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Site of pill box, photographed in 1996

Although many miles from the coast in rural Worcestershire Eastham Bridge played its part in WWII.

Bridges were strategic locations during wartime, and controlling crossing points would have been important for any defender. In World War II Eastham Bridge was no different and was included in the huge efforts to create defences across the country in the event of invasion. Pill boxes, checkpoints, anti-tank defences, and gun emplacements sprung up across the country. Worcestershire was heavily defenced as it was the place where everyone would have retreated to if invasion had come, and the Government and Royal Family would have been evacuated here.

Today it can be hard to imagine the extensive efforts to create defences across the country. To ensure that this part of our history was not forgotten a major project took place from 1995-2001 called Defence of Britain, run by the Council for British Archaeology. The aim was to train volunteers to go out and record what had existed and what could be seen today, and to bring it into an archive to preserve the record. This was important as much that had survived was fast disappearing, and people’s memories of what had stood were fading.

In Worcestershire there was a fantastic group of individuals who came forward, who worked with Worcestershire Historic Environment & Archaeology Service (now Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service). They went out and recorded thousands of sites and spoke to many people. They helped ensure that the county was one of the best recorded and showed how extensive the preparations were here. The results are held nationally, but also in the local Historic Environment Record at the Hive.

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Handwritten report sheet

Although nothing exists at Eastham Bridge today, we know that there was a pill box on its north side. It was thought to be square, made of brick with a concrete roof, although, at the time of the visit in 1996, nothing existed apart from the odd brick. There was some evidence of holes on the south side of the bridge where barriers could be slotted in. It would have been dismantled soon after the war ended, and faded into history.

On the record sheet someone has noticed the different bricks on the bridge near the site of the pill box and wondered if the Home Guard blew it up! It was not unknown for the Home Guard to be rather exuberant. However as we’ve mentioned in a previous post this will relate to the repairs that took place in the 1890s rather than any wartime damage.

 

The national database can be searched at

http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/dob/index.cfm

The Worcestershire information was also added to the Historic Environment Record which can be searched in The Hive, and ensures the information is saved for future use.

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