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World War II pillbox in the grounds of the Telephone Exchange

A Grade II Listed Building in Blandford Forum, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.857 / 50°51'25"N

Longitude: -2.1678 / 2°10'4"W

OS Eastings: 388284

OS Northings: 106401

OS Grid: ST882064

Mapcode National: GBR 1ZG.4R0

Mapcode Global: FRA 66BT.Z4Q

Entry Name: World War II pillbox in the grounds of the Telephone Exchange

Listing Date: 12 November 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422260

Location: Blandford Forum, North Dorset, Dorset, DT11

County: Dorset

District: North Dorset

Civil Parish: Blandford Forum

Built-Up Area: Blandford Forum

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Blandford Forum St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

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Blandford Forum

Summary

A pillbox erected in 1940-1 as a component of the Second World War Blandford Forum anti-tank island.

Description

A partially-sunken Type 26 pill box, erected in 1940-1 as a component of the Blandford Forum anti-tank island, standing circa 5m from its associated anti-tank ditch and wall which runs to its north-east.

MATERIALS: the pillbox is constructed in red brick, with reinforced concrete roof and embrasures.

PLAN: it has a square plan.

EXTERIOR: the pillbox, only partly visible due to it having sunk to some extent and being wedged between two mature trees, has gun holes on three sides. It is likely that the entrance, now buried, is on its south-east side, facing the town.

INTERIOR: could not be inspected.

History

The pillbox in the grounds of a telephone exchange forms part of the Second World War defences erected in Blandford Forum in the summer of 1940. During Second World War Blandford Forum lay within the Southern Command defence area under the command of V Corps which was in turn responsible for 50 Division, holding the forward areas of Dorset. In July 1940 V Corps selected the first layout of nodal defence points, designating ten towns as divisional anti-tank islands and prepared them for all-round defence. Amongst these was Blandford Forum, which was also the focal point of the stop-line that ran along the River Stour from Stalbridge to Christchurch. In configuring Blandford Forum as a nodal defence point the creation of obstacles used three basic principles. In the first instance, the existing means of communication in the form of the road and railway bridges over the River Stour were prepared for demolition whilst the road surfaces were prepared for cratering. Secondly, the existing natural obstacle of the River Stour and the man-made obstacles of the cutting and embankments of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway were enhanced. The river, which runs from the north-west of the town in a loop along the west side and then along the south side before heading south-east towards Langton Long Blandford, provided considerable defence to the southern and western sides of the town whilst the cutting and embankments of the railway formed the majority of the remainder of the perimeter of the defences on the eastern side of the town. In addition, the existing C18 ha-ha that formed the boundary between Lord Portman's Bryanston Estate and the Borough of Blandford was also strengthened with reinforced concrete to create an anti-tank ditch. As a third measure the natural and man-made defences of the perimeter of the anti-tank island were complemented by the construction of wholly new anti-tank obstacles, mainly in the form of concrete anti-tank blocks. These were used to complement the existing railway earthworks on the eastern side of the town, such as those placed beneath the two railway bridges, but the majority were utilised on the western side of the town, in conjunction with the anti-tank ditch. As every anti-tank obstacle was covered by weaponry they were supplemented by a series of pillboxes. Further obstacles were provided in the form of a series of mines that were laid in Crown Meadows and to the east of the railway embankment. The anti-tank island was designed to channel invading forces away from the town itself, to an area of open ground in the north-west which would have been ranged by the Royal Artillery as a 'tank killing ground'. The defences around the town were completed by 24 August 1940. However, the associated stop-line remained unfinished and plans to erect 160 pillboxes and 10 miles of anti-tank ditch were still being considered. By early 1941 it was recognised that the concept of inland linear defence lines demonstrated a total lack of understanding for the modern methods of mechanised warfare and subsequently Southern Command abandoned the system with nodal points becoming the primary defensive positions. The operational life of the defences was short-lived. As early as December 1942, with the threat of invasion receding, defensive positions throughout the country were abandoned either wholly or in part and, as early as 1944, elements of some defences were being cleared.

Reasons for Listing

The pillbox in the grounds of the BT Telephone Exchange, Short's Lane, Blandford Forum is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Intactness: the structure has survived mostly intact;

* Group value: it forms part of an important group of defensive structures known as the Blandford Forum anti-tank island;

* Historic interest: in being part of a key Second World War military program of inland defence works it provides a poignant visual reminder of the impact of world events on Blandford Forum and the wider landscape of the Southern Command defence area.

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