80-year-old aerial photo shows Second World War beach defences

coastal defences at Bacton and Walcott in Norfolk during the Second World War

An aerial photo of coastal defences at Bacton and Walcott in Norfolk during the Second World War. - Credit: Historic England

An aerial photo taken more than 80 years ago shows coastal defences on the north Norfolk coast during the Second World War.

The anti-invasion measures on the stretch of beach between Bacton and Walcott included scaffolding built to form a long linear barrier along the beach.

A closer look at the photo, which was taken from an RAF plane in August 1941, shows anti-tank cubes arranged in lines between the buildings fronting the beach.

Work starts at Bacton. Date: 2 June 2019. Picture: Mike Page

A more recent aerial photo of Bacton, taken in 2019, during sandscaping works along the coast. - Credit: Mike Page

The hexagonal pillbox protected the access to the roads away from the beach.

The pillbox is one of around 28,000 such structures built around the British coast during the Second World War in response to the threat of Nazi invasion.

If a landing force attempted to storm the coastline, they would have given cover to machine gunners and mortar operators fighting them off. 

The photo also appears to show a gap in the scaffolding, which probably allowed the two beached boats to get to the sea.

Gun turret at Bacton. Pictures: Marianne Shelley Goddard

Gun turret at Bacton. Pictures: Marianne Shelley Goddard - Credit: Archant

Until as recently as February last year, unexploded devices from the Second World War have been found on that stretch of coast, and in 2018 storms exposed a gun turrent on Bacton beach.

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The picture is part of an archive assembled by Historic England on its new Aerial Photograph Explorer.

The online tool allows users to search and explore a map showing more than 400,000 such photos of the east of England taken over the past 100 years.

Some of the pictures reveal cropmarks showing hidden archaeology beneath the surface of fields.

Around 300,000 of these are the work of Historic England's aerial investigation and mapping team.

Tony Calladine, east of England regional director for Historic England, said: "I am delighted that our new online tool will allow people to browse our wonderful collection of historic aerial photos that my team uses every day to unlock the mysteries of England's past.

"The remarkable pictures of the east of England give a fascinating insight into our local area, allowing people to see how their street and their town centre looked wheen their great grandparents lived there."

To search the platform, visit https://HistoricEngland.org.uk/AerialPhotos