Guernsey Press

Concrete mixer survives as long as fortresses it built

A CONCRETE mixer that was used during the Occupation and is believed to be the last survivor of its type has been restored.

Richard Heaume alongside the restored mixer at the German Occupation Museum. Inset: the machine in use during the war. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30416591, 30424435)

In 1941 there were about six of the mixers in the island to build the German fortifications, following Hitler’s directive that the Channel Islands should be converted into indestructible fortresses as part of the Atlantic Wall.

Richard Heaume, owner of the Occupation Museum, said the restoration had been an exciting lockdown project.

‘Guernsey’s heritage is paramount and we’ve got to think of future generations as unfortunately no-one else has saved these concrete mixers anywhere else – we’ve looked in Europe, we’ve looked in Russia, and we’ve looked in America, and there is no concrete mixer like this left.

‘Fortunately we had everything on it, although it was in a very decayed and rusted state, so we haven’t had to build anything new, everything is original. It’s got the original tyres, it still has the maker’s plaque on it, all we’ve had to do is recondition the engine.

‘The engine doesn’t run and we don’t want it to run because it might do more harm than good. But we’ve reconditioned the whole machine and now it is a splendid piece. It will be displayed here in the museum store and it will be open from time to time to the public next year.’

Mr Heaume first located this concrete mixer in 1972, spotting it in Le Couteur’s yard at Rocquaine.

It was used as a prop in the 1973 film The Blockhouse, which was shot at Pleinmont and starred Peter Sellers.

A photograph which dates back to March or April 1941 shows one of these cement mixers on-site at a battery overlooking L’Eree.

It was a crucial piece of equipment as thousands of workers, some of them foreign slaves, used massive amounts of concrete to build structures that still dominate the landscape.

Other larger batch mixers were used at sites such as the Mirus battery, where the demand for concrete was even greater.

Tubby’s Autoworks helped with the hard graft of the restoration work and Mr Heaume was delighted with the result.

‘I’m very proud because it’s been a challenge. Very few people would undertake a challenge in lockdown like this, which would cost a lot of money, but it had to be done because it’s vitally important.’

Mr Heaume, who describes himself as ‘only 79’, is now focused on the overall project to restore the museum store, which used to be a shooting range for the occupying forces.

There is still a lot of equipment that needs to be revived, but the plan is to get it all ready for some public open days next year.