Wednesday 19 February 2014

Stormy weather

More ferocious storms here at the end of last week, and this was the scene when the rain finally stopped. But the flood water over the fields pointed up something I had never noticed before in this location...the wartime pillbox in front of the line of trees.
During the Second World War these squat, thick-walled structures were insinuated into the landscape as a last-ditch defence against an invasion from the Channel. They would have been manned by snipers and machine gun operators shooting out of slit-like openings. Built of brick and concrete by soldiers and local labour, they remain, hunkered down by streams and hidden in clumps of trees, damp and dark inside but too strong to be ruined.
This part of Kent was known as Hellfire Corner. Not only was the Battle of Britain fought in the skies above, but it was notorious for being on the receiving end of any spare bombs from Luftwaffe planes hastily fleeing south from London after a raid. There used to be a map in the village pub showing the local sites where these bombs had fallen, as well as crashed planes, and the black spots were surprisingly dense. If anyone had assumed that the countryside was safer than the cities, they shouldn't have ventured here.
I've sometimes wondered why I should be so interested in writing about the war - as indeed I have in The Sea Garden. Perhaps the sight of so many of these pillboxes half-hidden in the countryside, glimpsed from the paths I walk almost daily, has worked its magic on the subconscious and the imagination.


Gill Edwards said...

i love seeing those pillboxes, we have one in Wat Tyler, our local country park, you can climb up to it but its all closed off inside now. Being an amateur historian i enjoy reading all about this sort of thing. Looking forward to your book very much.
Gill xx

Libby said...

For us in the States, this is totally fascinating! We don't have "live history" like this. I can only imagine the mind at work on passing these every day, now, so many years later. To those of us of a different generation, and separated by an ocean, it's almost a romantic version of conflict. Does that make sense?
BTW: we went to see "Monuments Men" with George Clooney last weekend. Do you know it? About saving paintings and art during WWII. I thought the movie was wonderful although I think it's received mixed reviews….

Marcheline said...

Hope your weather clears up soon! And ours here in NY, as well. Ugh.

I'm longing to see "Monuments Men", as well, Libby! Sounds great, and damn the critics - what do they know, anyway? 8-)

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Well, quite, Libby and Marcheline, I always think mixed reviews denote something far more interesting than bland!

Muriel said...

Let's hope that the weather will be better, Deborah! As for pillboxes, it reminded me of the German bunkers we have in South of France. I grew up playing hide and seek in them. Some were even connected by an intricate network of tunnels. Ah, memories!

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