Under the threat of German invasion in the summer of 1940, the creation of a defensive 'coastal crust' represented one of the largest construction projects in British history. Hundreds of miles of beaches were closed off to the public and fortified with barbed wire, minefields and gun emplacements. The traces of this defence landscape are now only visible archaeologically and it is sometimes difficult to visualise the impact of these defence works on the British coastline.
The small village of Walberswick, Suffolk, is a historically important landscape containing a wealth of information on World War II defences that allows us to recreate the military environment of 1940.
The Virtual Past Team created models of the coastal defences in and around Walberswick in Suffolk as they would have appeared in late 1940. The centrepiece being an animated ‘flythrough’ over the area, allowing the viewer to see the defences and dispositions of troops and vehicles.
The team also produced an interactive map which details the archaeological remains of pillboxes, observation posts and trenches and allows the viewer to see the evidence on which the computer model is based. In addition, an archive section on the website created for the project contains transcripts of original documents and wartime photographs of the area.
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The website – www.walberswickww2.co.uk - was launched in October 2009, and has since received over 10,000 unique visitors (May 2010). It provides a unique reconstruction of the defences built during the 1940s on the Suffolk coast. Parts of the website are also specifically designated for use by schools and focus on the needs of the National Curriculum. The site has since been entered in the British Archaeological Awards: 'The Best Representation of Archaeology in the Media'.