Pillboxes and anti-Invasion Defences

Back Lawyer’s Creek, Holbeach St Matthew, Lincolnshire

The anti-invasion defences of 1940 were built along the existing earthwork bank of the sea wall. The concrete structures have survived well, but the trenches that once accompanied them have long since been filled in. The pillboxes here are of two kinds. Close to the modern car park is a hexagonal Type 22, with the marks of the corrugated iron that was used as shuttering clearly visible. The remainder are ‘Lincolnshire Three Bay’ pillboxes, with the central chamber for anti-aircraft fire, although there is one variant, where this chamber is placed to one side. An unusual survival is a ruck machine gun post, which is partially hidden in undergrowth a few hundred metres to the west, but is one of the best preserved in the country. There are the remains of anti-tank cubes alongside the modern car park and taken together give a good impression of how this part of the coast was defended.

Holbeach in Lincolnshire is an excellent example of the ‘coastal crust’ as it was built in a remote, yet threatened, part of the country. The low-lying, flat expanse of the Wash was considered vulnerable to German attack from the late nineteenth century, but it was only in the Second World War that it was heavily fortified.

Despite being a part of the coastline that is remote and somewhat desolate, the area around the Wash was heavily defended during the Second World War. The low-lying landscape with its extensive marshland was perceived to be an inviting target for German landing barges. Fears of a German invasion from the Wash had been current since the early twentieth century and formed the basis for the popular Edwardian novel The Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Erskine Childers which drew attention to the North Sea as a highway for a German invasion fleet.

The anti-invasion defences survives at Holbeach are well-preserved examples and followed the general pattern seen elsewhere, with a ‘crust’ on the coast itself and nodal points inland.

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