WWII defences on
the Taunton Stop Line and in other parts of the UK
(Photo: A pair of Vickers MMG emplacements on the Taunton Stop Line at
Boshill Cross, Devon - Winter (Jan) 2005)
Visitors who are unfamiliar with pillboxes
and other UK WWII defence structures may wish to take a look at the 'Pillbox
Types' and 'Other Defences' sections before browsing through the rest of the
site, these two sections contain photographs and information regarding
various structures, some of which, you will come across later.
In June 1940, at a meeting in the County
Hotel, Taunton, between various building firms and the Army, the decision
was taken to commence work immediately on the Taunton Stop Line, a
continuous anti-tank obstacle that would stretch from the north coast of
Somerset down to Seaton in Devon. The defensive structures along the
Stop Line were built by private contractors and Army personnel, with
absolute priority being given to the supply of building materials. The
purpose was to delay enemy armoured vehicles, which might land further to
the south and west on the beaches of Devon or Cornwall, in their advance
toward Bristol and the Midlands, long enough at any given point along the
Stop Line for mobile units of the Army to arrive and deal with the
The Line, of over 300
pillboxes plus machine gun emplacements, anti-tank gun emplacements,
anti-tank ditches, infantry trenches and many other defences,
ran down from the Pawlett Hams in the north of Somerset, along the River
Parrett and then, following the east bank of the Bridgwater and Taunton
canal southward, to Creech St. Michael where it joined and followed the
dried-up bed of the old Taunton & Chard Canal. South-west of Ilton
traced the route of the Great Western Railway southward. North
of Chard Junction the Line left the G.W.R. and followed the route shared by the
Southern Railway and the River Axe, briefly crossing over
into Dorset in a
couple of places, finally following the Axe into the
seaside town of Seaton, Devon, where the Stop Line ended.
We all know that the threatened Nazi invasion
never materialised but at the time the threat was very real for the people of
Britain. Had the Royal Air Force been defeated in the Battle of Britain
and if, without air cover, the Royal Navy had subsequently received overwhelming
damage from the Luftwaffe, the hastily constructed defences and the troops manning
them would have been in the front line.
After WWII, farmers, on who's land pillboxes
had been built, were paid £5.00 for each one they could demolish but, as anyone
who has ever examined one of these enormously solid structures could have guessed,
in the majority of cases the pillboxes won - luckily for us and future generations.
Over the years the vast majority of pillboxes and other defence structures have
been left to decay. Many have been vandalised and defaced by graffiti,
those that are completely overgrown are fortunate in having been spared most
Fortunately, English Heritage has taken an interest
in WWII defence structures, announcing that "the best" would be scheduled as
part of it's monuments protection programme. This is welcome news but
it's a great shame that so many which might have been saved have been left to
decay by previous administrations.
This website is concerned mainly
with WWII defensive structures that still exist on the Taunton Stop Line in
Somerset, Devon and Dorset and those existing in the rest of Somerset.
ST. MICHAEL HOME GUARD
Left to Right,
Back Row: Pollard, Bill Hunt, Marc Marchant, Harold Wyatt,
Not Known, Cornwall, Bob Wheadon, Triss Foxwell, Norman Drewe, Ron
Left to Right, Middle Row:
Cornwall, Mitchell, Bill Cruys, Fred Hunt, George Sandford, Hooper, Lance Coombes, Jack Taylor, Ivor Brookes, Harold
Thomas, Jim Wadham.
Left to Right, Seated: Jack Sweeting, Rub
Bauer, Perce Brookes, Cubby Bishop, Sgt.Tacker Sweeting, Lieut. Fisher,
Sgt. Ron Smith,
Len Mitchell, Digger Wyatt, Brian Wakely.
courtesy of RON WELCH)
One of the above gentlemen, Ron Smith, still lives in Creech St. Michael
and has many interesting stories to tell regarding his wartime exploits.
Ron, of Brickyard Farm, remembers seeing some of the pillboxes being
built and he and his comrades trained in them in readiness for the expected
invasion of their homeland.
A higher definition version of the above
photograph may be seen by clicking on the following link:
which will take you to the South Staffs Home Guard website, a
very interesting site featuring Home Guard units from various parts of
OLD DEFENCE STRUCTURES CAN BE VERY
INTERESTING BUT PLEASE REMEMBER, IF VISITING THEM, THAT EXTRA CARE
MUST BE TAKEN TO AVOID ACCIDENTAL INJURY.
This website was first published in August