The Ouse Washes Website

an independent research and information project


Wartime military installations


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Introduction




 

The Bulwark

This is a large earthworks built at Earith it is said during the Civil War (1642-1651) at the southern enf of the Ouse Washes, just a short walk from the car park on the north-west side of the bridge over the New Bedford River.

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spigot mortar base in 2012 by Eddy Edwards
Spigot mortar base south-east of
Welney Br.
spigot mortar base south of Welney Bridge 2011 by Eddy Edwards
Photos: EE, March 2012


Spigot Mortar Emplacements

Spigot mortars were heavy and rather crude guns intended for use against tanks and ground forces in case of invasion during WW2 - they were not anti-aircaft guns.

They were mounted on a stainless steel pin called a pintle fitted onto splayed out legs for mobile use, or on top of a pre-cast concrete base for static use. (I am grateful to William Foot who e-mailed in Apr 2013 to advise that my original posting that the pin was called a spigot was wrong; the spigot is actually part of the mortar). Over a thousand static emplacements were sited throughout Southern England. They were  not covered but did have a trench with an outer wall of brick or concrete or a revetted earthwork for the three-man crew to shelter in, at least protecting them from gound attack. Three or four indents in the outer wall were for storage of the mortars.

There is a good example of a static emplacement at Earith on the southern edge of the The Bulwarks. The base and spigot are in good condition but there's no sign of a brick or concrete wall although it does have indications of a trench and earthwork surrounding.

There are two sites in Welney where a base can be seen. Both still have a spigot, but neither has a visible trench or outer wall. One is on the Washes barrier bank just south of the two bridges and may well have been moved from its original site during bank works. They are listed on the Defence of Britain databases as recorded in 1997 by AR Hankins.

The emplacements were often manned by the Home Guard. In Welney, a company was based in the Parish Hall immediately north of the Old Bedford Bridge.

You can learn more about spigot mortars & emplacements via the links bottom right of page.

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spigot mortar base in 2012 by Eddy Edwards
Spigot mortar base at The Bulwark,
Earith.
spigot mortar base south of Welney Bridge 2011 by Eddy Edwards
Photos: EE, April 2012


machine gun turrett n 2012 by Eddy Edwards
above, looking like a giant toad-stool
below, entrance trench & hatches
machine gun turrett n 2012 by Eddy Edwards
Photos: EE, April 2012

Machine Gun emplacements

Alan Williams Turret

These emplacements were designed for both anti-aircraft and ground defence using a variety of machine guns. They had a domed metal turret or cupola probably made from galvanised steel that could rotate through a full 360 degrees on small wheels running on a track inside the rim.
The turrets were fitted above a steel and/or brick-lined pit with entry via a short trench. Two small metal folding seats were fixed to the pit wall for the crew. The front hole had two sliding shutters, and the circular opening in the roof for anti-aircraft use had a cover that I think swivelled on a pin at the top of the hatch near what I presume is a lifting eye.

There is a good example at Earith, situated within The Bulwark, the Civil War earthworths at the southern end of the Washes. Unfortunately the hatch cover and sliding doors are missing and it is covered in grafitti. Less than 200 were made and many were later salvaged for scrap, so not many remain, and I feel this ought to be restored or at least preserved.

There is a complete cupola on display at the War Museum at Duxford Airfield, and you can learn more about these via the links bottom right of page.

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machine gun turrett n 2012 by Eddy Edwards
above, folding seat & gun mounting
below, wheel and running track
machine gun turrett n 2012 by Eddy Edwards
Photos: EE, April 2012

pill box in 2011 by Eddy Edwards
White Hall Farm, NBR, Salters Lode.
pill box in 2011 by Eddy Edwards
Photos: EE, March 2011


Pillboxes

search Defence of Britain databases

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Acknowledgements.
Text and photos except where noted © Eddy Edwards, 2010-12
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