communal Kitchen would be sufficient.

                              Reference:

                              Aldeburgh Combined Military and Civil Defence Scheme, SRO

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