Defending Britain

With the prospect of invasion in 1940, following the evacuation at Dunkirk, Britain quickly prepared for the expectation that Germany would try to invade this country. As well as the coastal defences, inland preparations began too, with the hurried construction of small brick and concrete bunkers, known as ‘Pill-Boxes’.

(All photos can be enlarged, to be seen in detail)

Many of these remain, and can be found in all parts of the country, including this one at a country lane road junction in the small hamlet of Hoe, around one mile from where I live in Beetley. The idea was to site them at strategic points, including close to targets like railway tracks, and the places where various roads converged. This one is very near the now disused railway line that once carried trains up to the north coast of Norfolk, and the towns of Holt, Sheringham, and Cromer. They were intended to be occupied by either Home Guard volunteers, or regular troops. Defended by a light machine-gun, and ordinary rifles, having to fight inside the cramped space of one of these small buildings cannot have been a welcome prospect for any soldier given the task. As you can see from my shadow in this photo, the entrance was small, and the interior only had room for around three men.

If German parachutists had arrived in force, it is unlikely that such a defence would have troubled them for too long. The position is easily outflanked by a larger body of troops, and the fate of those inside would be inevitable. They would either be killed during the fighting, or captured. Had they managed to inflict any casualties on their attackers, there is also the real possibility that they might have been executed after surrendering.

Over the last 79 years, nature has done its best to reclaim the ugly intruder. But it is a testament to how well-made it was that it still exists today, exactly as it would have looked in 1940. And it could still be used for the purpose it was intended for.

43 thoughts on “Defending Britain

  1. My father worked on coastal defenses, building pill-boxes and gun emplacements along the Yorkshire coast. This was before he was posted overseas with the Royal Engineers. My mother, who he had recently married, visited him at weekends in Scarborough and I was most probably conceived there. Possibly not in a pill-box though!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the history lesson, Pete! The pill boxes were good work. I still don’t understand why my compatriots-at least many of them-didn’t like English people. Be glad, with Brexit, your government is making sure you no longer will need the pill boxes. ๐Ÿ™‚ Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. English people are not easy to like, Michael. Many of them act badly in foreign countries, rarely learn other languages, and expect everyone to be able to understand English. To be honest, I don’t like most of the English people I meet either! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Brits would have been hard pressed in Germany had invaded as they had left most of the armor and artillery in France as well as hundreds of thousands of small arms. Many Home Guard units didn’t even have weapons and many members were using hunting rifles as well as pitchforks and hoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having explored many of the German bunkers in Jersey, I have to say they knew how to build them. Many are now used as commercial buildings as well as museums, my favourite is one that is converted to a live fish market \ store. The bunker is sub divided with tanks full of crabs, lobsters and the like, painted outside with a seascape mural, its hard to believe it used to house an artillery piece and probably 20 ot more troops, waiting the Brits to come and take the island back! But the real gems are the ones over grown and hidden on the coast or in woodland, just like the one you have found they are a better subject for the imagination.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have seen some of those huge German bunkers on the French coast, Eddy. Despite their heavy defences and complex construction, they were all overrun on D-Day. The small British pill-boxes would hardly have posed much of an obstacle, in 1940.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. They erected them in a network around an area. I suspect they would have only served to slow down the enemy a little, and perhaps allow other soldiers to retreat. I like that they are still standing though.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  5. His whole life my father had a sense of urgency about nuclear disaster. Iโ€™ll never forget his sheer joy in finding an old grist mill for sale in the NC mountains. 3-foot (1-meter?) thick concrete walls. My mother talked him out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well you folks are rather renowned for making amazing things that last for centruies so this doesn’t surprise me. It’s sometimes hard to imagine what could have been if not for.. this is no exception. A moment to reflect on PHEW and all those brave people who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of others.

    Liked by 1 person

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