Type 24 Pillbox: Stop Line Number 5

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Type 24 Pillbox

Stop Line Number 5

Type 24 Pillbox:

Stop Line Number 5

The Type 24 Pillbox is a small fortification built during the early years of the Second World War. (Nearly all British pillboxes of that war were built in 1940)

The Type 24 is a design used throughout Britain during the War. It was designed to have a garrison of seven consisting of five light machine guns and two riflemen. Following the Dunkirk evacuation, weapons and ammunition were in such short supply that if Hitler had invaded Britain, it is questionable as to whether pillboxes would have been occupied by sufficient soldiers or Home Guards, to have been effective.

Pillboxes in the Transforming the Trent Valley landscape were part of Stop Line Number 5, a network of these defensive emplacements that used the rivers Trent, Tame and Dove to provide a natural barrier to invading forces. Pillboxes were built at strategic points along the rivers, particularly overlooking bridges and shallows where Nazi forces could have crossed the rivers.

Stop Line No.5 pillboxes are constructed from reinforced concrete. A metal cage of reinforcing iron would have been built and then surrounded with a wooden mould, or formwork. Concrete was mixed and poured over several days as the pillbox grew.

Reinforcing metal mesh was incorporated into the walls near the outside of the pillbox, where it gave the most added protection against bullets.

The windows (properly termed “loopholes”) are flared, allowing a machine gunner inside to have a wide field of fire, while having the greatest possible protection against incoming fire.

Inside the pillbox, a Y-shaped blast-wall protected defending soldiers should bullets or grenades penetrate the pillbox from the other side of the building.

Many pillboxes remain in very good condition. Their strong construction has left them able to withstand the ravages of time and weather very well. On many pillboxes, if you look closely, particularly in the pillbox’s interior, the marks left by the wooden planks from the formwork mould, are still visible. Often the woodgrain from the planks is moulded into the concrete.

We know a great deal about pillboxes in the Second World War but there is also a great deal we do not yet know about these little fortresses. Transforming the Trent Valley is researching questions such as, who were the pillbox builders? How was the location of pillboxes decided and by whom? Who garrisoned and guarded the pillboxes during the war?

Can you help us to tell the story of Stop Line Number 5?

If you have any information about the pillboxes of the Transforming the Trent Valley scheme area, memories, old photographs, family stories or information that can help answer some of the questions outlined above, then we would love to hear from you. Please contact Rod Whiteman, Cultural Heritage Officer for Transforming the Trent Valley by emailing r.whiteman@staffs-wildlife.org.uk or call 07496 271506.

A Type 24 Pillbox next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Hopwas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Hopwas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

Pillbox facts and figures

  • The Type 24 pillbox is the most common type, with more than 1724 still in existence across the UK
  • There are 69 extant pillboxes located within the Transforming the Trent Valley scheme area
  • We know of one pill box that has 'almost' disapeared. This is fondly known as the 'sunken' pillbox of Rolleston-on-Dove
  • At least three pillboxes have been lost since the war within the scheme area
  • The type 24 was built to bullet-proof standard of 12 inches (30cm) thick

Stop Line Number 5

Map of known locations of pillboxes within the Transforming the Trent Valley Scheme area.

Click on a map marker for more information about each pillbox. Last update: 11/05/2021

ID Latitude Longitude Pillbox Location Description Verified
1 52.856782 -1.65393 Type 24 Located on the River Dove near Marston-on-Dove. Y
2 52.856557 -1.651324 Local Variant Located on the River Dove near Marston-on-Dove. Y
3 52.762579 -1.68496 Type 24 Located on the River Trent at Tucklesholme. Situated next to the Tucklesholme Nature Reserve, this type 24 pillbox is on land earmarked for a road development.

The pillbox is situated near the Bailey bridge at Walton-on-Trent and along with it's sister emplacement upstream, would have granted a good field of fire to engage enemy forces attempting to cross the bridge.

The land around the pillbox is unrecognisable from its 1940 state. Paleochannels and old maps indicate a wetland along the river bank in 1940, increasing the strategic value of the bridge crossing.

The bridge itself is a 1970s replacement of a bailey bridge that spanned the river during the War.

Inside the pillbox, the Y-shaped internal blast wall shows signs of attempts to knock it down, probably as an attempt to make it of agricultural use. If so, they gave up, probably because of the strength of the reinforced concrete.
Y
4 52.865867 -1.713822 Type 24 Located on the River Dove at Scropton. Whitewashed. No public Access. Y
5 52.85251 -1.632556 Type 24 Located on the River Dove at Marston/Rolleston. This pillbox that has apparently been eroded beneath and subsequently buried by river deposition. Approximate location. Y
6 52.85112 -1.635308 Local Variant Located next to disused railway line south of the River Dove at Marston/Rolleston. The example represents the best of the local variant pillboxes identified as part of Transforming the Trent Valley's work.

These small, pitch roofed pillboxes are somewhat of an enigma, there being no reference to them in any of the literature reviewed so far.

This pillbox guarded a local railway junction, there are other examples locally in poorer condition.

The building has some interesting features:
The rearmost wall is bowed, probably caused by formwork bowing during construction, prior to concrete being poured.
On the north east corner of the roof is what appears to be the remains of a dummy chimney. Probably an effort to camouflage the building as a house or other dwelling.
The pillbox itself shows remnants of bitumen or similar with which the exterior is painted.
Y
7 52.731242 -1.722695 Type 24 Located on the River Tame at The National Memorial Arboretum. Easily accessible to the public, situated at it is at the National Memorial Arboretum, surrounded by memorials to many to the victims of the same conflict that caused the pillbox to be built. Y
8 52.655024 -1.732357 Type 24 Located on the River Tame near Hopwas. Y
9 52.648913 -1.735825 Type 24 Located on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Hopwas. Y
10 52.689021 -1.744403 Type 24 Located on the River Tame at Woodhouse Farm near Fisherwick. Y
11 52.721623 -1.724665 Type 24 Located on the River Tame south of Croxall Lakes Y
12 52.935336 -1.85285 Type 24 Located at the the confluence of the River Dove and River Churnett near Combridge. This pillbox has been converted into a bat roost. Y
13 52.902178 -1.836804 Type 24 Located on the River Dove at Doveridge Y
14 52.880665 -1.792895 Type 24 Located on the River Dove at Marchington N
15 52.883067 -1.783939 Type 24 Located on the top of a flood bund on the River Dove at Sudbury. Y
16 52.880096 -1.777228 Type 24 ocated on the top of a flood bund on the River Dove at Sudbury Y
17 52.880254 -1.776287 Type 24 Located on the River Dove at Marchington. N
18 52.87635 -1.758394 Type 24 Located at the rear of a property on the A515 on the River Dove near Sudbury. No public Access. Y
19 52.863852 -1.735349 Type 24 Located on the River Dove at Fould. Y
20 52.861121 -1.671121 Type 24 Located on the River Dove at Tutbury. Y
21 52.855405 -1.640694 Type 24 Located on the River Dove between Hilton and Rolleston-on-Dove. N
22 52.839233 -1.603228 Type 24 Located on the Trent and Mersey Canal (Aqueduct No23) at Monks Bridge south of Egginton. Y
23 52.837566 -1.602257 Type 24 Located on the River Dove south of Egginton. N
24 52.836742 -1.598834 Type 24 Located on the River Dove south of Egginton. Y
25 52.759896 -1.68602 Type 24 Located on the River Trent at Walton-on-Trent. Y
26 52.756734 -1.692495 Type 24 Located on the River Trent at Walton-on-Trent. Y
27 52.747628 -1.696474 Type 24 Located on the River Trent between Walton-on-Trent and Catton. Y
28 52.741686 -1.698069 Type 24 Located on the River Trent near Catton. Y
29 52.738009 -1.700182 Type 24 located on the River Trent near Catton. Y
30 52.731273 -1.716667 Type 24 Located at the confluence of the Rivers Trent and Tame near Alrewas. Y
31 52.707913 -1.732131 Type 24 Located on the River Tame east of Fradley Y
32 52.703503 -1.742612 Type 24 Located on the River Tame east of Hilliard's Cross Y
33 52.691547 -1.728286 Type 24 Located on the River Tame at Elford. Y
34 52.678277 -1.716802 Type 24 Located on the River Tame north-east of Hademore. N
35 52.677016 -1.721241 Type 24 Located on the River Tame east of Hademore. N
36 52.668306 -1.720595 Type 24 Located on the River Tame at Comberford. Y
37 52.665203 -1.720702 Type 24 Located on the River Tame at Comberford. Y
38 52.655019 -1.732388 Type 24 Located on the River Tame north-east of Hopwas Wood N
39 52.642882 -1.735258 Type 24 Located on the River Tame in a garden at the end of Two Trees Close, Hopwas. Y
40 52.638206 -1.729111 Type 24 Located on the River Tame south-east of Hopwas. Y
41 52.63674 -1.720109 Type 24 Located at the confluence of the Rivers Tame and Anker. Y
42 52.631264 -1.710628 Type 24 Located on the River Tame at Bitterscote. Y
43 52.631456 -1.699389 Type 24 Located on the River Tame at Tamworth. Y
44 52.908117 -1.846186 Type 24 Located on the River Dove north-east of Uttoxeter. Y
45 52.773847 -1.670524 Type 24 Located on the River Trent at Branston Leas. Y

3D Reconstruction of a type 24 pillbox

It's the summer of 1940. The Battle of Britain rages in the English sky.

A Home Guard volunteer in his new uniform stands by a pillbox. He watches as Hurricanes shoot-down a lone German fighter plane. He knows he will have to report the crashed Messerschmitt.

The few sandbags piled in front of the pillbox serve no purpose at all. There is a shortage of them right now, as there is of everything. He should be one of nine men with seven machine guns defending a pillbox like this. He is alone, he has a First World War rifle and only four bullets.

Behind him, the harvest is being gathered in. A steam engine powers a threshing machine, separating corn from straw. The farmer and his family have the help of two "Land Girls" who have volunteered to help feed Britain by working on farms.

Across the river, a train heads northwards. Its carriages are filled with men heading to camps and training areas. Most don't know where they're going; the names on their tickets mean little to them.

Use the slider to see how the pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretum looks today compared to the scene back in 1940.

Many thanks to Peter Lorimer of Pighill Heritage Graphics for creating the 3d model and visualisations.

Reconstruction of the Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas, Staffordshire as it might have looked in 1943/44 after the threat of invasion has lifted. No supplementary defences are in place (sandbags, trenches etc). If an exposed pillbox like this were assaulted, the occupants would have no opportunity for an escape. Photo © 2021. Many thanks to Peter Lorimer of Pighill Heritage Graphics

Reconstruction of the Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas, Staffordshire as it might have looked in 1943/44 after the threat of invasion has lifted. No supplementary defences are in place (sandbags, trenches etc). If an exposed pillbox like this were assaulted, the occupants would have no opportunity for an escape. © 2021. Many thanks to Peter Lorimer of Pighill Heritage Graphics.

Reconstruction of the Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas, Staffordshire as it might have looked in 1940. © 2021. Many thanks to Peter Lorimer of Pighill Heritage Graphics

Reconstruction of the Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas, Staffordshire as it might have looked in 1940. © 2021. Many thanks to Peter Lorimer of Pighill Heritage Graphics.














Tucklesholme Type 24 Pillbox

Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley
(Steven Cheshire) 7th January 2021

Type 24 Pillbox Image Gallery

Type 24 Pillboxes in the Transforming the Trent Valley scheme area.

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Tucklesholme Nature Reserve near Walton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at Woodhouse Farm on the River Tame near Elford. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox at Woodhouse Farm on the River Tame near Elford. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretumon the River Tame near Alrewas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretumon the River Tame near Alrewas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A view looking into the interior of a Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretumon the River Tame near Alrewas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A view looking into the interior of a Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretumon the River Tame near Alrewas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

One of the loopholes on the Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretum on the River Tame near Alrewas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

One of the loopholes on the Type 24 Pillbox at the National Memorial Arboretum on the River Tame near Alrewas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox converted into a bat roost at the the confluence of the River Dove and River Churnett near Combridge. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox converted into a bat roost at the the confluence of the River Dove and River Churnett near Combridge. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Hopwas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Hopwas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Hopwas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Hopwas. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox on the River Dove west of Marston Lane near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox on the River Dove west of Marston Lane near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox on the River Dove west of Marston Lane near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Type 24 Pillbox on the River Dove west of Marston Lane near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Type 24 Pillbox, overgrown and partially hidden from view near the River Trent at Branston Leas. Photo © 2021 Clive Ward Transforming the Trent Valley Volunteer.

A Type 24 Pillbox, overgrown and partially hidden from view near the River Trent at Branston Leas. Photo © 2021 Clive Ward Transforming the Trent Valley Volunteer.

Say hello to the "Type-Unknown" Pillbox

They're not in the books. We can't find anything about them on the internet. No-one who should know, appears to know. It's over eighty years old, weighs tons and is bullet proof!

When I first saw one of these 'unknown' pillboxes I was surprised. In 1940 as Britain faced the threat of invasion, about 28,000 pillboxes were built across the country. To achieve such a monumental feat, pillboxes were designed to standard patterns or "Types" that made them quick to build and strong against enemy attack.

The most common pillbox is the Type 24. These are the backbone of Stop Line Number 5. Then I met the slopey pillbox. The first one I saw was in a private garden. It had a roof like a wedge of cheese. Then I saw one in Marston-on-Dove, a few yards from the road bridge. I found more of these strange pillboxes.

So why does a stretch of the Dove Valley in Staffordshire and Derbyshire have this unique type of pillbox? They are often situated by railway bridges or by roads near railways. Is there a connection between these small rectangular pillboxes and the wartime railway network? Were some strategically placed at weak locations that were under defended when the first batch of pillboxes were built? Were these smaller pillboxes an attempt to fix this and plug the gaps in the stop line?

And why the sloping roof? Mono-pitched roofs like this are a good way to build a shed roof. Were these pillboxes designed to look like a shed? I have found one which bears the stump of a dummy chimney on its roof. That was certainly an attempt at camouflage and subterfuge but was it the reason for the design or an opportunistic/artistic addition by the builders?

Rod Whiteman, Cultural Heritage Officer, Transforming the Trent Valley

Pillbox Image Gallery

Other forms of Pillboxes found in the Transforming the Trent Valley scheme area.

These 'local variants' appear to be undocumented (at least online) so more research is required. It is possible that these variants may be related to the defence of strategic locations such as road/railway and road/river crossings. It is unclear if these variants were part of the original Stop Line No 5 or if they represent later additions to the network, perhaps to plug gaps in the original stop line? The construction of these variants also show subtle differences to the type 24s of Stop Line No 5.

A Pillbox on the River Dove east of Marston Lane on the Old River Dove SSSI near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Pillbox on the River Dove east of Marston Lane on the Old River Dove SSSI near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).

A Pillbox on the River Dove east of Marston Lane on the Old River Dove SSSI near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire)

A Pillbox on the River Dove east of Marston Lane on the Old River Dove SSSI near Marston-on-Dove. Photo © 2021 Transforming the Trent Valley (Steven Cheshire).