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World War II Pillboxes

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Pillbox at Barton Bridge, Bradford on Avon

Pillbox guarding the river crossing at Barton Bridge, Bradford on Avon

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Despite having seen the highly mobile German army sweep past the French Maginot Line and force the evacuation from Dunquerque (Dunkirk), the British General Ironsides set up lines of static defences across the country in 1940 as if there would be a repeat of the trench warfare of the Great War. The strategy was soon dropped, but did have the public relations value of seeming to be doing something.

One of the lines ran from Bristol to London, following the River Avon, Kennet & Avon Canal, River Kennet and River Thames and passed through Bradford on Avon. It was defended by small block-houses for machine guns that came to be known as pillboxes. They were sited at places where river crossings would have to be made, with a clear field of fire over the river meadows. There were several types, but mostly built of reinforced concrete, sometimes with an outside layer of brick. Many remain, the most accessible one being at Barton Bridge in the town. Some are in a poor condition or heavily overgrown; that at Barton Bridge has been conserved and provided with an explanatory panel by Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust.

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Map of pillboxes within the Bradford Hundred (base map: OpenStreetMap contributors)

pillbox, Monkton Farleigh

Other pillboxes guarded the great underground ammunition store at Monkton Farleigh, this one remains at the entrance to the site (now Restore document storage).