Not done much out and about in Suffolk since the visit to Long Melford so another post from the June visit to Norfolk. I took the opportunity to visit Docking to see a Norcon Pillbox. The name is after the company that came up with the design - it is basically a section of concrete sewer pipe with four or five loopholes cut in the side. It was one of several pre-fabricated pillbox designs intended for quick production that were put forward in the desperate days of the summer of 1940. Although quite a large number were used, few survive today. Christopher Bird in his excellent book 'Silent Sentinels' lists three surviving in Norfolk, two at Docking and one at Weybourne. Although his photo of the Weybourne example, dated 1990, shows it complete, later photos I've seen show it badly damaged and I could not find it a couple of years ago when I looked, so it may no longer exist. I know of no examples in Suffolk.
The pillbox could either be sited on the ground as it was or dug in. In either case it required sandbagged protection to make it bullet proof and Eastern Command considered it an ideal pillbox due to rapidity of construction. It was intended to form part of a defence along side heavier pillboxes.
However trials by C.R.E 18th Division noted the following:
- It was unwieldy to move about requiring tackle to unload from vehicles.
- When it was rolled, even with spokes, it broke quite easily
- With 1 1/2 layer of sandbags externally, a burst from a mg penetrated to a depth of 1.5" and it was obvious that a second burst would have completed the penetration.
The Chief Engineer, Eastern Command disagreed. He thought it should be an easy matter for any RE Field Company to unload. He pointed out it was not intended to be used as a hoop (you've got to admit he had a point on this!!) and that the mg was presumably fired from a tripod otherwise the chances of a burst hitting the same spot twice would be remote. Eastern Command considered it provided better protection than many sandbagged only positions that had been constructed.
Trials were also carried out on mounting it on a three ton lorry as a mobile blockhouse, but it was too wide and also even if it could be made to sit on a lorry it would not be bullet proof without the sandbag protection.
The Norcon pillbox was normally provided with a corrugated iron and timber roof capped with earth. However the two at Docking have a concrete roof - I do not know if it would have been capped with earth. Nearby are two Home Guard stores.
Next couple of posts will also probably be from the Norfolk trip.
Image 1 and 2: Drawings of the Norcon Pillbox.
Image 3: Norcon Pillbox, Docking, unusually provided with a concrete roof.
Image 4: A 'sketch' to represent how it would have looked with sandbagged protection. The sandbags over the embrasures would have been supported with timber. I am not sure if the roof would have been capped with earth.
Image 5 & 6: Home Guard stores.