The Rescue of a Unique GHQ Line A Pillbox, Basingstoke Canal, Hampshire.

Looking North-West along the Basingstoke Canal towards Winchfield.

The most unusual and unique pillbox on the Basingstoke Canal is undoubtedly the tall variant built into the sloping embankment above Tundry Pond at Dogmersfield Hampshire, ngr SU777524 .

I have heard it described as a tower, double decker and a staircase pillbox, all of which describe first appearances  but this unique design shares much in common with standard type 22 or 24 versions.

The pillbox’s three front walls have concrete cast embrasures, the rear wall has a single central loophole. The bullet proof defence faces North-West across the canal, this allowed a view over Tundry Pond and Dogmersfield Park where GHQ line A ran.

Plan of Variant Pillbox Basingstoke Canal. © Tim Denton 2005

Plan of Variant Pillbox Basingstoke Canal.
© Tim Denton 2005

Across Dogmersfield Park an anti-tank ditch helped close the loop in the route of the Basingstoke Canal between Blacksmiths Bridge and Spratts Hatch Bridge. At Tundry Pond the gap at the end of the AT obstacle was reinforced with concrete cylinders, these ran to the canal embankment and Blacksmiths Bridge, a further pillbox is sited below the embankment, this fired directly across the pond toward the anti-tank ditch.

The defence is accessible via a crouch down covered passageway, inside this turns immediately left and up narrow steps interrupted midway with a position for the rear loophole, a few more steps lead to the working interior which is well lit from the three loopholes facing the canal and covering the towpath.

The small interior is dissected by a short blast wall that makes the three firing positions somewhat claustrophobic and cramped.

Outside the roof top was finished in aggregate as an aid to cut down aerial reflections, around the front roof edge some metal hooks have been cut off for safety reasons, two extra large hooks survive at each rear corner while additional hooks can be seen running along the centre of the rear and side walls above loophole level.

In 2005 I spent several hours measuring the construction inside and out and have produced a plan which can be found in the Booklet written about the defences on the canal.

During late 2007 the embankment was cut back to reveal the pillbox, since then the hazel trees , ivy and brambles have returned in vengeance enveloping all but the boxes front face.

During late autumn/winter 2015 Sara Green from the Basingstoke Canal Authority discussed about working on this Pillbox again so a plan was formed to carry out the work the following year.

Canal ranger Mark Foster and I met on 29th November, a morning that although bright was well below freezing!

Working between 10 and 4pm we removed all of the ivy, brambles and tree growth that had taken root around the pillbox, with the chainsaw Mark coppiced the Hazel back that had taken off and surrounded the pillbox on three sides.

Despite best efforts lighting a fire proved unsuccessful so the waste was piled away from the defence, we stopped twice for food and drink as well as several  conversations with interested passers by that stopped to look.

Overall the unusual pillbox is in excellent condition with only a few roof edge bricks loose that can easily be fixed, currently the interior is accessible and clean but in due course a metal lockable door may be fitted.

Tim Denton November 2016

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Defence Structures and sites of all types both above and below ground can be very dangerous. Serious injury or even death can arise from unauthorised entry into such sites and structures. Join a responsible club, group or society who can arrange official visits. The Pillbox Study Group accepts no responsibility for any damages or injuries caused by ignoring this advice. The PSG does not encourage members to undertake the ad hoc clearance of vegetation from pillboxes, as it can expose them to physical damage and inappropriate use, it may also contravene a variety of statutory regulations including, listed buildings and SSSI designations. Vegetation clearance should only ever be undertaken as part of a formal arrangement, having sought and obtained permission from the land owner and other necessary authorities. Damaging a listed or scheduled monument can be considered as a Heritage Crime.

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