Welcome to this blog which is intended to accompany a website on how Suffolk was defended during the Second War. The blog will describe my trips out and about looking for the remains of the Second War defences while the Website will concentrate on putting these into context.

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Monday, 18 July 2011

Norcon Pillbox

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.







4 comments:

  1. Just to let you know there are 5 Norcon pillboxes dotted around this area of Docking as well as 2 Tett turrets which are quite rare. Something in the middle of Docking warrented quite a lot of hard defences.

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    1. Thanks, was aware of other Norcons in the area (as time was limited did not manage to find them), but was unaware of the Tetts - as you say very rare. Are they easy to find?

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  2. Not that easy unless you know where you're going. They're in the hedgeline of a meadow in the middle of the village, a twin set of turrets with a tunnel linking them and a tunnel shooting off at 90 degrees. I dug them out 30 years ago as a kid but we found the tunnel blocked with glass and wire packed into the dirt. I just had them recorded by Norfolk archaeology service to protect them from developments in the area.

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  3. Many thanks for this, an amazing survival. I would love to see them. Understand if you want to keep the location secret, but if you feel you can provide further details you can email me at suffolksquare@pillboxes-suffolk.co.uk

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