I went to see 'The Darkest Hour' this week, I was moved by this film more than any other war film I've ever watched. His speech ending in 'we shall never surrender' was spine tingling and set me thinking. 'We shall fight in the fields'. I drive past pill boxes daily on my way to work in Somerset, all part of the fortified stop lines we built in case of invasion. Thankfully they were never needed. Today I went in search of a small part of the GHQ green stop line near Wells. Parking just beyond Dulcote I intended to walk up Constitution Hill and follow the East Mendip Way, but the first pill box was in plain sight at the bottom of the slope and clearly visible from the road.
I followed the public footpath along the bottom of the field, the second pill box came into view, sort of anyway, it was very well disguised as a bramble patch.
The footpath veered away from the stop line towards the village of Dinder where I took to the tarmac, walking away from the church and back up the hill. The tarmac ran out and I turned left onto a track signposted Kings Castle. I paused to look at the map and realised that in the ivy to my left there was some brickwork, another pill box almost completely hidden. A few yards later there were huge concrete blocks of a tank trap to the left and right of the track, some again almost completely covered in ivy and brambles and looking like a very solid hedge.
The track became a bridlepath and very muddy but required little navigation. It turned sharp right and a small path went down hill to the left, I followed it to find another pill box and evidence of a deep trench along the bottom of the wood, too deep to be a drainage ditch and in the wrong place anyway. I assume it is part of the defence line. I went back to the mud and wallowed back between the Wells Golf Club greens to the top of Constitution Hill where there was yet another pill box. It was out of line of the others and I wondered, given its amazing views, if it was as much a look out post as part of the stop line. I slithered back down Constitution hill to the car.
It was a sobering walk. Obviously I know we won the war and were never invaded but I wondered what the men (and in those days it would have been men) who built them thought as they were doing it. When they dumped the huge concrete blocks was it a confident 'That'll stop them' or a nervous 'I hope that stops them' in their minds. How did it feel to fear invasion by tanks, alien to most Britons, or had they seen the news reels and knew what might be coming? I hope I will never know. I'll be doing this lovely short walk again later this year when the ground is less muddy and when the bluebells which today were just showing the tips of their leaves, will be in flower. For furthur information try https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GHQ_Line