Spuduka's Pillbox log Abingdon to Appleton

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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.

These pillboxes start at Abingdon going through Marcham, Fyfield and finally Appleton. There are a couple along the line that I have not yet visited, one is in a back garden and the other in a College though I did get a photo of it over the gate. This was another line which was done in a few sessions. The first to Fyfield I did with a few guys I know, the second time was after a walk along the Thames from Duxford. The last on my own when I finally got the last four.
This was another stopline (red line) that was defended by pillboxes ditches and roadblocks and has a superb set of dragons teeth at both ends.



Right we start at Abingdon though not on the Thames, this time near the River Ock or on the old Wilts & Berks Canal to be precise.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4896 : Hole in the loophole by Bill Nicholls SU4896 : Pillbox in the hedge by Bill Nicholls SU4896 : Pimples in the weeds by Bill Nicholls
This pillbox built on the old Wilts & Berks canal was blocked up but I could not say when. A hole has been knocked in it so no doubt the local smack heads use it. The box is a type 28A and faces a set of dragons teeth that are beside the River Ock. These are just off a footpath that runs alongside it. Best park up at Tesco and follow the path, they are just as you see the Ock by the end of a wooded area.

There is another marked up at Barrow Farm SU 471 974 but I still have to confirm it is there or demolished

The next pillbox is at the end of Cow lane in Marcham and most likely the others that were between here and Abingdon have been destroyed, also the A34 is now in the way.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4697 : Pillbox by the bridleway by Bill Nicholls SU4697 : View of the front by Bill Nicholls SU4697 : Where the gun went by Bill Nicholls SU4697 : Blocks on the bridleway by Bill Nicholls SU4697 : Blocks to the side by Bill Nicholls
The concrete pillbox was cast using corrugated iron shuttering and is in good condition. It faces a set of road blocks along a lane nearby.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4697 : Looking back by Bill Nicholls SU4697 : Through the loophole by Bill Nicholls SU4697 : Not the normal pillbox by Bill Nicholls
Further along cow lane not far from Sheepstead folly is this pillbox which stands out as it has a double dado rail round it, very much like the one at Sutton Courtney so I'm assuming the same builder made it.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4597 : Corner of the box by Bill Nicholls SU4597 : Poking out the undergrowth by Bill Nicholls SU4597 : Hidden in the undergrowth by Bill Nicholls SU4597 : Corrugated door way by Bill Nicholls
Further along at the start of Cow lane in Marcham is another Type 28A which is very overgrown, in fact from Cow lane it is hardly possible to see, if you go in the allotments you can see the corner of it jutting out.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4597 : And there it is by Bill Nicholls
The next is in Denham College grounds and I have not yet visited though I did manage to get a shot of the back of the pillbox over the gate opposite Cow lane Marcham. There used to be a gun pit nearby as well but from what I have been told it has been destroyed.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4596 : Pillbox over the wall by Bill Nicholls SU4596 : Pillbox entrance by Bill Nicholls SU4596 : Bottle in the gun steady by Bill Nicholls
Next is along the footpath from Marcham Church and still in the grounds of Denham College. It was one of the cleanest I have seen apart from the graffiti which is some of the filthiest.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4497 : Gun mounting by Bill Nicholls SU4497 : Sign in the distance by Bill Nicholls SU4497 : Bolts on top by Bill Nicholls
Just off the Frilford crossroads is this gun pit which is in great condition and still has the gun fasteners on too. This is what the one at Cholsey and Shillingford would have looked like.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4397 : Entrance in the pillbox by Bill Nicholls SU4397 : Covered in shrub by Bill Nicholls
This one took a while to get but I finally went and asked if it was ok to visit and get some photos, the owner was helpful, even telling me I had not been the only person recently so I have to say thank you for letting me see the pillbox. It's covered in honeysuckle that has grown over time and used as a wood store so access is not possible unless you remove it though the pillbox number is visible. Inside looks good from what I could see through the loophole as do the visible externals. It may well have been covering a footpath that ran over the anti-tank ditch that ran nearby. Also along the road there used to be some road blocks and a section post which have been removed.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4397 : Ditch by the pillbox by Bill Nicholls SU4397 : Looking out of the ditch by Bill Nicholls
Further along is an anti-tank ditch that has been dug out by the farm owner and local military history society and gives a very good idea as to what a tank may have had to put up with. He did say the embankments that would have gone either side were missing. The pillbox at the end may be facing the wrong way but behind the shed is another pillbox with the loophole facing towards the ditch.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4397 : Part added on by Bill Nicholls SU4397 : Door on the back by Bill Nicholls
This is the pillbox which is by the ditch although the farmer now uses it for storage so there is a door fitted to the entrance.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4397 : Other side of the hedge by Bill Nicholls SU4397 : Creeping over by Bill Nicholls SU4397 : Least it is clean by Bill Nicholls
Over the hedge on the next farm is the twin of the previous one, not quite so well kept but still there facing the ditch in case it is needed.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4298 : Looking at the first by Bill Nicholls SU4298 : Last one by Bill Nicholls SU4298 : Hard to believe by Bill Nicholls SU4298 : Outside the box by Bill Nicholls
On towards Fyfield or Fyfield Wick as I know it. The pillboxes can be got to by following a footpath from the Kingston Bagpuize road but we parked up near the chapel at Fyfield Wick and followed the footpath from there. You will find two Type 28As. One is getting lost in undergrowth the other stands by a small tree. Both have been partly blocked up but in quite good condition.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4298 : Main loophole by Bill Nicholls SU4298 : Through the doorway by Bill Nicholls
The next ones are round the back of a housing estate in Fyfield, the first is just past some garages in a paddock and is used by our equine friends.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4298 : The next stop by Bill Nicholls SU4298 : From one to the other by Bill Nicholls
The second is just a little way away in a second field though I did notice cattle used that one.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4199 : Entrance in the woods by Bill Nicholls SU4199 : Pillbox over the fence by Bill Nicholls
Next one along the line is this one in a copse off the Netherton road near Fyfield, there are two within a couple of hundred yards of each other and I might add they took a bit of tracking down.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4199 : Pillbox in the woods by Bill Nicholls SU4199 : An Ivy top by Bill Nicholls
This one is nearer the road, off a track, the woods had been cleared away when I visited and it can be seen from the road if the shrubbery has died down.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4199 : Pillbox in bits by Bill Nicholls SU4199 : Destroyed pillbox by Bill Nicholls
This one is on Kingston Hill farm and I got to it by walking round the edge of the field, I thought I spotted it from the road but on arrival found it was destroyed.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SU4199 : The second pillbox by Bill Nicholls SU4199 : Crack round the top by Bill Nicholls SU4199 : ROC post on the hill by Bill Nicholls
After looking at the destroyed pillbox which I think was a Type 28A I spotted the second which though still in one piece had certainly been used for target practice as well. Just past that is an ROC post.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SP4100 : Second pillbox by Bill Nicholls SP4100 : Pitting on the side by Bill Nicholls SP4100 : More pitting on the back by Bill Nicholls
On to the last pillboxes on this part of the stopline and they are off a footpath near Marsh Farm. The first here has a lot of pitting on the outside which I take are bullet marks, both are used by cattle.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SP4100 : Looking at the first by Bill Nicholls SP4100 : Side and front by Bill Nicholls SP4100 : Heading to the pillbox by Bill Nicholls
Last of the pillboxes along this stopline which faces its twin; some pitting but in good condition all the same.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright SP4100 : Dragons teeth by the river by Bill Nicholls SP4100 : Sleeping dragon by Bill Nicholls SP4100 : A single tooth by Bill Nicholls
We end as we started with a set of dragons teeth or pimples, used to stop tanks driving across the ground at the end of the ditch. Beside that is the Thames again and that section of the Red line is another article to come as I still have to finish it.
KML
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