Pillbox Research

It seems wrong of me not to have a specific section for the humble pillbox. Constructed in a time of National panic when invasion was as close as it had been for over 1,000 years. I have visted and photographed dozens of pillboxes, and written nearly as many articles interpreting their construction. Below you will find content curated to help educate and inform you about these distinctive structures.

  • All pillboxes are concrete, but some are more concrete than others

    All pillboxes are concrete, but some are more concrete than others

    I am going to make a bold statement that may cause some heated discussion. All pillboxes were made of concrete. Concrete is an incredible building material, first used by the Romans and very much still in use today. As a raw material it can be transported relatively easily; it can be mixed on-site no matter how remote; it can be made even stronger with the use of some inexpensive reinforcement; it can be made underwater; it is incredibly strong when hardened; it can be bulked out with easily obtainable aggregates, and it can be cast or formed into almost any…

  • Site Visit Part II – Randalstown Forest, Second World War Defences

    Site Visit Part II – Randalstown Forest, Second World War Defences

    The pillbox is synonymous with the Second World War. Thousands were constructed across the United Kingdom (and Ireland) to defend high-value areas or as part of a National defensive line. Many of them still remain and conjure up the romantic notion of local boys and men bearing arms to defend their country. Their modern interpretation is often the subject of much controversy with the context of their construction having been lost in the preceding 80 years. The area which is now Randalstown Forest has three pillboxes remaining, each with unique features, and the relationship between each one and where they…

  • A study of the pillbox at Murlough Beach

    A study of the pillbox at Murlough Beach

    For those of you who are familiar with the beach at Murlough Bay nature reserve, you may have noticed a rather unassuming pile of rubble. Without interpretation you may have thought this had been dumped some decades ago, but it provides a convenient sitting place or playground for adventurous children. It is in fact a demolished Second World War pillbox. Built in the tens of thousands across the United Kingdom between 1940 and 1941 to form impenetrable defensive lines around the coast and across the country, they are iconically the most enduring aspect of wartime life that remain today. I…

  • How long did it take to build a pillbox?

    How long did it take to build a pillbox?

    25 unskilled labourers, 6 carpenters, 4 steel fixers, 2 concrete workers, 1 mixer driver, 1 superintending officer One of the privileges of collecting contemporary military manuals (see the full list of publications in my library here), is that every now and again I stumble across a snippet of information that enhances my knowledge and understanding. In this instance, it was the penultimate table in the back of Military Engineering, Volume XIV – Concrete, Part I, Practical Work, dated 1944. This modest pamphlet was one of a series issued to Royal Engineer field units, as well as port and railway construction…

  • Lower Medway Pillboxes

    Lower Medway Pillboxes

    I first published this article in 2018 when I had spent some time in Kent and after walking the River Medway around Maidstone realised that a large proportion of the Second World War pillboxes still remained. There is no interpretation with this article, it is purely a record of each pillbox, its location on a map, and some images of each box as I recorded them. The pillboxes line the western banks of the River Medway and do not represent the full series of defensive works constructed in this area; there was a vast programme of anti-tank ditches, obstacles, road…