Kruschen: Pillboxes

Allied Intelligence noted that concrete pillboxes were often found in strongly defended areas. Walls were between 3 ft 3 ins thick to 6 ft 6 ins thick. Pillboxes were most common in built up areas but elsewhere the Tobruck type emplacement was more common. The Tobruck emplacement does not seem to have been replicated at the Kruschen site.

The remains of at least seven pillboxes still exist today on the main Kruschen Hedgehog site and one on Dunwich Heath outside the Hedgehog, consisting of probably three designs. They are obviously ‘mock’ in the sense that they have been crudely constructed and do not seem to be a close match for any particular examples of known German pillboxes. It is possible they were constructed to resemble the type of German pillboxes for anti-tank guns or heavy machine guns “with a very wide firing slit along the whole of the front wall” (e.g. the “Waasenaar” and “Cantilever” types).

Above: Two types of German Pillbox "with a very wide firing slit along the whole front wall". Left - The "Waasenaar" type. Middle & right - The "Cantilever" type

The basic method of construction of the Kruschen pillboxes was to dig a pit to level the ground, heaping the spoil up in a bank. The pillbox was then constructed in the pit, set on a concrete base (this well may be based on the “Waasenaar” type of pillbox, which was semi-sunken into dunes). An excavation in one of the pillboxes down to the concrete base revealed the interior height of the pillbox was only 45 inches. Reinforcement consists of steel rods and expanded metal. In one of the pillboxes, the largest example, RSJ’s have also been used for reinforcement. Camouflage was provided with turf on the roof, traces which can still be seen today, and probably garnished nets.

It has been possible to produce partial plans of two of the three examples. Of the eight pillboxes, six would seem to have been practically identical in design (irregular hexagons) with slight variations, one is similar but subtlety different (only five sides) and the other, the largest example, is too far destroyed to allow an accurate assessment of its design to be made. The six similar pillboxes consist basically of two side walls (2 ft thick), each with an embrasure and open ends at the front and back. They vary in the roof thickness/wall height; the distance between the top of the side embrasure and the top of the roof is 32” but in some the roof is thicker (2 ft thick) and the side walls shorter while in others the side walls are taller but the roof only 11” to 15” thick.

Above: Six of the pillboxes on Westleton seem to be of a similar design. From the best remaining example, it is possible to produce a plan

Six of the pillboxes seem to have been grouped into two groups of three, each group with supporting earthworks and a deep concrete shelter , perhaps to represent a platoon (Zug) locality within the Hedgehog . It is interesting to note, assuming the Hedgehog was a Company (Kompanie) position, the third platoon (Zug) position seems to have consisted of mostly earthworks.

The pillbox on Dunwich Heath (which has 2 ft thick walls and a 13” thick roof) is certainly outside the main Hedgehog position, but seems also to have been provided with supporting earthworks. A ‘Cut and Cover’ dugout is nearby, but this is almost certainly associated with a platoon position from 1941, which raises an interesting question – were actual anti-invasion defences incorporated into Exercise Kruschen? It is know for certain that the eastern element of the anti-tank ditch was part of a ditch dug in 1941 to add depth to the coastal defences and was utilized for Kruschen’s Hedgehog in the sense of providing an all-round obstacle.

Above: The pillbox on Dunwich Heath

There is ample evidence of weapon fire damage to the pillboxes, as Kruschen involved live firing. However the actual demolition of the pillboxes occurred after the exercise, when Assault Engineers from 79th Armoured Division received permission to “destroy the concrete structures in the old “Kruschen” area, now the DUNWICH Battle Area” during November 1943. A reference in one War Diary notes that Beehive and General Wade charges were used to blow the “”HITLER” pillbox near Dunwich”, so it is probable that these explosive charges were used to blow all the Kruschen pillboxes. This raises the intriguing question, were there more than eight pillboxes constructed? However, much detailed searching of the site has revealed no surviving rubble that would suggest the existence of further pillboxes.

A massively reinforced pillbox was built alongside a standard design of a concrete shelter for use as a target for anti-tank guns on a range at Scott’s Hall (the drill for the assault on the Hedgehog utilized anti-tank guns to fire on all visible pillboxes). Unfortunately it was also blown up by Assault Engineers as part of training in November 1943 so it is impossible to produce a plan of it. It would likely have been a known design just as the concrete shelter was (see below).

Above: The demolished pillbox on Scott's Hall Anti-tank gun range. Note the massive reinforcement


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