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Tonbridge Fortress

Paul Tritton – Kent Historic Defences Group

‘Tonbridge Fortress’ chronicles a Kent town’s experiences in the early years of WW2, from accepting evacuees in September 1939 to being transformed into a heavily fortified town when England prepared to face a German invasion (‘Operation Sea Lion’) after Dunkirk.

The town’s first anti-invasion defences were pillboxes, tank-traps and road blocks built along the River Medway as part of the GHQ or ‘Ironside’ Line, which spanned southern England and continued from the Thames estuary to The Wash.

The Line was initiated by General William Edmund Ironside, Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, a former pupil of Tonbridge School, and later became part of defence plans formulated by generals Brooke, Montgomery and Gammell.

Tonbridge School’s grounds became part of an outer perimeter of anti-tank ditches, barbed wire entanglements and gun emplacements that encircled Tonbridge Castle and the town’s northern suburbs. Known as ‘Tonbridge Fortress,’ this area was manned by Home Guard and professional soldiers under orders to defend their positions ‘to the last man and bullet’

The book features recently-revealed pillboxes, ‘then and now’ photographs, aerial pictures of the town’s defences, asks: ‘Could Hitler have captured Tonbridge Fortress’ - and recounts a war game at RMA Sandhurst that sought to answer the question.