The Last-Ditch is a new project that will run alongside my existing Northern Monuments series and will eventually collate all of the defensive military locations I've visited over the last decade. In 1940 after a defeat at Dunkirk it was expected that Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sealion), a German seaborne invasion backed by aerial assault, was imminent. In anticipation, a huge national effort resulted in thousands of concrete structures being built across the country almost overnight, including 9000 miles of runways. Many came to refer to the country as an island akin to 'one giant aircraft carrier out at sea', and were the battle of Britain not the success that it was, these defensive positions would have been our last-ditch effort at defending Britain and all of Europe from becoming a fascist state. These locations only grew in numbers heading toward the end of the 20th century as the country then prepared for the threat of a new enemy in the Soviet Union. Built to withstand direct bombing raids, it's easy to see why so many still survive today. Often hidden in woodlands, along disused railways, farmers fields or next to busy highways that have reshaped our landscape in the years that followed, many are now scheduled monuments due to their historical importance. Today's post features the entrance to a fuel depot in the rolling hills of Cheshire - the only sign that anything might exist beneath ground, where huge amounts of aviation fuel was stored en route to RAF airfields in the south. They were so big that no amount of effort could be justified to dismantle them, so they now remain a permanent part of the countryside.
"It is a message of good cheer to our fighting Forces on the seas, in the air, and in our waiting Armies in all their posts and stations, that we sent them from this capital city. They know that they have behind them a people who will not flinch or weary of the struggle — hard and protracted though it will be; but that we shall rather draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival, and of a victory won not only for ourselves but for all; a victory won not only for our own time, but for the long and better days that are to come."
September 11, 1940
Broadcast to London