Group of 61 anti-tank pimples, approximately 300 anti-tank cylinders and a Type 24 pillbox. Circa 1940.
Reasons for Designation
The group of anti-invasion defences at Pegwell Bay, which includes 61 anti-tank pimples, around 300 anti-tank cylinders and a Type 24 pillbox, all dating from circa 1940, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historical interest: as a poignant reminder of the threat of invasion in the early years of World War II and of the types of structure designed to defend the shoreline;
* Rarity: the anti-tank cylinders are a rare, non-standard, form of defence and illustrate the improvised nature of elements of Britain’s defences during this period; the Type 24 Pillbox, although a common form, has the uncommon feature of downward sloping embrasures;
* Group value: the various surviving components of the defence system form an impressive and cohesive group.
The beach defences at Pegwell Bay were laid out during the summer of 1940 as part of the anti-invasion measures belatedly undertaken after the German conquest of Northern Europe and the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk. Following the appointment of General Sir Edmund Ironside as Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces in late May 1940, a policy of defence in depth was adopted. The principal defence line, the General Headquarters (GHQ) Line, was planned inland from the coast to enable a strategically flexible response imposed by the lack of available manpower following the losses on the Continent. The GHQ Line was preceded by a number of lesser stop-lines. The importance of delaying the invasion forces at the point of landing was also stressed and so, what Ironside termed ‘Coastal Crust’, defences were erected on vulnerable stretches of coast, including Pegwell Bay. This involved erecting various obstacles to impede amphibious landings including various types of concrete anti-tank obstacles, mines and barbed wire entanglements. These were supported by pillboxes and, especially around port facilities, Emergency Coastal Batteries. Much of this work, particularly the construction of pillboxes, was completed by the late summer of 1940. After November 1940, as the threat of invasion receded following the Battle of Britain and a more mobile doctrine of defence was espoused by Ironside’s replacement, General Alan Brooke, no more coastal pillboxes were constructed. Despite this, further anti-tank obstacles were gradually added to beach defences including Z1, a barrier consisting of scaffolding poles anchored just below the low-water mark. After Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June 1941 the likelihood of invasion receded further and few new beach defences were erected.
The surviving World War II defences at Pegwell Bay include a Type 24 pillbox; the low pyramidal anti-tank pimples, known colloquially as ‘Dragon’s Teeth’; and tall anti-tank cylinders. They are spread along the coast for nearly 2km north of the River Stour.
Starting from the north, the structures are as follows:
Anti-tank pimples: situated between the eastern edge of the road and a cycle track, approximately 200m north-east of the vehicle entrance to Pegwell Bay Country Park. They comprise a single row of 61 flat-topped pyramidal concrete blocks, approximately 0.6m high, and roughly alternating between square-plan pyramid-shaped blocks and more box-shaped, rectangular blocks. Additional pimples may survive in the bank to the south.
Pillbox: situated just east of the A256, approximately 660m south-west from the southern end of the pimples. It is a hexagonal Type 24 pillbox, the most common type constructed during World War II, and was sited to cover a sluice which ran down to the coast in a north-east direction. Built of concrete it has stepped Bren gun embrasures in five of the sides and an entrance flanked by two pistol loop-holes in the longer rear wall. The roof is reinforced with Hy-Rib steel reinforcing mesh which can now be seen in the interior due to corrosion of the concrete. An unusual feature is the provision of slots below two of the embrasures, likely to have been incorporated to enable fire to be directed into the drainage sluice which runs at the foot the pillbox. Timber battens for a wooden firing shelf survive either side of some of the embrasures. The interior does not have an inbuilt Y-shaped anti-ricochet wall. A number of other pillboxes along this stretch of coast have been demolished.
Cylindrical anti-tank defences: these comprise a single line of concrete cylinders (probably utilising civilian drainage pipes) approximately 1m high, which run for some 450m from a point 330m south of the pillbox. They roughly follow the line of the Boarded Groin, a C14 earth bank erected as a sea wall in 1365, to the edge of the playing fields just north of the banks of the River Stour. Approximately 300 survive. Many of the dome-topped cylinders retain the steel fixing for barbed wire set into the top.