The military at Birling Gap in the 20th Century
Between 1940-45 this coastline became a vast training area and was out of bounds to the public. The Royal Canadian Artillery inhabited the downs, building structures the remains of some are visible today. They laid rails so that the silhouettes of tanks and dive-bombers could be pulled along the valleys for target practice.
Old and abandoned buildings were also used for firing practice as readymade targets. Completely blown up were a First World War U-boat lookout post and the Crowlink Coastguard Cottages. The Belle Tout lighthouse was hit several times too, entirely by accident of course...
The threat of attack and invasion by sea and air was real along the coastline. Landscape surveying and archive research has allowed us to identify traces of these features. These features are the remains of anti-aircraft searchlights, pillboxes, trenches and gun installations which once defended this coast.
At first they seem to be just indistinct lumps of concrete and brick. But with the right knowledge they reveal a lost landscape, vastly different from the one we enjoy today. Next door to Crowlink is Gayle’s Farm and this was the site of RAF Friston and this report is very interesting.