Britain’s fight for survival: Fortress Britain 1940

Forget the Dad's Army myth. With powerful leaders, a well-armed Home Guard and some terrifying new weapons, Britain was well prepared to meet a Nazi invasion. Leo McKinstry takes up the story...

Soldiers guard England's south coast behind a bank of banned wire on 2 September 1940

This article was first published in the September 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

There was a mood of tension in the air that bright morning in the summer of 1940, as the military personnel, scientific experts and government officers gathered at the top of the cliff overlooking the Solent estuary in Hampshire. Next to this distinguished group stood a row of 10 large Scammell petrol tankers, from each of which stretched a long pipe, snaking down the 30‑foot-high cliff, across the shoreline and out into the sea. At a given signal, the valves on the 10 petrol tankers were opened, and almost immediately the pipes began to deliver oil into the water at a rate of 12 tonnes an hour.

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