This picture of a secluded but well preserved pillbox was taken today as we took our Sunday walk along the Basingstoke Canal, between Church Crookham and Winchfiled in Hampshire. On this glorious and peaceful autumn day, it is hard to imagine the time when it was put there and the magnitude of the plan that it It formed a part of. It was part of an intricate network of defence lines, still very much in evidence here in the south of England, designed to delay a land invasion (following the 1940 evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk and German victory in France). The threat was a real and very present danger - codenamed operation 'Sea Lion', drawn up (and practiced) by the Nazi high command. The CinC Home Forces (General Sir Edmund Ironside) ordered Army Commands to survey the English countryside and conduct detailed planning for defence lines. His anti-invasion plan was contained in Home Forces Operational Instruction No.3 and was approved by Churchill in June 1940. The plan was for a number of defence lines to protect London and the Midlands...with a heavily fortified GHQ main stop line strateching across the country, on a line generally to the south of London, and smaller stop lines. Construction started in June 1940 and lasted until 1941.
This pillbox formed part of the main GHQ stop line. But for the 'Battle of Britain', who knows...it is quite likely that this secluded little pill box could have played a key role in the defence of our realm.
Much of what I have said above is taken from a fantastic little booklet, by Tim Denton, called "Wartime Defences on the Basingstoke Canal", which is published by the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society (2009). Tim Denton's book provides a fascinating and detailed account of the defences along the Basingstoke Canal and its environs.