Sunday, 8 May 2016

What's That in the Distance?

During the second world war (1939-1945 in case you missed it) a mistake was made.  Fear of invasion led to the erection of many 'pill boxes' around the land and those in charge of defence made one little error.  A line of 'pill boxes' and other deterrents were strung across southern England in an attempt to stop any approaching army.  When placed in charge of such defences General Alan Brooke quickly caused this to stop and followed the correct procedure, one later used by Field Marshall Edwin Rommell along the Atlantic coast, which was to make every effort to stop an invader on the beaches so they could not secure and establish a 'bridgehead.'  Therefore he turned attention away from inland and beaches everywhere were crowded by builders busily working out their profits while ladling cement onto little round boxes suitable for two or three machine gun armed men. In the distance while passing wearily home from the crowds in Chelmsford's centre I noted this lump in a field.  At first I thought it was hay bales that farmers often pile up, usually however next to farm buildings, and later realised this was one of the old 'pill box' defences.

On Friday after wandering around the churchyard I came past the field and crossed the path well worn by dog walkers toward the concrete box.  It was clearly well used by the younger generation and the original door long removed for other use and a hole large enough for my bulk to enter had been created.
I have wanted to get inside one of these for eons.  Here I was in the smelly, plastic bottle and other crap littered den, plastic not a substance that has been left by the original users.  This was a mess, the concrete worn and corrugated iron sheets peeling from the wall however it was large enough for me to stand upright and I moved into the separate compartment inside where the rubble made waking difficult and darkness made it hazardous.  

The field of view was interesting however and would not have been welcomed by the folks living in the houses over there.  Had an invasion occurred most of the Regular Army would have been placed down at the beachhead and places further inland such as this would have possibly been occupied by Territorials or the 'Home Guard, 'Dad's Army.  How would they feel in this dark place lit by candles or oil lamp probably when confronted by a large German force intent on blowing them up?  It would be a case of hanging on as long as possible before they finally shoved a grenade through the hole and finished you off.

This field slopes down towards the River Chelmer, a small narrow stream at this point and I suspect it often overflows in winter almost up to the 'pill boxes.'  I say 'boxes' as I had not noticed until I got near that there was another tucked away at the bottom of the slope.  Crafty indeed and if the enemy came when crops had risen and were still green this box would be completely hidden until too late. 
In spite of weariness I dragged my bulk across.

This smiling face was very different possibly reflecting the constantly changing demands of the War Department (WD) something else that gave the builders much to think about, possibly however they thought more about the great time lag before they actually received any money from the WD!
This was cosier, the wall inside, the door has long gone possibly to use as firewood, and this one is almost untouched.  Behind the blast wall visible inside the door there is nothing but five wee windows opening out over the field and over the river behind.  An excellent position but suicide for anyone occupying this if under fire.  This too was tall enough to stand upright in, little litter was found and looks to me as being almost perfect.

This one does give excellent cover for his mate in the first box and with the 'Home Guard' being trained in their use could it be they fired some sort of projectile by accident into their pals box?  Just asking!  That brings to mind the 'Dad's Army' on the island in the Firth of Forth.  Their job was to fire at enemy aircraft heading towards Rosyth Naval Base and Glasgow further on as well as defend Edinburgh.  However some of the shells were large ones and practice consisted of firing dummy shells out to sea.  On one occasions our heroes managed to fire a large dummy shell into a house in Leith causing considerable damage and irritation.  The residents comments have not been recorded.

From the Firth of Forth to the Chelmer!  A pretty little river here but this area has not been built on and I suspect this is because of midwinter flooding.  Good, this is a pleasant area for those walking dogs or just wanting to commune with creation and I hope this remains like this for some time.

An abundance of this was found by the path as I made my way for the bus, driven by a friendly driver.  Is this 'elderberry' I wonder, as you know I'm not good at plant names.  This type of thing flourishes at this time and the councils have learnt to let it stay until some moaning minnie  grumbles about what it is doing to their coats as they pass.  The beasties must love it and so do I.  Not that I actually eat it you understand.

I noticed this house as I waited for the bus.  The design is typical of Essex.  Small semi detached workers cottages once lived in by farmers labourers and the like.  I note this one has been extended at both ends adding a door one the near end and similar at the other but there an extension, possibly a kitchen has grown on also.  Many similar are found in the area but I wonder if the occupants can put aside the Satellite TV for a while to plant potatoes and cut the grass in the garden? 


Lee said...

It must have had an eerie feeling about it...being in the "pill box". I'm sure I would've sensed a strange atmosphere...I'm sure you did, too.

Great post, Adullamite....thank you. :)

carol in cairns said...

I wouldn't have gone into one of those pillboxes ..

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

One of the few accounts of his WWII combat experiences that my dad talked about was assaults on some German pillboxes at the top of hill overlooking Omaha Beach on D-Day. Suffice to say, it was not a pretty sight after a grenade was tossed inside. Be assured that his countenance was one of horror--certainly not indifference. By the way, I am now around 2/3 done with the processing for the new directory and am starting to see some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Adullamite said...

Lee, Not sure eerie is the word but had the invasion come I suspect someone would have made use of this. It might have been eerier after that.

Carol, An interesting experience but not all would like it.

Jerry, That rings true. Not something to easily forget.

the fly in the web said...

There is a weird pill box near Fontevraud in France...metal and looking like a sky rocket. I bet the occupants would have preferred lift off to an encounter with a German tank shell.

Mother remembers the invasion scare..she and her ATS colleagues were taught how to use a rifle, how to make a Molotov cocktail and how to throw it at a German tank....the motto then was 'Take one with you...' but it was not clear whether this meant people or tanks...I keep suggesting that she keeps in training in case she meets any politicians...

Adullamite said...

Fly, Aye the ATS would have done that, willingly I suspect! People did say ''take one with you' but most never got the chance. Had the Germans come many would have done that unlike the French.