SMHS walk: Storrington

22 Feb 2015

February 22nd was a cold day with strong winds and driving rain forecast however, it wasn't enough to discourage 17 valiant SMHS members setting out from Storrington onto the Downs in search of WW2 features. We had two treasures in mind; an unusual iron clad pillbox along with its collapsed partner and a Churchill tank!

The pillboxes were built as part of a training exercise. They were covered with iron tiles designed to resist attack. Moreover the pillboxes were built to replicate a German battalion position and were based on a German design - Allied troops would have better idea of what they could expect to encounter during the invasion of continental Europe.

The Mark I and Mark II Churchill tanks were amongst those involved in the August 1942 Dieppe raid. 15 went, but none left the Dieppe beach. No one anticipated how pebbles from the beach would become jammed in their tracks, rendering them useless. The Kithurst Hill Churchill suffered engine failure before Dieppe and remained in its field near Storrington, consequently being used for target practice. After the war, the tank, too heavy to remove, was tipped into a nearby bomb crater. Buried for decades it was unearthed by enthusiasts, heaved from its earthy grave by Royal Engineers as a training exercise. The turret and tracks were salvaged but the chassis remains at the side of a field near the South Downs Way, a rusting reminder of the part the Downs played in WW2

Some SMHS Members provided their comments on the walk:-

I enjoyed the walk, I had no idea that so much remained from WW2 in this area. What made it so special was that there were 'experts' who could not only identify them, but tell the story of the people who built or used them.' Terri

Being a local to the Storrington area, I have been searching for that Churchill tank for some time, so to be taken directly to it and have the whole area put in context, with the pillboxes that I was previously unaware of was a real bonus. On top of that the opportunity to get a bird's eye view of places I drive past on a daily basis really made my day.' Richard

I know that area pretty well but actually knew very little about the pillboxes, other than the speculation already published. Pete cut through that like a razor! He and Stewart are two of the best military researchers out there (please don't tell them this) and the talk was just great!' Justin

The walk was organised by Stewart, Pete and Jim. Pete had researched the history of the pillboxes and Ed spoke about the tank with authority. There was little time for thanks on the day as the wind blew up and the heavens opened, but this was another high calibre event enjoyed by all who participated.


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