Coronavirus Diary 34 -Social Distancing in a WW2 Pillbox

I was going to post this in a week or two but with it being VE weekend I thought I’d bring it forward a little.  I took these photos on one of my once in a  blue moon walks, I think around the 15th of April and hopefully will allow for a few posts on what I found.

Bentley Priory Pillbox

Actually, I didn’t just find it.  Over 30 years ago I used to play in it.  This is an old WW2 pill box, officially a Type 24 design and is constructed of concrete with red brick linings.  The type 24 pillbox is an irregular hexagon in plan. The rear wall is the longest at about 14 feet (4.3 m); this has the entrance with an embrasure on either side. The other walls vary from 7–8 feet(2.2–2.5 m), each having a single embrasure. The embrasures are suitable for rifles or light machine guns. Internally, there is a Y-shaped anti-ricochet wall which stops bullets and shells getting a lucky shot through an opening and then bouncing around inside killing numerous defenders.

The type 24 was always built to at least bullet-proof standard of 12 inches (30 cm) thick, but often was thicker and incredibly there are still at least 1724 of these around and that’s just for this particular variant, there are many others.

There are five embrasures which would have allowed light machine guns to fire out at  invaders or a raid by special forces.  When I was a boy they were actually open but for some reason now they are blocked off.

We're going in

Cover me, I’m going in!

This is the one and only entrance at the back and you can see some of the internal ricochet wall inside.  I didn’t actually go in this time though I will one day.  I had no light with me and miles from anywhere, I didn’t particularly want to break my leg and have to explain I had an accident in a pitch black war bunker.


Plan of a Type 24 Pillbox

The graphic above shows what it is like inside, only without the creepy crawlies.  I remember seeing some poisonous snakes (Adders) nearby the last time I was here so it just seemed safer to come back another day, especially as this was just the beginning of a long walk.

Watering hole

This is the view it looks out over, an intact medieval style cattle watering holes and one that is still used in the summer months.  Another one of those places that is in London but could be anywhere and why it is the worlds first National Park City.

Why is the Pillbox here though?  Obviously it gives great views over London, even more so when the trees weren’t so established!  The Pillbox however was part of the defences for this amazing building, Bentley Priory.

Bentley Priory

Bentley Priory from the south

This is a one-time Royal residence (with history going back 2,000 years) but in the 20th century it was taken over by the RAF and Bentley Priory was the headquarters for Fighter Command and so played a key role in the Battle of Britain and WW2 in general.  In fact you see this very shot of the building at the end of the Battle of Britain film, nothing has changed on the outside except for the metal railings on the terrace once being white.

I’m planning on creating a new tour and Bentley Priory is already on my Battle of Britain Tour but I thought the points on this walk combined with those I wrote about a few weeks ago with Coronavirus Diary 32 – Exploring Grims Dyke  Coronavirus Diary – Social distancing on the battlefield with King Cassivellaunus – kicker of Roman ass!  Coronavirus Diary 23 – A visit to Caesar’s Pond, Stanmore.  would make for an interesting and unique tour.

All Ye Olde England Tours are private and except for 2 or 3, it’s very possible not to see another person, let alone tourist.  I have a feeling when people travel again, private tours will be even more the way to go.  I have no idea if it will be a success but who’d have thought I would take hundreds every year to the obscure places I do all ready, far from the maddening crowds of coach parties.

This will give people the chance for a breath of fresh air during a week or two week break in London, have a great walk, see and learn some special history which no-one else does and obviously not see another sole!

I will write about Bentley Priory another day as it has enough for several posts on its own.  Even though I can’t really enjoy it, I am still enjoying all local history just a few minutes walk from where I live and all the greenery too.

Before I go, I thought I’d post a photo of maybe my favourite house, it’s named after one of my favourite variety of trees too.


Just a few minutes walk away from the bunker; I’ve always liked this house since I was little. It’s not the biggest house though many times bigger than my own but it is so picturesque.  If I don’t get to buy it off them one day (like I have a chance of that!) then I think when I get to be 70 or 75 I will just knock on the door and tell them I have loved the house since the 1980’s and may I have a peek inside!

That gives me a good excuse to link two old posts.   I have no idea how I managed to work this first one out….

Less than 1% of the population own 50% of England…. how do I compare?

But at least I am doing better than this one… though it is incredibly and impractically cute!

A peek inside possibly the second smallest home in the U.K.

Until next time, stay well 🙂

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in history, Life, London, Travel, WW2, Ye Olde England Tours and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Coronavirus Diary 34 -Social Distancing in a WW2 Pillbox

  1. This is so interesting! glad you didn’t go in because of the adders….I had no idea they were poisonous wow. I was wondering where you’re doing the latin, is it some kind of online course? I’ve been keen to learn it for ages.

    Liked by 1 person

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