Norfolk’s WW1 Silent Sentinels
As you travel around Norfolk you will see the signs of the defences built in the Second World War that were erected in order to stop a German invasion of England. However, if you look harder, you will also see defences dotted around the county that were built in the Great War, although they are often mistaken for their more prolific SecondWorld War counterparts.
Believe it or not the threat of a seaborne invasion by Germany was taken very seriously. Defences designed to thwart invasion were constructed along the Norfolk coast and continued inland, often following the course of local rivers and many still exist today.
In January 1916 it was estimated that Germany might be able to land up to 160,000 men on the East Coast. Although it was thought unlikely defences were put in place and in Norfolk a defence line was placed along the River Ant. Pillboxes sprung up from Stiffkey along the coast and then joined up with the River Ant at Bradfield. Other examples can be seen dotted along the North Walsham – Dilham Canal.
There are three types of them in Norfolk. The first is an emplacement built from poured concrete, the only example being at Breydon Water, and now lost because it’s buried because of dredging. The second type is hexangonal in shape, often confused as a WW2 variant, and there are two examples situated on the Acle Straight close to Vauxhall.
The third type, which is covered in this blog is circular, made of concrete blocks, and are the main types you will see. Many of them still have their thick steel doors on them and have loopholes positioned at different levels. There is even one of them that has graffiti which dated to July 1918 and was made by someone serving in the Royal Engineers!
So as you travel around the county keep an eye out for these ‘Silent Sentinels’ from the Great War because they are a unique time capsule to that time.