A Tragic Accident at Southwold, 1940

Martin Tegerdine, Lowestoft

In June 1940 my father William Pordham Tegerdine of Lowestoft began working on the defences between Easton Bavents near Southwold along the coast to Sizewell. This was his section and he was in charge of a gang of workmen. My father was an immensely strong man and he and his workers were given the job of putting in what he called dragons teeth. These consisted of sections of railway track which they had to dig into the beach and filled around with 1cwt. sacks of cement at low tide. The men used the lanes along the side road running off the A12 through Blythburgh to get to the beaches at places such as Dunwich and Minsmere. They also erected scaffold poles and barbed wire in the sea also to stop German invasion barges.

Father said that one day they were stopped by soldiers at Blythburgh bridge from going any further. There were rumours that burnt German bodies had been found on the beach at Shingle Street. Father told me that there were men constructing concrete anti-tank blocks at Dunwich, which are still there today. He told me that some of the men doing the concreting would put an old drum or can in the middle to take up room so they didn't have to do so much mixing.

One tragic incident happened at Southwold one Sunday morning [believe 1940]. The beaches were mined and a barbed wire fence was put outside the mines to indicate that nobody must walk on the beach. During the previous night the incoming tide had washed the barbed wire up the beach and 5 or 6 men from the other gang stepped on mines. They were all killed.