Posted: 10 August 2009 19:25
I spent the day looking for roadblocks around Buxted; I found no remains of any, but did come across some pillboxes.
I was visiting five roadblocks in the area; the first was by a bridge under the watchful gaze of this thin-walled Type 24 pillbox that also commands a T-junction.
An idea that today's visit has reinforced is that when you're in stop line country (the GHQ Line runs through here) you frequently find a pillbox at or near roadblock sites. In other areas you tend to have documented fieldworks (i.e slit trenches) or occasionally a defended building. Yes, you also get pillboxes listed as covering roadblocks away from stop lines, but they don't tend to survive, even in rural settings where housing developments haven't encroached into the area. It's almost as if somebody decided that while pillboxes were being erected along the stop line, they might as well put in a few extra to cover local roadblocks, even if they weren't actually on the stop line itself.
This Type 24 isn't on the stop line, but I also encountered a similar arrangement at Southease last year where two roadblocks had Type 24s set back from the stop line.
Moving on, the next location showed some possible evidence in the form of shallow potholes in the road. (Photo left.)
This particular block had sockets set into the road for hairpin rails; are these areas of minor subsidence an indication that the sockets are still under the road surface? These indentations appear to be a bit close together for a socket formation, so the jury's out on this.
I checked out another pair of roadblocks in the vicinity of this road junction, to no avail.
The final location of the day was on this bridge over the River Uck - in other words, it was a stop line crossing and therefore to be held.
The Defence of Britain Project database lists another Type 24 pillbox in a private garden just along the road from here; I didn't see it as I don't go peering over people's hedges, but I did take the public footpath into Buxted Park and came across another pillbox of an unusual design.
This is described by DoB as possibly being based on a Type 28 pillbox (typically with a 6-pounder gun) which is commonly seen covering bridges and this is an observation I would agree with. It may even be that during construction it was decided to make it an infantry pillbox rather than one housing an artillery piece, although this is pure speculation.
The photo below shows the pillbox; the presence of two embrasures on the same wall is unusual, hence the theory that the single large opening of a Type 28 pillbox was replaced by this pair of Type 24 embrasures, although the wall at left is technically the 'front' (i.e. directly opposite the entrance).
The photo below shows the 'front' and right walls each with their single embrasure.
The pillbox is about 275m from the bridge and is at the sort of range one would expect a Type 28 to have been.
The photo below shows the twin embrasures; the vertical slots are designed to accept the rear legs of the Bren Gun tripod; a pit incorporated just behind each embrasure accommodates the front leg. See my Pillbox weapons mountings post for more details of the alternative arrangement.
Looking through both of these embrasures you can see that no significant advantage of having two over one is gained in terms of covering the ground, hence the possibility of a Type 28 conversion, although they are not on the wall facing the entrance at the rear.
The photo below is taken from near the bridge; the pillbox certainly looks 'awkward' in that the twin embrasures would indicate the 'front', yet the vulnerable entrance can be seen on the right. There may actually be a risk of a richochet from this angle entering the doorway into the pillbox; with no internal blast wall, you feel exposed.
Whatever the case, it's an interesting pillbox and one that ties in with a roadblock.
A large project run by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) 1995-2002, collecting data on 20th century military structures submitted by a team of some 600 volunteers. The result was a database of nearly 20,000 records which is available online. The anti-invasion section of the database contains nearly 500 entries for East Sussex.
An existing building occupied as a fighting position, usually incorporating some form of fortification such as sandbagging, shoring up of ceilings or cutting of loopholes in external walls.
A loophole or slit that permits observation and/or weapons to be fired through a wall or similar solid construction.
A series of arterial stop lines designed to prevent German forces advancing on London and the industrial Midlands.
Generic term for a hardened field defensive structure usually constructed from concrete and/or masonry. Pillboxes were built in numerous types and variants depending on location and role.
Small, narrow trench designed to provide protection against shrapnel and other battlefield hazards. Technically distinct from a weapon pit (which was intended soley as a defensive position) slit trenches were also used as defence works.
Concrete-lined shafts dug into road surfaces into which rails or RSJs (hairpin or straight) could be inserted to form a roadblock. When not in use, a wooden cover was placed over each socket.
A physical continuous anti-tank barrier, normally a river and/or railway line, often defended by pillboxes. Stop line crossings (roads, railways and bridges) were to be made impassable.
A six-sided (but not a regular hexagon) pillbox. The Type 24 is the most frequently seen pillbox in East Sussex, mostly along stop lines. It can be found in thin wall (30cm) or thick wall (1m) variants.
A pillbox designed to house a small artillery piece (typically a WW1 6-pounder gun), usually sited to cover a bridge or other defile. Type 28a variant had an additional compartment for infantry defence.
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Hibbs, Peter Roadblock recce (25) - Buxted (2017) Available at: http://wwww.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216633/ Accessed: 21 November 2017
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