Friday, 7 August 2015

Keep out the French. Keep out the Germans.

The Royal Military Canal in Kent, built 1805-9.
The French megalomaniac emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte was threatening to invade England at the beginning of the nineteenth century and so the government of Pitt sanctioned the building of a canal which would run along the foot of the North Downs from Seabrook near Hythe to Rye, a distance of twenty eight miles. This would provide a defensive line, cutting off Romney Marsh from the rest of Kent and trapping the invaders in the marshlands. The earth excavated was thrown up onto the northern bank so as to make a rampart from behind which the defending soldiers could fire and the canal was staggered so that canon could be placed to enfilade the water. The French never came.

The Royal Military Canal today.
By 1940, the German megalomaniac Adolf Hitler was threatening to invade so the canal was once again identified as a defensive option and fortified with pillboxes. The above photograph shows one of these edifices, ably defended by Romney Marsh sheep.   The ramparts of the northern bank can just be distinguished on the left of the image although two centuries of farming practice have probably reduced their height and the pillbox is situated on the spot where, in the nineteenth century, a canon would have been sited to provide enfilading fire down the canal.

Unfortunately the cycle track alongside the canal only runs for a couple of miles.

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