Before May 1940, defence measures for mainland Britain were minimal and mainly located in the south of England. There were, however, over 400 miles of British coastline suitable for landing enemy troops and tanks. This coastline needed protection from invasion.
On 27 of May 1940, General ‘Tiny’ Ironside took charge of the anti-invasion defence plan for Britain. With so few men at his disposal, General Ironside concentrated on building a large scheme of coastal and inland anti-invasion defences. The purpose of these defences was to slow down an enemy invasion, giving time for his overstretched army to position themselves and counter-attack.
Another key threat to the defence of Britain was attack from the air. With the introduction of aeroplanes in World War 2 air defence was to prove vital. Anti-aircraft defences were established, including specialised artillery and radar for tracking enemy planes.
Natural defences included rivers. Their bridges were marked for destruction if an invasion occurred, to prevent the enemy crossing them.
Sections of coastline, where the enemy could easily land, had a series of defences built along them, known as 'forming a crust'. Coastal defences are evident at Tentsmuir, Roseisle, Lossie and Culbin.
Man-made obstacles included lines of concrete anti-tank blocks that formed a barrier between regularly placed pillboxes. Pillboxes were small concrete structures where a squad of men could stand protected and fire against the enemy at close range. Ditches, minefields, walls of scaffolding and barbed wire fences supported these defences.
Protecting the ports
Ports were a major enemy target and so coastal gun batteries were placed nearby to protect them. There is one located at Lossie Forest. If the enemy moved past the coastal defences, a second line of defence was the stop-lines.
The main threat to the Lossie area was enemy gliders landing behind the defence lines. Long, wooden poles known as anti-glider defences stood upright along the coastline to prevent them from easily landing. You can see evidence of these at Culbin Sands.
In 1940, the Germans recognised the need to destroy Britain’s air force before an invasion could begin. Germany, however, failed to gain mastery over Britain’s Air Command. As the war continued the German strategy changed and night-time bombing became a constant threat.
On the ground there were various defences in place to support the fighters and protect Britain from air attack.
The Chain Home radar system detected planes as they flew towards Britain’s coast. The radar, however, could not detect planes once they were over Britain; this needed human observation. The Royal Observer Corp (ROC) consisted of 40,000 men and women volunteers who tracked planes and reported to Air Command.
Placed on the ground were specially designed anti-aircraft guns, such as those once located at Balmacara, to protect strategically important sites. Decoys were used to lead the enemy away from their intended targets. Other targets were disguised using camouflage to prevent detection from the air.