Operation Sealion was the code name for Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain. During 1940 and 1941 one of the biggest civil defence programmes ever undertaken created a network of large and small defence-works that included very basic measures such as barbed-wire entanglements on the beaches and holes (embrasures) cut into the walls of bridges and viaducts to allow machine guns to defend the roads below. Other measures were more permanent—so permanent that they are still in existence almost eighty years later. Many, in fact, are now listed historical structures.

"Firtholme Pillbox". Graphite and gesso on paper, 59x59 inches.

To resist any successful landing of troops on the beaches, reinforced, toughened concrete structures were built along cliff-tops and along many roads inland where they would be able to defend against the movement of any invading force. The pillbox was a low concrete structure with embrasures to allow weapons to fire out in various directions. For the sake of speed of completion the structures were designed and built to standard patterns that could be erected quickly by unskilled or semi-skilled workers. There would usually be an L-shaped blast wall at the entrance to protect the occupants from any nearby blast.

"Pillbox at Kilnsea". Graphite and gesso on paper, 59x59 inches.

This pillbox, by the roadside near the village of Kilnsea, defends the riverbank and the road coming from the narrowing peninsula of Spurn Point. It is slowly slipping down the river bank into the Humber Estuary. The blast wall still stands in the original position.

"Sunken Pillbox, Easington Beach". Graphite and gesso on paper, 59x59 inches.

Once up on the low cliff top, due to the extensive erosion on this part of the coast, this pillbox is now on the beach below the high-tide level. Covered with sea-weed, eroded and damaged by the action of the waves, it is slowly sinking into the sand.

"Collapsed Gun Emplacement, Kilnsea Beach". Graphite and gesso on paper, 59x59 inches.

An extensive battery and barracks once occupied the cliff-top at Kilnsea and Easington. This gun mounting was once a part of the battery and has now collapsed onto the beach. Most of the battery is now either fallen onto the beach as the cliff has been washed away or has been removed for safety reasons.

"Bunkers in the Meadow at Auster Grange". Graphite and gesso on paper, 59x59 inches.

Situated in a lovely hay-meadow on the river bank, these bunkers once housed a generator. Most likely this would have provided power for the searchlight and anti-aircraft batteries. It may also have provided the power for the decoys which were located on the river bank not far away. These decoys were accurate, small scale representations of the docks at the nearby city of Hull and were intended to fool German bombers into dropping their bombs into the river.

"Large Pillbox at Hill Top Farm". Graphite and gesso on paper, 59x59 inches.

Much bigger than others in the area, this pillbox sits on a low hill in the middle of a cultivated field near the village of Tunstall. At the time it was built it would have been some considerable distance inland but is now less than a hundred yards from the cliff-top.

Created By
john humber

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