Monument record MCC4799 - WWII Pillbox, South of Colchester Road, Chappel Viaduct, Wakes Colne


WWII Pillbox.


Grid reference TL 8966 2840 (point)
Map sheet TL82NE


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

During World War Two the Eastern Command Line followed the River Colne from Mersea Island around Colchester to Chappel Viaduct before heading northwards along the railway embankment to Bures, where it joined the River Stour. Each of the bridges along the River Colne was probably covered by an artillery pillbox, although all of them have now been demolished - with the exception of the one at Chappel Viaduct.

This is an FW3/28 pillbox standing on waste ground on the north bank of the river immediately east of, and partly underneath, the arches of the viaduct. It was built to face and cover the road approach from the east and coupled with the other pillboxes, spigot mortars and anti-tank blocks in the immediate area, would have formed a powerful defensive position.

The pillbox is built of 3ft 6in concrete, it is 20ft square with 'chamfered' corners and the entrance is on the west side underneath the arch between Piers No. 11 and 12. Beside the entrance the letters 'A5' have been stencilled in white paint. The entrance is low, L-shaped with an anti-ricochet wall facing the opening. Inside there are two machine-gun loopholes, (west and south walls) and two rifle loopholes (north-east and south-east corners). The flared inner walls of the two latter loopholes have been widened by hand to allow greater access. Oddly, the view from the north-east rifle loophole is totally blocked by the anti-tank cube on the outside.

The main firing aperture measures 9ft x 3ft 3in on the outside, stepping down to 3ft 6in x 2ft 10in on the inside. The mounting pedestal for the gun measures 25in high with a circular metal plate in the top with nine bolts around it. The gun would have been a six-pounder Hotchkiss gun from the First World War, a gun which was mounted on the MKIV 'male' tank during the earlier conflict.

The pillbox is in good condition with little sign of deterioration. Immediately outside, the massive anti-tank blocks of SMR 20002 (MCC5130) radiate out from the pillbox to the road.<1>

Nine photos of site.<2>

SITE ASSESSMENT: FW3/28 pillboxes, (FW3/28a pillboxes had a separate bren-gun chamber), are rare in the county, only two of them having been recorded at the time of this entry, (SMR 10412 and SMR 10414, both in Debden). The other two were designed to house a two-pounder anti-tank gun rather than the Hotchkiss six-pounder. It is thought that probably all of the bridges across the Rriver Colne - the Eastern Command Line - from Mersea to Chappel were once covered by artillery pillboxes. This is the sole remaining example.

The quantity, diversity and survival of the WWII defences in the Chappel Viaduct area form a rare, interdependent, compound site. These include the four major types of pillbox on the Eastern Command Line (SMR 20000/MCC4798, 20001/MCC4799, 20004/MCC4800 and 20008/MCC4801), 28 concrete anti-tank cubes (SMR 20002/MCC5130 and 20005/MCC5132), three concrete anti-tank cylinders (SMR 20002/MCC5130) and two spigot mortar pedestals (SMR 10997/MCC5127 and 10998/MCC5128).

OCTOBER 2002: Site designated Scheduled Monument NHLE No. 1020687. This scheduled site is in seven parts. See also SMR's 10996 (MCC4797), 10997 (MCC5127), 10998 (MCC5128), 20000 (MCC4798), 20002 (MCC5130), 20004 (MCC4800), 20005 (MCC5132) and 20008 (MCC4801).

See also <3> & <4>.

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> DESC TEXT: Wills, H. 1985. Pillboxes. p17.
  • <2> Photograph: Nash, Fred. 1997. Pillbox - nine frames.
  • <3> Photograph: Colchester Historic Buildings Forum. 2011. Digital photograph of 10-14 Vineyard Street, Colchester. Digital. Volume 1.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Nash, Fred. 2007. SURVEY OF WORLD WAR TWO DEFENCES IN THE BOROUGH OF COLCHESTER. VOLUME 2. Volume 2.

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Record last edited

Jun 16 2020 3:48PM

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