Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunny Days and Pillboxes

Back in Christchurch, I, Michelle, enjoyed sniffing out the World War Two connections of the city. We both enjoyed exploring the tunnels and gun emplacements at Lyttelton, and we once took a tour through the Cracroft Caverns during Heritage Week.

(For those of you not familiar with the Caverns, they are large chambers built into the Cashmere hillside during WWII that were designed to serve as operational headquarters in the event of a Japanese invasion. During the war, the military took over the historic Cracroft Wilson homestead and secretly built the caverns below. The largest underground room is 30 metres long and 7 metres tall.  In a conspiracy theory that warms the cockles of my heart, the homestead "burnt down" just days before it was due to be handed back to the Cracroft Wilson family, and thus the existence of the caverns - outside of military knowledge - was not discovered for nearly 40 years. Convenient, eh?) 

Anyway, where I am going with this is that I am fascinated by WWII, and it's amazing what one can discover even in one's own backyard, so to speak. Incidentally, I did read a story over the weekend of a guy who found a WWII pillbox in his London garden, and decided to remove it. After a week with a pneumatic drill, he had only managed to demolish the 30cm thick reinforced concrete roof. Those things were made tough!

Inspired by the thought that there might be more of these things around, I went on an internet hunt for information about WWII sites near us. It didn't take long to find something, so on a sunny (!!!!!) Sunday afternoon we set out to find our local gun emplacements. 

Success! They were full of litter and covered with graffiti, but it was still an exciting discovery. These pillboxes are located right beside the Thames, on an outcrop that would have allowed them to protect the Royal Arsenal (where we live) from attacks.

View from the pillbox west towards Woolwich and London

View east down the Thames

A plane heading in to land at London City Airport

View along the Thames path. Woolwich is to the left.
The river curves back around to the right after this, so central London
is actually in about a 2 o'clock direction from here.

You never know what might be just around the corner from your house...

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