Spuduka's Pillbox log Thames set

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright August 2010, Bill Nicholls; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
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I was prompted into writing this article by Rudi and Jon2. It is my account of the remaining pillboxes of the stop lines I have visited.

To give some background you have to go back to 1940 when the UK was at risk from Germany invading after the fall of France. Sir Edmund Ironside was made CO of the Home Guard and embarked on building a series of stop lines. Work started around June 1940 and stopped around August 1940 when Ironside was replaced and General staff thought of a different strategy.

The idea was to protect London and used natural barriers and ditches to deter any chance of the Germans using tanks like they did in France. Between the natural barriers anti-tank ditches were dug and pillboxes built to defend London from attack. When work stopped on the stop lines the pillboxes were left and over 1200 remain today.

How much use the stop lines would have been is open to question as the home defence were short of guns to man them with anyway as a lot of equipment and guns were left behind in France after the fall.

Today we still see the defences around and many of the pillboxes still exist though they are blending into the undergrowth and canít easily be seen. Someone called them the castles of the twentieth century, which in a way they were. Some are in danger of being destroyed, others succumbing to the elements.

I set out at first to record the ones I knew about along the River Thames. This then turned out a never-ending task as I found more and more, including a couple that people did not realise were there. I ended up covering the Thames from Pangbourne to Abingdon using the Defence of Britain (DOB) database I managed to get a download for my Anquet digital mapping. The further afield I went, the more I came across, and now my log ranges from Theale to Duxford. I also used a book called Ironsides line which was a big help in my quest.

I have been concentrating on the Red line but intend to do the Blue line which runs down the River Kennet and hopefully join up with the green line that runs up to the Red line somewhere near Swindon. A lot of this I do on my own but I do go on explorations with other people. The red line has some of the best preserved pillboxes and the biggest concentration is between Theale and Pangbourne (the Sulham Valley) followed by the Abingdon to Appleton stretch. The work is done mostly in the winter when the weeds and undergrowth have died down, so I will be out again with my fellow pillbox hunters recording what I can find.
Due to the length of the stoplines I intend to split them up into areas.
Since writing this article I have found where two more were at Culham. They were both on top of Old Culham bridge back to back and were removed after the war. The bridge itself had a balcony added where one of the pillboxes was.

My travels can be followed by clicking the link below.
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You can also see them on Google maps in Panoramio
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More info on the types can be seen here
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SU5985 : Buried to the loopholes by Bill Nicholls
Start with the first I came across when, as kids, we used to venture out to play.
Which has now been turned into a home for bats.


SU6086 : Sat by the ditch by Bill Nicholls
Then the one a bit further along the river
now being slowly wrecked by the local kids.


SU5984 : Somewhere under this lot by Bill Nicholls
Another was this one by the Four Arches as it is known locally but properly called Moulsford Railway Viaduct.
Yes there is a pillbox under that lot.

Still, I think we should start one end and work towards the other so I'll start at Pangbourne. This was where the Red line started on the Thames unfortunately the one that was near Whitchurch bridge was demolished so the next one is just up from the Whitchurch lock.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6376 : Pillbox under the branches by Bill Nicholls SU6276 : No boat in the way by Bill Nicholls
Best I can get till I get a chance to visit but it can be seen from the road opposite. Winter proved a better time as the leaves came off the tree and the boat had moved away.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6277 : Covered in Ivy by Bill Nicholls
Believe me there is a pillbox under this lot the shape gives it away and you can make out a loophole in the ivy. I suspect this is the one marked on Google earth as Coombe Park where the boat house is.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6278 : Unfinished pillbox by Bill Nicholls SU6278 : Waiting for the sides by Jimmy Nix
This is the base of a pillbox on Hartslock island which was started but never finished I have to thank a work colleague for this as he stopped off with his boat to take photos for me.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6178 : Slipping into the river by Bill Nicholls SU6178 : Emplacement on the island by Bill Nicholls
Gun emplacement on the other end of Hartslock island now filled with mud and slipping into the river.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6179 : Trees all round by Bill Nicholls SU6179 : Half a door by Bill Nicholls SU6179 : Through the loophole by Bill Nicholls
Pillbox in one of my favourite settings Hartslock wood. The pillbox backs onto a bank which is eroding and some of the soil is slipping down the back partly covering it.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6079 : Pillbox by the bridge by Bill Nicholls SU6079 : Entrance by the gate by Bill Nicholls SU6079 : This way looks worse by Bill Nicholls
Gatehampton Railway bridge and on the other side is a gun emplacement. Not advisable to go inside, apart from the trackbed stones and rubbish inside it has been used as a toilet.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6079 : Looking along Gatehampton by Bill Nicholls
It's behind the trees by the railbridge, easy enough to see while going past on the train and it still has the holdfast bolts in place. I have seen it from below but it is too far up the steep rail embankment to get a good look.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU5979 : Across the river by Bill Nicholls SU5979 : Pillbox in the trees by Bill Nicholls SU5979 : Steps in the Ivy by Bill Nicholls
Used to be easily visible from the road as I used to see it whilst on the bus to school but over the years nature has taken over.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU5980 : Another one chalked up by Bill Nicholls
Took a while to spot this one and it is on private river front so I need to have a word with the owner about having a look at it. There used to be another on the opposite side of the bridge but this was demolished when they extended the weir. There are no more pillboxes from what I can make out till you reach Moulsford.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU5983 : Pillbox in the garden by Bill Nicholls SU5983 : Private side by Bill Nicholls
I've not visited this one to view inside but it's most likely the same as all the rest like it, looks to be used for a shed.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU5984 : Under the bush by Bill Nicholls SU5984 : Inside the pillbox by Bill Nicholls SU5984 : Opposite side of the arches by Bill Nicholls
A bit of a trek to get to as it's a walk from Littlestoke or can be got to from South Stoke. The one on the Cholsey side looks the same although now it cannot be seen due to the growth that covers it.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU5984 : Pillbox entrance by Bill Nicholls SU5984 : Lost from sight by Bill Nicholls
The Cholsey side is not visible though if you look carefully through the undergrowth you can see there is one but here is a shot of the entrance to prove it.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU5985 : Moss covered sides by Bill Nicholls SU5985 : Filled with rubbish by Bill Nicholls SU5985 : Revisit to the emplacement by Bill Nicholls
This is a gun emplacement which is situated between the rail viaduct and Moulsford road bridge. Took me ages to find it I might add. One interesting thing for rail buffs is that there is boundary marker in the corner by the field.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU5985 : Buried to the loopholes by Bill Nicholls SU5985 : Blocks in the entrance by Bill Nicholls SU5985 : Visit to an old friend by Bill Nicholls
The one at Cholsey which I used to play in as a kid; hard to imagine it used to be more visible than this.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6085 : Time to go Home by Bill Nicholls SU6085 : Pillbox in the garden by Bill Nicholls SU6085 : From the back gate by Bill Nicholls
How I used to remember the one on the opposite side of the river at Cholsey though it looks to be close to the river it is in a garden. It is easy to view from the towpath and from what I can see has a door on the back.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6086 : Front of the pillbox by Bill Nicholls SU6086 : My next stop by Bill Nicholls SU6086 : Damage from the entrance by Bill Nicholls
Second one at Cholsey which is being gradually damaged on the inside by the local kids. Easy to get to from the Thames path and one I remember from my childhood

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6086 : Northstoke side by Bill Nicholls SU6086 : Looking through the gap by Bill Nicholls
And on the opposite side is this one. I have managed to visit though it is full of river bed from the flooding. The bank it stands on has been slightly undercut by the river as well

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6086 : Covered in ivy by Bill Nicholls SU6086 : The way in by Bill Nicholls
Bowbridge which you can walk past and not notice it is there.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6087 : Back of the box by Bill Nicholls SU6087 : Clearer view by Bill Nicholls
Mongewell park which has been blocked up by the old park owners.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6087 : Look along the side by Bill Nicholls SU6087 : Boathouse in the snow by Bill Nicholls SU6087 : Through the loophole by Bill Nicholls
Amongst my favourites this defended building which most people do not realise what it is.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU6188 : Pillbox near the church by Bill Nicholls
Right behind a church at Newnham Murren. The pillbox is used by cattle so quite messy inside.

KML

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