A WWII Relic at Putney Bridge Station
If you look up along Ranelagh Gardens, atop the railway viaduct for Putney Bridge Tube Station, you can spy a curious WWII Relic; a Pillbox.
This concrete pillbox was erected in 1940 across Britain, a final line of defence should Germany invade during WWII. They were designed as fortified look-out posts with narrow loopholes (rather like a castle) to protect the inhabitant while allowing them to shoot at intruders.
There were around 28,000 constructed across Britain, of which around 6,500 survive (including some along the Thames Path in Woolwich).
The plan for London’s last line of defence was made up of concentric circles – the Outer London Ring, Central London Ring and Inner London Ring – masterminded by General Edmund Ironside (an apt name) who was later replaced by Alan Brooke as the head of the British Army. Brooke wasn’t as keen on these static defensive structures and – thankfully – they were never needed.
For the best view of the WWII Pillbox, walk to the front end of the Westbound platform (towards the Putney Rail Bridge).
For a larger military bunker that’s rather easier to spot, you might be familiar with the Admiralty Citadel on the corner of Horse Guards Parade.
It was constructed around the same time as the Putney Bridge Pillbox, 1940-41 with 9m deep foundations and a 6m thick roof.
A bomb and invasion-proof bunker, during WWII it was full of workers conveying intelligence reports. It was described by Rear Admiral Dickson, Chief of Naval information, as “a maze of machinery and conveyor belts. One week last year in secret messages alone, the Admiralty handles over 1.3 million groups of naval cipher.”
Winston Churchill describes it as a “vast monstrosity which weighs upon the Horse Guards Parade”. However the brutalist-style appearance has been since softened with a covering of Boston Ivy and in the Autumn months it provides a rather lovely counterpart to Horseguards.
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The pillbox on the bridge wouldn’t have lasted 2 minutes artillery would have smashed it as its made of bricks.
Good thing it was never needed then!