Posted: 29 October 2006 21:02

The end of October and still the weather remains warm! Taking advantage of today's sunshine (it was jeans and t-shirt weather), I paid another visit to Barcombe Mills to build on my previous trip along part of the GHQ Line.

I was on foot this time; a tame relative was going out to a nearby church to look for a memorial, and so I got a lift and was dropped straight into the heart of an area known locally as "Pillbox Alley".

I was glad not to have my bike with me, as the landscape is not suited to it; too many styles and gates and the close proximity of pillboxes makes them all within a few minutes walk.

The area I was looking at is criss-crossed with all sorts of small waterways, sluices and bridges; almost a rural "Spaghetti Junction" the way they converge and divide in all directions.

Pillbox at Barcombe Mills

I saw the first of the day's haul as soon as I left the car park and crossed the first of many small bridges in the area.

Just behind this Type 24 is a fast-flowing waterway; a little way off to the right is another pillbox guarding the flank.

Both of these are becoming dominated by trees growing very close to them and the interiors are a complete mess, filled with all sorts of rubbish.

Pillbox at Barcombe Mills

However, the general construction of these type 24s is quite sound. Although the exterior brick shuttering is crumbling and the odd piece of concrete is flaking off inside exposing the rusty reinforcing rods, the walls are 3 feet thick.

In these pillboxes, you feel safe. It's not like the flimsy Type 25 concrete pillbox with its 1 foot walls and three large embrasures that make you feel exposed.

Pillbox at Barcombe Mills

Retracing my steps, a brief walk found me on an 'island' surrounded by water on three sides. Here I found yet another Type 24 and a Type 28 designed to take an anti-tank gun.

Unfortunately, both were bricked up, although the embrasures were open and I took some photos of the interior.

The Type 24 was flooded, and the tide marks up the ricochet wall seemingly indicate that it has flooded up to embrasure level in the past.

Pillbox at Barcombe Mills

The anti-tank pillbox had a large embrasure and doorway on opposite walls, having now just a small square hole in them.

The holdfast pillar upon which the gun (possibly a WW1 6-pounder) was mounted can be seen.

The pillbox itself appears to a storage facility for anything small enough to be conveniently posted through an embrasure. If archaeologists open the pillbox 100 years from now, they'll find an excellent record of late 20th century beer can design...

A five-minute walk took me past a further five Type 24s, 3 of which I had seen from a greater distance on my previous visit.

I can see why the area is known as "Pillbox Alley"; the density is such that I had seen nine pillboxes - not bad for less than an hour's walk!

- Pete



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A loophole or slit that permits observation and/or weapons to be fired through a wall or similar solid construction.

GHQ Line

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.

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Hibbs, Peter Back at Pillbox Alley (2024) Available at: Accessed: 17 July 2024

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