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Glenbuchat Heritage

8 Pillbox at Bridge at Buchaam
The Glenbuchat Image Library
8 Pillbox at Bridge at Buchaam

A neglected piece of history is the pillbox at the Bridge at Buchaam at the entrance of the road to Newe. It represented a period in World War two when there was a fear of a German invasion in the south of England and possibly a diversionary attack on East Scotland. This humble edifice reflects part of the defensive arrangements.

Presumably it was to be manned by Local Defence Volunteers (Home Guard – ‘Dads Army). Perhaps there are some residents from Strathdon who remember details about the effects World War two on the area. Please get in touch

Pillbox at Buchaam Bridge
From pillboxesuk

Buchaam Bridge
Subject type
Defence, military, pillbox
OSGB Grid ref. - NJ 390 128
Lat/Lon (OSGB36) - 003 00 30 W 57 12 09 N

In 1940 a network of defences was hastily built all over the British Isles to prevent an anticipated German invasion. The most common of these defences were called “pillboxes”, squat concrete forts that were sited at road junctions, canals and other strategic points.

With the passage of time it is estimated that less than 6,000 of a total of 28,000 pillboxes built still survive. They remain as permanent monuments and a silent tribute to the courage and tenacity of the British people during the dark days of 1940 when Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany.

In 1940 the major fear was a cross channel invasion as the Allies had only recently lost the Battle of Norway, and there were significant German forces still positioned there. It was not inconceivable that the Nazis could launch raids on the Scottish mainland from Norwegian bases, or even worse, launch a two-pronged invasion of the country. That while the bulk of the British Army was engaged against cross-channel invaders, German forces could land on the weakly defended east coast of Scotland and sweep down.

This would not only cut Britain off from the major naval base in Orkney and several vital ports, but would have completely circumvented the British plans for defence. As such, the decision was taken to build up the defences on the east Coast. The Polish Army in Exile was given the job of defending eastern Scotland and took up their posts from the borders to the northern coasts.

Defences were mainly built on the more directly threatened eastern coastline, which was 453 miles long. Further stop lines were built inland and approached the scale and extent of defences seen in eastern England.

The Home Guard.
The Home Guard was formed on 14th May 1940 after a broadcast appeal by the then Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden. The Home Guard was originally called the Local Defences Volunteers or LDV. Some uncharitably christened them "Look, Duck and Vanish". They were later renamed the Home Guard after Churchill used the phrase in a radio broadcast.

The Early Days 1940.
The Home Guard consisted of volunteers aged from 17 to 65 who had offered to serve as unpaid, part-time soldiers. They would become full-time once the Germans had landed. Their original purpose was to keep watch for airborne landings. The Government expected 150,000 to volunteer, but by the end of May over 300,000 had signed up, and at the beginning of September a million and a half were in its ranks. A shortage of uniforms meant all many had was an armband with the letters LDV, although by July uniforms had arrived of ill fitting denims.

Tactics.
One of the aims of the Home Guard was to hold up the enemy whilst regular troops could be deployed, therefore with the lack of weapons ingenuity had to be used. Among the tactics was to leave open all manhole covers so Germans would fall down them in the dark. Another was to place containers on the road propped up with a small stick. Attach a string to the stick and trail it off to an unseen position, the Germans would have to inspect each one to detect any bombs. It was recommended to make sure every so often place on with a live bomb. Householders were also to be asked to prop open a window and place a straight stick or piece of tube out the window to simulate a sniper position.

Weapons.
Initially the Home Guard was desperately short of weapons. The regular army had priority over the Home Guard due to the losses of equipment at Dunkirk. Even by September many units were virtually unarmed. Many units improvised by using shotguns, air rifles, old hunting rifles, museum pieces, bayonets, knives and pieces of gas pipe with knives or bayonets welded on the end. The most popular early improvised weapon was the molotov cocktail. This consisted of a bottle filled with petrol, with wick through a cork that was lit just before it was thrown. The bottle was intended to break igniting the contents. The weapons situation was improved by the delivery of a million old US rifles in mid July, although each had only 10 rounds a piece. 20,000 revolvers and shotguns were located as a result of an appeal.

The Auxiliary Units.
Formed in 1940 these were most secret units in the Home Guard. The Auxiliary Units were men recruited from Home Guard units to form "stay behind" guerrilla units if part of the UK was occupied. There were three battalions, numbered 201 (Scotland and Northern Counties), 202 (Midlands) and 203 (London and Southern Counties). These men were not actually on the Home Guard roster. This was purely a cover and as they were not enrolled, they were not strictly covered by the Geneva Convention. Their uniform may have given them some protection against being shot out of hand if captured.

The Later Years 1941-1944.
By 1941 the threat on invasion looked less urgent. The Home Guard had received some more conventional weapons including sub-machine guns. The Home Guard also had some unique special weapons such as the Northover Projector which looked like a drainpipe on legs that was designed to fire grenades. Another was the Sticky Bomb, a grenade with an adhesive coating. One of the most lasting remains are spigot mortar emplacements. The Spigot mortar was a cheap anti-tank weapon that fired a 20lb high explosive mortar bomb.

The Home Guard did not fall below one million until they were stood down in December 1944. The Home Guard was finally disbanded on 31st December 1945.

The Cowie Stop Line
From dailyrecord.co.uk

The Cowie Line, a smaller version of the famous Maginot Line of defences designed to stop the German advance into France, runs west from Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, to the foothills of the Grampians.

It is made up of pillboxes, miles of anti-tank barriers, scores of concrete anti-tank cubes and machine-gun nests.

Research by Gordon Barclay, of Historic Scotland, has revealed how seriously the British Government and military elite took the idea of a Scottish invasion.

Mr Barclay said: "The Cowie Line is a tremendous monument to an absolutely colossal national effort to build thousands of miles of defences in just a few weeks.

"It is a real monument to the last time that Britain faced a serious, imminent threat of invasion.

"While the south coast of England was the likeliest target for the main invasion, there was believed to be a high risk of diversionary attacks elsewhere to pin down reserves or to weaken Britain's naval strength by an attack on fleet bases."

Following the evacuation of British forces from the Dunkirk beaches in 1940 and German victories in Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, Hitler's invasion was thought to be imminent.

Mr Barclay added: "The Cowie Line, an anti-tank stop line constructed in 1940, was a command line, as its construction was set in train by Scottish Command.

"The main Scottish Command Line, comprising an anti-tank barrier including anti-tank walls and the adaptation of rail embankments, pillboxes and anti-tank cubes, was intended to run from Dysart in Fife to Loch Tummel in Perthshire.

"It was to protect the industrial capacity of central Scotland from an invasion on the north-east or east coast.

"A surprisingly large proportion of the pillboxes, cubes and anti-tank barriers have survived. Most anti-tank ditches were filled in during or shortly after the war.

"The Cowie Line is arguably one of the most complete, surviving stop lines."

Royal Observer Corps Observation post at Invernochty

There are still some remains on the Doune of Invernochty of a World War two ROC observation post.

Subject type
Defence, religion, military, castle, church, kiln, motte, building, observation post
Invernochty
OSGB Grid ref. - NJ 351 129
Lat/Lon (OSGB36) - 003 04 24 W 57 12 10 N

Record added 16/4/2001
Post Name STRATHDON
OS Grid Reference NJ35091320
County Aberdeenshire
Date opened June 1959
Date closed September 1991
Location At the southern end of a ridge of high ground on the south side of an un-named minor road
Description DEMOLISHED The only evidence is an area of disturbed ground
with some wire visible.

Again some residents may have memories of the men who manned this post.
Royal Observer Corps
Since its inception in 1925 as an integral part of the UK air defence system, the primary role of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was the recognition and identification of hostile aircraft. With the start of the cold war and the increasing threat of nuclear attack in the 1950's, the ROC was given the added responsibility of reporting nuclear bursts and monitoring fall-out which necessitated the construction of 1563 underground monitoring posts throughout Great Britain & Northern Ireland.
On the 15th June 1955 it was announced in the House of Commons that `steps are being taken for the ROC to give warning of and to measure radioactivity in the event of air attacks in a future war.' At the time, this new duty was considered only secondary to the Corps' primary function of aircraft identification. The ROC was chosen for this new role as the infrastructure and lines of communication were already in place and the personnel involved were familiar with the use of monitoring equipment. Posts were clustered into 3's and 4's for communications purposes and it was envisaged that group HQ would pass the information received from each post to Sector Operations Centres where scientists would forecast which areas would be in danger from nuclear fall-out allowing civilian and military authorities to decide what services (ports, rail, airfields etc.) could remain operational.



Picture added on 15 March 2010 at 11:01
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Comments:
Does anyone in the area remember the ROC post.

I presume on top of the Doune was an aircraft post which would possibly just be a brick wall around where the observer worked.

The underground post is said to have been by the unclassified road North of the Doune and something can be seen on some (very good quality!) 1978 Aerial Photographs on Canmore.


Added by Martin Briscoe on 28 May 2016
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