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Thread: Pillboxes

  1. #1

    Default Pillboxes

    Hi,

    The War Office's Department of Fortifications and Works issued a well known series of drawings for WW2 anti-invasion pillboxes (Types 22-28). The Air Ministry produced similar plans for airfield defence. Can anyone tell me anything about this i.e. dates, drawing numbers, the different designs etc. Even better, can anyone send copies of the plans to me?

    Thanks,

    VP

  2. #2
    OTBC Paul Francis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pillbox (Air Ministry pattern)

    The AM plans (if they ever existed) of their pillboxes do not exist in the national archives etc.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Pillbox (Air Ministry pattern)

    NP

    Thinking about this further, how would you define an Air Ministry pillbox in terms of shape on plan, materials and embrasure type?

    VP

  4. #4
    OTBC Paul Francis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pillbox (Air Ministry pattern)

    They are largely little different to those not on airfields, except for a few private venture types like the FC Construction, the PHs, Tett Turret. Alan Williams etc (but even these can be found elsewhere). It might be however, their distribution that is different, an inner ring, outer ring, inward or outward facing also depends too as to exactly when they were built. A unique defence position is the blast shelter, for armed airmen with rifles and grenades. The main difference I guess between defending an airfield as opposed to a stop line for example, is the LAA position or post etc and these take on many forms, many of which on the approaches to the runways.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Pillbox (Air Ministry pattern)

    I have been fortunate to visit many of the surviving Air Ministry pillboxes at Blaenannerch, Carew Cheriton, St Athan, Llanbedr, Llandwrog, Bodorgan and Llandow in Wales. Unfortunately, at many of the other airfields, standing buildings including pillboxes have been cleared away. As you say, where there was an outer ring, the examples are often War Office pattern. However, I am developing a distinct feel that the Air Ministry pattern favoured red clay brick shuttered pillboxes that were octagonal in shape on plan. Each face possessed a central pre-cast concrete embrasure, some with Turnbull mountings. The entrance was typically low and protected with an embrasure directly above. Sometimes the pillbox is enhanced with a D-shaped Lewis gun position for ground and air defence. In your experience, is this repeated at English and Scottish airfields?

    VP

  6. #6
    OTBC Paul Francis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pillbox (Air Ministry pattern)

    Scotland is very similar to other parts of the UK. remember too off course is that many pillboxes on airfields were thickened, an extra thickness of brick and concrete added.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Pillbox (Air Ministry pattern)

    Many of the airfield pillboxes I have looked at have walls between 1' and 1' 6" in thickness. I imagine this is the ordinary variety of thickness. What thickness of wall is considered early i.e. normal and which thickened i.e. late? Was the change the result of an AM directive and if so, does anyone know when it was issued? If a date can be tied down it would be a key diagnostic feature in terms of airfield defence activities at some sites. Finally, is the extra thickness full-height or did it just extend up to the bottom of the embrasures? It would be interesting to know the geographical distribution of the thick-walled pillboxes. Gentlemen, start your engines...!

  8. #8
    OTBC Paul Francis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pillbox (Air Ministry pattern)

    The thickened walls are full height and support a thickened roof, I suspect that key sites only were thickened.

    The original design called for walls of bulletproof thickness of 15in thick with a brick anti-ricochet wall aligned in the centre of the interior . The walls of many of these were later 'thickened' to 42in shellproof specifications but I cannot at the moment get a date for this.

  9. #9
    OTBC Paul Francis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pillboxes

    It was a cantilever fort, no pumping just a heavy weight to lift it and lower the rising head. I have an AM drawing of it and the only one I have seen was at Crail but it had been removed from its site so just the rising head. Another is at Worthy Down apparently.

  10. #10
    Senior Member PETERTHEEATER's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pillboxes

    Ah; a counterbalanced version. They were early and later models had the hydraulic or pneumatic raising mechanism. The counterbalance weight, even if cast iron would have been quite large so the interior was even more cramped!

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