Second World War training pillbox at Putsborough Sands


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Located 150m to the north-west of Vention Lane, Putsborough Sands. NGR: SS4463840578


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Located 150m to the north-west of Vention Lane, Putsborough Sands. NGR: SS4463840578
North Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Second World War concrete training, or dummy, pillbox overlooking Putsborough Sands, built in 1943.

Reasons for Designation

The training, or dummy, pillbox overlooking Putsborough Sands is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* as a key part in the Allied forces’ preparations for and a tangible reminder of Operation Overlord and its significance to national and world history.

Architectural interest:

* the historic concrete structure has been retained in its entirety, due to lack of use.


* it is believed that the training pillbox built for the D-Day preparations is one of only a few survivors in the national context.

Group value:

* within the contextual history of the use of the North Devon coast as an army assault training centre in the Second World War.


The United States of America entered the Second World War on 7 December 1941, following a surprise attack by Japanese aircraft on its Pacific Fleet Naval Base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, destroying ships and aeroplanes and killing almost 2,500 people. Initially unprepared for conflict in Europe, throughout 1942 America quickly mobilised its war industries and expanded its armed forces.

From September 1943, the North Devon coast became an assault training centre for American troops as part of the preparations for an Allied attack on the Normandy beaches: this was codenamed Operation Overlord (more familiarly known as D-Day) and was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. Responsibility for the construction of the training areas was initially given to the American army’s 398th Engineer Service Regiment, but was soon passed to their 146th Engineer Combat Battalion. The training facilities were divided into 10 key areas, designated ‘A’ to ‘M’.

The area around Baggy Point within Area F was used by the Americans to practice cliff assault from the sea. This was later made reality when the Assault Combat and Ranger Battalions assaulted and successfully took the Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, a promontory cliff between the Utah and Omaha beaches, early on D-Day. Additionally, in Area G – known as Woolacombe Blue Beach – a defensive strongpoint was constructed, with fake concrete pillboxes and machine-gun posts on the cliffs designed to familiarise troops with attacking this particular type of site and its surrounding defences.

The training pillbox was one of many constructed in the training area along the North Devon coast. Corrugated metal sheeting was used for shuttering, giving a distinctive patterned front, and many were surrounded by a circular barbed-wire curtain. Most were only partially built, and were intended to be easily rebuilt if damaged; however, those within Area G appear to have been little-used. Only three survive in this area.


The training pillbox is located on the cliff above Putsborough Sands, approximately 150m from the coast. The structure is orientated east to west, with the principal face of the structure facing north-west towards the sea, and is set into a grassed bank. The pillbox is constructed of shuttered concrete, rippled on the principal face where the shuttering comprised corrugated metal sheeting. There are a number of metal fixings on the top of the structure, of unknown purpose. At the base of the front face is a small recessed opening approximately 1m deep with canted concrete sides.


Books and journals
Bass, RT, Spirits of the Sand, (1991)
D-Day Overlord , accessed 17 July 2019 from
Heritage Gateway: Devon & Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER number MDV57332), accessed 17 July 2019 from
Knight, S & C Hegarty, North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty NMP Project: a National Mapping Programme Report (April 2013)
US Assault Training Center – US Army map (1943)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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