United Kingdom / Fortification
One of many training sites erected throughout Britain, Hankley Common training site included a reconstruction of a section of the Atlantic Wall, constructed in 1943 by Canadian troops.
Constructed between 1942 and 1944, the Atlantic Wall was a coastal defence built along the coastline of mainland Europe. This was essentially an extensive wall with fortifications designed to stop the Allies from successfully landing on the coastline, and beyond it lay millions of mines to try and prevent parachutists circumnavigating the wall and landing on the beach. In order to overcome this barrier, replicas portions of the wall were constructed in the lead up to D-Day to rehearse the break through the wall and glean the effectiveness of various weaponry. Erwin Rommel believed that unless the Allied troops could be stopped before they unloaded onto the beaches, there could be little chance of preventing an invasion.
The wall built at Hankley Common is around 100 metres long, 3 meters tall and 3.5 metres thick yet still shows evidence of having been successfully breached a number of times, from weaponry and demolition devices. The wall was constructed on an iron framework, using concrete and with a pair of steel gates separating it into two parts. Raiding parties were reportedly sent across the Channel to measure the real thing so the training would be as realistic as possible. It is clear that a number of training exercises occurred on the common, with nearby obstacles such as a set of ‘Dragon’s teeth’ which were raised concrete blocks to prevent tank movements and control the direction of troop movements. Of the weaponry trialled it was believed the Churchill Mark II tank fitted with a ‘Double Onion’, a device to lay charges at height, was used to place 1000 lbs of charge on a wire frame.
Troops were most likely billeted at the nearby Elstead camp, and local residents were most likely aware of these activities, given the number of big bangs occurring. There were a number of complaints purportedly sent to the War department for broken windows and cracked ceilings. The wall is now cared for by the Defence Training Estates, and the area is periodically used for MOD training.
Tilford Road, Farnham, Surrey