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North Mymms tank traps

Bradmore Green tank traps
Are these blocks on Bradmore Green tank traps?  Fujifilm

Two small concrete blocks sit on a grass verge outside a row of shops in Brookmans Park looking like a pair of miniature pyramids with their tops chopped off.

They are only about a metre high, but, could they have once formed part of a crucial defence line set up to deter a German land invasion advancing on London?

Some locals think they might have been. A WW2 expert has told this site that they are the right shape for anti-tank 'pimples' but would have been set in long rows if they were. Another expert has suggested they might just have been placed on the grass verge to deter illegal parking.

But not far away are genuine remains of part of Britain's war time defences, now logged and recorded in the Defence of Britain Survey.

Cross the railway bridge and turn down Bradmore Lane and there, hidden in undergrowth, you will see what is left of a line of concrete blocks on both sides of the lane.

These have now been identified as part of a network of thousands of obstacles put in place to prevent German tanks rolling through the British countryside.

Bradmore Green tank trap
Would this have delayed German tanks?  Fujifilm

On the right, as you head up Woodside Lane from Bell Bar there are more cones and blocks all forming part of a nationwide line of defences stretching east to west and north to south and scattered throughout the east and south-east of England.

A map on the British Archaeology site shows the extent of the defences.

In all, there are more than 2,000 anti-tank obstacles nationwide, 7,000 pillboxes and anti-tank gun emplacements and thousands of other anti-invasion works including anti-tank ditches, observation posts and shelters. Most were set up between 1940 and 1941 and now all have been recorded as part of "The Defence of Britain Project".

The Archaeology Data Service has put together an information page explaining the background to the project and the definition of many of the terms used.

Bradmore Lane tank trap
Bradmore Lane tank trap   Fujifilm
The project, which took seven years to complete, started in April 1995 and was finished in March 2002. Almost 20,000 twentieth century military sites were recorded by around 600 volunteers.

That information has now been committed to the Council for British Archaeology’s Defence of Britain database and is available to everyone wanting to know more about wartime archaeology.

According to researcher Simon Denison, who has written about Britain’s wartime defences, many of the anti-invasion landmarks have now gone, swept away by post-war redevelopment, but he says many pillboxes survived because farmers were only offered £5 to demolish them which was often more trouble than it was worth.

A line of such defences was originally planned to run from Somerset to Scotland skirting round London but it was never finished. The tank traps scattered across North Mymms are part of that line.

Bradmore Lane tank trap
Bradmore Lane tank trap   Fujifilm
According to William Foot, Database and Archive Manager of the CBA's Defence of Britain project, three-quarters of the 20,000 surviving wartime sites were previously unrecorded.

In an article about the Defence of Britain project, William says that from June 1940, over the space of some 15 intensive weeks of construction on a massive scale, Britain was prepared as an armed fortress. "There was not one square foot of land that was not subject to some detailed defence scheme." he writes.

"The linear defences - stop lines - that seamed the country were supplemented by more intensively defended points such as anti-tank islands, `nodal points' and defended villages. These were typically protected by earthworks, barbed wire and gun emplacements. Gun loopholes were added to existing garden walls and houses, some of which survive today," William continues.

He describes a 'stop line' as an anti-tank barrier "forming a continuous line of obstacles, natural and artificial, to check the advance of the enemy's armoured units."

William Foot says the idea was to `stop' the tanks at the barrier, and then, while they were temporarily halted, to blast them from gun emplacements set up to control the road and rail crossings of the stop line.

"The most important stop line was the GHQ Line running east from the North Somerset coast, parallel to the south coast, around London, and then running parallel with the east coast to Scotland. Other stop lines used major valleys, taking advantage of the natural barriers provided by the rivers. Where necessary, these rivers were improved by recutting the riverbanks and building revetments and ramparts on the attacker's side," he writes.

The Council for British Archaeology’s Defence of Britain database lists the following recordings of items in North Mymms.

  • Anti-tank block - In the woods at the corner of Swanley Bar Lane, Potters Bar. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2613 0314 )
  • Anti-tank ditch - Running from Brookmans Park to Cuffley. Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 2664 0371 )
  • Cone - Brookmans Park, Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2405 0430 )
  • Pillbox - In corner of field of Bolton's Park, S of Hawkshead Road, Potters Bar. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2541 0268 )
  • Spigot Mortar Emplacement - On E side of Great North Road just to S of Brookmans Park Transmitting Station. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2594 0467 )
The Council for British Archaeology’s Defence of Britain database lists the following recordings of items for areas surrounding North Mymms.

Hatfield

  • Cube - At the foot of Darnicle Hill on both sides of railway bridge, E of Newgate Street. Condition: Fair (Grid ref: TL 3076 0467 )
  • Pillbox - At a position under what is now the S lane of the new A414 road, Mill Green. Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 2375 0972 )
  • Pillbox - To the rear of Roe Green Lane, Hatfield. Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 2180 0850 )
South Mimms
  • Anti-tank obstacle - Half way up Ridgehill to the E of the B556 road. Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 202 026 )
  • Caltrop - On the W side of the B556 road by a field gate, 100 yards N of the N exit from South Mimms service station. Condition: Fair (Grid ref: TL 218 015 )
Potters Bar
  • Anti-tank block - In front garden of no.38, Baker Street, Potters Bar. Condition: Unknown (Grid ref: TL 2485 0096 )
  • Anti-tank ditch - Running at right angles to, and between, a stream and the nearby A1(M) road, upstream and S of the bridge carrying Warrengate Lane over the stream at Mimms Hall Cottages, W of Potters Bar. Condition: Fair (Grid ref: TL 2296 0177 )
  • Cube - Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2490 0241 )
  • Pillbox - At the junction of Mutton Lane and Darkes Lane, Potters Bar, Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 2490 0110 )
  • Pillbox - Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2490 0241 )
Northaw
  • Ammunition store - In woodland (Great Wood) close to the road - The Ridgeway, Northaw. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 277 038 )
  • Anti-tank ditch - Running from Newgate Street to Wormley. Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 3084 0481 )
  • Cube - At the entrance to 'Woodlands', at the junction of Shepherd's Way and The Ridgeway, Northaw. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2713 0350 )
  • Cube - In woodland close to the road - The Ridgeway, Northaw. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2771 0385 )
  • Pillbox - Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 2887 0345 )
  • Pillbox - In woodland (Great Wood) close to the road - The Ridgeway, Northaw. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2771 0385 )
  • Pillbox - Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 2862 0330 )
  • Pillbox - Carbone Hill, in woods by road, by stream. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 2979 0425 )
  • Pillbox - Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 3037 0418 )
  • Roadblocks - Carbone Hill, by stream, Northaw. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 2988 0429 )
  • Roadblocks - Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 3012 0423 )
  • Roadblocks - Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 3039 0417 )
Ridge
  • Anti-tank ditch - Rabley Park, Ridge, nr. South Mimms. Condition: Unknown (Grid ref: TL 2074 0120 )
  • Pillbox - Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 1870 0019 )
  • Pillbox - Ridge village centre. Condition: Good (Grid ref: TL 2145 0037 )
  • Pillbox - Bignell's Corner, E of Ridge. Condition: Unknown (Grid ref: TL 224 003 )
Shenley
  • Anti-tank ditch - Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 1965 0011 )
  • Pillbox - Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 1740 0037 )
  • Pillbox - Condition: Destroyed (Grid ref: TL 1722 0026 )
  • Pillbox - In scrub land in Watling Chase Community Forest, just E of the A1081 St. Albans Road. Condition: Fair (Grid ref: TQ 2381 9800 )
  • Pillbox - Woodhall Lane, Shenley. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TQ 1901 9995 )
  • Pillbox - Pursley Wood, Shenley. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 2012 0024 )
  • Pillbox - Porters Park, Radlett. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 1755 0033 )
  • Pillbox - Radlett Lane, Shenley. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 1797 0025 )
  • Pillbox - Green Street, Shenley. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TQ 1916 9992 )
  • Pillbox - Standing by footpath 18 in the fields of Pursley Farm, Shenley., Condition: Fair (Grid ref: TL 1965 0010 )
  • Roadblocks - Porters Park, Radlett. Condition: Extant but condition unknown (Grid ref: TL 1716 0037 )
Note: Any material taken from the Defence of Britain Project has been done so with the agreement of the Council for British Archaeology. The inclusion of the data above complies with the non-exclusive, non-transferable licence granted to those using or reproducing, in whole or in part, the material for valid not-for-profit teaching and research purposes, providing the copyright owners are acknowledged. The Archaeology Data Service is the source of the material.

October, 2002


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