Posted: 8 June 2006 22:20
I've got a few days off, so yesterday I decided to take advantage of the good weather. Hopping onto a train to Folkestone, I started cycling back towards Sussex along the Royal Military Canal, taking in the scenery and pillboxes along the way.
I printed off a list of pillboxes from the Defence of Britain Project Database and had plenty to keep me going.
Unfortunately, I got sidetracked searching for a couple of Martello Towers at Shorncliffe (the vegetation around these is so thick that you can be only a few metres away from one and not know it). I eventually got some photos (and a series of nettle stings and bramble cuts on my legs) and proceeded from Folkestone towards Hythe, where the Canal begins.
I did have a bit of a time limit, as I needed to get back to any one of about 4 railway stations for certain times, and the delay was starting to concern me. I picked up my speed at the expense of not looking out very closely for pillboxes and inevitably missing some.
Once I'd got out of Hythe and onto the Romney Marsh, the pillboxes started appearing without too much trouble, only by this time I was almost wishing there weren't quite so many, as I felt compelled to take a few minutes photographing each.
This pillbox is a bit worse for wear; half of it is subsiding (the Canal is just the other side of the trees) and will probably collapse in a few years.
There was an eerie atmosphere created by the firing ranges at Hythe, once home of the British Army's School of Musketry. Being in a pillbox in a landscape that is quiet except for the distant sound of machine-gun fire set me thinking. What might it have been like being stationed behind the line, listening to the ongoing battle on the beaches, waiting for the enemy to arrive? I can imagine that it would have been very tense.
I made good progress along the Canal, although I did occasionally get held up whenever I encountered a platoon of sheep; I had to get off and walk past them to avoid scaring them.
There's also a few herds of cattle around; it seems that cows are interested in pillboxes too...
I got to a railway station just in time, although I didn't cover as much ground as I'd liked to have in the day. In all I think I cycled about 50 miles and I've been taking it easy today - tomorrow I'm going back up to the archives...
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.
Napoleonic gun towers built along the vulnerable coasts of SE England 1805-1812. Most that still stood in 1940 were occupied for military defence, as artillery observation posts or by the Royal Observer Corps. Many towers had a concrete roof added for extra protection.
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.
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Hibbs, Peter The Royal Military Canal (2024) Available at: http://pillbox.org.uk/blog/216498/ Accessed: 5 March 2024
The information on this website is intended solely to describe the ongoing research activity of The Defence of East Sussex Project; it is not comprehensive or properly presented. It is therefore NOT suitable as a basis for producing derivative works or surveys!