Cleveland Way – Day Two, A surprise from history

After our adventure in the small alleyways in Robin Hood’s Bay, we set off towards Ravenscar. Not long afterwards we found this on the path. Can you tell what it is?

Cleveland Way

Cleveland WayIt’s a pillbox! I’ve never seen a real military pillbox before. There was no plaque or any information boards around, but my clever husband was pretty sure this was from WWII. I wasn’t very sure about the erosion underneath and didn’t want to go in. But before I could protest, my husband disappeared behind the entrance. The main part of the building was underground. Looking at the grass on the top, it would have been completely covered years ago. The space inside was bigger than I expected.  I had a bit of a dig around on the internet and found some fascinating information. First of all, what is a pillbox?

Pillboxes are concrete dug-in guard posts, normally equipped with loopholes through which to fire weapons. The originally jocular name arose from their perceived similarity to the cylindrical and hexagonal boxes in which medical pills were once sold. They are in effect a trench firing step hardened to protect against small-arms fire and grenades and raised to improve the field of fire. (From Wikipedia.)

Apparently, about 28,000 pillboxes and other hardened field fortifications were constructed in England in 1940 as part of the British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. About 6,500 of these structures still survive. And we presume this must be one of them! This was the only one we saw along the path.

Secondly, when I clicked on “British hardened field defences of World War II“, I found that there are a few pillbox types. Wiki is great. You can see pictures of each type of real pillbox and their floor plans. There is one called Lozenge pillbox, which is found only in the North East of England. It does not look exactly the same as the one in front of our eyes. But that’s exacting enough for my first bit of historical research!

Then I found something called GHQ Linethe longest and most heavily fortified was the General Headquarters anti-tank line, GHQ Line, which ran across southern England, wrapped around London and then ran north to Yorkshire. It was intended to protect the capital and the industrial heartland of England.

Cleveland WayA great bit of history, isn’t it? Imagine how soldiers watched the skyline and the coastline of England, and watched over Robin Hood’s Bay.

All the knowledge I have about WWII is from watching films and reading books. This pillbox was like a point of contact from the past. It heard the loud noise, it felt the tension in the air, it witnessed that turbulent age. History came a bit real to me just by standing next to it. It was a good reminder of the fact that WWI broke out exactly 100 year ago this year. We are thankful for the peace we have now.

Cleveland Way

Robin Hood’s Bay in the distance.

I’m skipping my husband’s brilliant idea of turning this pillbox into a big shooting game with Google glasses installed…

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