The Naze during the Second World War (1939-1945) would have been barely recognizable to today’s visitors. The grassland on the clifftop is now a peaceful recreational area for walkers, school children, people taking their dog for its daily exercise and others simply out for a gentle stroll. Then, it was a land of army huts, trenches, pillboxes and gun emplacements.
Discover the Naze’s World War Two past. Following a one-mile circuit around the top of the Naze, a new way-marked trail, with information boards, takes in some of the wartime sites and looks at what remains now. It visits two surviving pillboxes, one of them of a type unique in Essex, and offers the unusual spectacle of a further two, seaweed-encrusted on the beach below, being covered twice a day by the in-coming tide! It includes the site of one of Britain’s first guided missile test installations and passes over the ground trodden by innumerable soldiers using the Naze for wartime battle training.
The tower had stood there since 1720 but during the latter part of World War Two it had a huge radar aerial on the top. Billets for the RAF operators were grouped together nearby. Barbed wire ringed the site.
Along the clifftop were perched pillboxes, each with an anti-aircraft machine-gun on the top. Soldiers manning them would scan the horizon for a possible invasion fleet or low-flying aircraft intent on strafing the site. All along the beach below there was the curious spectacle of a continuous line of scaffolding erected as a barrier against landing craft or tanks.
Further north, long, silver projectiles whooshed off a launch mounting to speed out to sea. Established in 1944, here was one of the country’s first guided missile test sites.
Past lines of anti-aircraft rocket launchers, there was a battery of 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns pointed out to sea, waiting to bring down the next V1 flying bomb passing overhead on its way inland.
At the extreme north end of the Naze, at night with enemy bombers coming across the sea, there may be seen massive fires, moving lights, headlamps and sparks from overhead tram wires, all out on the open fields. A night-time decoy would be trying to lure bombers into dropping their loads here rather than on their intended target.
The Naze was a hive of military activity during World War Two. For more details of the Naze’s World War Two past there are websites at www.heritagegateway.org.uk and http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk.